21/10/2013 08:33, Report by B Hibbs & T Oscroft

Hard work pays in Europe

Clayton Blackmore believes the key to the Premier League's teams returning to the top of European football could be as simple as rediscovering and reapplying those most British of qualities: effort, energy and hard work.

Spain and Germany have both taken turns in dominating the Champions League in recent seasons, and for all their obvious quality and technical talent, one of the key features of their play is an organised and disciplined pressing game to recover the ball or deny opponents time and space to play.

United return to Champions League action on Wednesday against Real Sociedad at Old Trafford and, speaking to, Blackmore gave his views on a shift in style and approach in Europe.

"Teams are changing now, they're working hard, pressing and closing you down," says Blackmore, who was part of United's European Cup Winners' Cup-winning team in 1991. "Teams are going to the big stadiums against the big teams and they're not dropping off and looking to soak up pressure. They're getting in your face and really working hard to put you under pressure.

"