Hi I’m Masa United.
The 22-23 Europa League begins. United faced Spain’s Real Sociedad at home in the first round of the group stage. United made six changes to their starting line-up from the Premier League match against Arsenal. In the first half, Ronaldo, making his first start of the season, was entangled with Eriksen and Dalot, creating scoring chances, but it was difficult to create decisive chances. At the start of the second half, which ended 0-0, United brought on Martinez and Bruno. However, in the 50th minute, Martinez’s play after blocking Silva’s shot inside the box was handed and the penalty was decided. Mendes scored and Sociedad took the lead on the road. United then brought in Sancho, Garnacho and McNeil, but failed to score. This season’s Europa League got off to a disappointing start.
*Click here for match highlights
This time, I would like to write a little about United’s assessment of the rotation and also about Sociedad from this match!
(1) Member rotation
United have been in the Premier League for four consecutive wins, with the exception of Antony against Arsenal, who have been a fixture in the starting line-up and have been in good form, but a two-week-long schedule has led to a rotation expected against Sociedad in the Europa League. Six changes from the game against Arsenal. The CB duo of Maguire and Lindeloff will be Casemiro’s first start since joining the team. With Fredat the bottom of the table, Elanga as left winger and Ronaldo as striker. These five players (other than Casemiro) are key players who were used as starters in many games last season. Under the Ten Hag system, the order of players has been reset and there is a battle for positions, but at the moment it can be said that there are five players who have dropped out of the starting lineup.Embed from Getty Images
However, as the coach has said repeatedly, it takes a lot of players to compete in the four competitions, and there are five substitution slots, so there is no need to get too caught up in the concept of “starter” and “sub” this season, but it is very important to see what kind of performance the player who will be playing for the first time in a long time will perform. Are. Moreover, the difference in performance between the starters and the subs was also an issue for both Solskjaer and Rangnick. It was also interesting to see how Ten Hague tackles this challenge. Whether the starter’s judgment was correct or not is difficult to judge from the outside because it is difficult to understand (because the training situation and condition are not known), but judging only by the result, this squad change came out as “evil”.
*Click here for the article against Arsenal
(2) The central line that was the key
In the squad composition for the modified Sociedad match, the key point was the “central line“. Of the six players who have been changed, five are from the central position on the pitch. Maguire and Lindelof have been a duo for many years and are fine together, but the challenges were the build-up and the height of the line. Defensively, Sadiq, who was at the top of Sociedad, tended to avoid duels and flow to the side, so he wasn’t too much of a threat, but Maguire was closely monitoring Silva’s movements and it was commendable that he didn’t let him do a decisive job. However, compared to the combination of Varane and Martinez, the speed of the build-up, the path of the pass and the height of the line were insufficient, and it was one of the factors that was multiplied by United’s power to hold the ball.Embed from Getty Images
Casemiro, who made his first start as a new signing, has teamed up with Eriksen as DMF but overall he is still a long way from a cooperative standpoint, and has not yet reached the level of a starter ahead of McTominay. However, with the occasional wedge pass and positioning to get a chance to shoot in the attacking third, he gave a positive impression that he could expect not only defensively but also offensively. In addition, in the first half, we were able to see many passes between Fred and Antony and the Seleson brothers, which did not disappoint us (laughs). Fred’s most surprising start was in the form he used late in the game against Arsenal. Against Arsenal, Fred pressed high up front to make a short counter-attack, which worked well, but against Sociedad this didn’t work at all. The original purpose was probably to make up for Ronaldo’s defensive defensiveness.
While Ronaldo was the switcher in the high press, Fred is basically the watchdog of Sociedad anchor Zubimendi. However, Ronaldo’s press was ambiguous and Sociedad saw keeper Remiro as a key starting point in the build-up, and United’s high press was easily avoided. In that situation, Fred struggled to play a role, such as using his momentum to press to the keeper, but the high press did not work in this lineup. Fred also lacked technique when holding the ball, making repeated passing mistakes and lost balls. In a way, it was an experimental use of Fred at the top and bottom, but I have to say that it was a failure.Embed from Getty Images
And Ronaldo. Ronaldo had a couple of situations where he could have scored a goal, and although it was offside, he also shook the goal net. With 90 full minutes and the most hours he has ever played, condition seems to be the most important issue for Ronaldo. He still hasn’t had the cut and the power to play, and he feels a similar physical weight during the slump last season before the Matchday 28 game against City.
In this way, Tenhaag made changes to the center of the pitch, but my impression is that the elements of pressing as a whole, building up using width and depth, and holding the ball as a whole, which were factors in the strong league campaign, did not reach the standard. It reaffirms the importance of the centreline with the addition of Varane, Martinez, Bruno and Rashford to Eriksen.
(3) The Spanish team is “good”
United often face Spanish teams in European competitions, and every time they do, “United are not compatible with Spanish teams.” It is sometimes said that “the Spanish team is good and they have a hard time.” Last season they lost to Atletico in the round of 16 of the CL and the year before last they lost to Villarreal in the EL final. I don’t know if they were conscious of that in this year’s pre-season, but they played against Atletico and Rayo Vallecano, losing to Atletico and drawing with Rajo.
Even before the Sociedad match, van de Beek said in an interview that “the Spanish team is highly skilled”, so there is a possibility that the team is a little weak as well. But Sociedad was certainly good (lol). As I mentioned above, the build-up is particularly good, and the team is formidable in that it uses the keeper skillfully, each one is comfortable positioning, and can build up naturally to breathe like this.Embed from Getty Images
Looking at individual players, they are not flashy, but they have solid basic skills such as positioning, trapping, passing and dribbling. There were very few scenes where you lost the ball so easily. In particular, the presence of our Japan national team, Kubo, was wonderful, but Silva, Mendes, Zubimendi and Merino, who make diamonds in midfield, also had a great balance of offense and defense. United lacked press strength as a whole, but it can also be said that they were inferior in terms of basic technology and organizational strength.
(4) Rotation evaluation
Following the passing of Queen Elizabeth II just before the match, post-match interviews were dropped. Because of that, it is unclear how the coach evaluated this match. Therefore, I would like to make an evaluation of this match based on my personal guesses.
The biggest theme of coach Ten Hag’s match was to see how much of the rotation squad would be good. In this regard, unfortunately I don’t think any player left an impact that could turn the order upside down. However, Casemiro is the only issue of fit for the team, so we can look forward to the future. Maguire wasn’t bad either, but as it stands, there’s no room for the Varane and Martinez duo to break in.
This time, Ten Hag also conducted an experimental arrangement. Fred is the No. 10 starter and Lindelof is a right-back. As I wrote about Fred No. 10 in item (2), Lindelof’s side-back who was beaten by Kubo was also a complete failure. The fact that there was a right-back player here named Wan-Bissaka who specialized in right-back and converted Lindelof was quite uncomfortable. In this regard, I think that the issue of the director’s trust in Wan- Bissaka is large. There have been rumours of Wan-Bissaka release in this summer’s transfer market, but in the end he stayed. According to The Athretic, “Ten Hag wanted to sell it, but Murtough, the FD, opposed the release.” Ten Hag has made comments about the evolution of the remaining Wan-Bissaka, so it seems that it is not out of the picture at all, but it is possible that it will not be used until progress is seen in training. However, looking at Lindelof’s performance as a side-back this time, I think that if you are going to rotate like that, you should use Wan-Bissaka.Embed from Getty Images
In the second half, the introduction of the academy unbeatable duo of Garnacho (18) and McNeil (19) was part of coach Ten Hag’s roster. Garnacho had impressive performances in pre-season, but he was not afraid to play in his first Europa League appearance, showing his speed as a weapon. Garnacho has trained for the first team and continues to be on the Premiership bench. There is no doubt that he will continue to be a member of the rotation in the future. Charlie McNeill, who made his delightful first-team debut, is 19 years old. He joined United from City in 2020 and has been churning out goals for U18 and U23 (20-21 season 25G / 21-22 season 17G). His sense of smell as a scorer is outstanding in the academy, and he has high expectations from supporters who follow the academy. He played just 10 minutes against Sociedad and touched the ball twice, but there’s a good chance McNeil will get a chance in this season’s squad that could be without a striker.Embed from Getty Images
This rotation would not have reached the standards that were required. However, it is also up to the coach to decide which players to use in which matches. And there are a lot of players with a lot of personalities. Ideally, all players should be ready whenever their turn comes.
The theme of the match was to check the ability and adaptability of the rotation members. As a result, we lost at home, and in terms of performance, on the contrary, it ended up emphasizing the reliability of the starting lineup. In particular, I am keenly aware that Varane, Martinez, Bruno and Eriksen are indispensable in terms of leadership. Bruno immediately created chances in the second half and Martinez had the misfortune to score a penalty (his hand was ridiculous, by the way), but he showed his prowess not only in a strong defence, but also in attacking with wedge passing, dribbling and lifting.Embed from Getty Images
Following the death of Queen Elizabeth, weekend league games have been postponed. It will be a week until the next Europa League second leg against Sheriff. Although there is no longer a need for a rotation level in terms of fatigue, it will be interesting to see if Ten Hague will be in the rotation for the match against Sheriff as well.
*Stats are here
The next match was the second round of the Europa League/GS. The match against FC Sherif at the Sherif Stadium in Moldova. Kick-off 16 September at 1:45. Came on! United!!
Thank you for reading until the end!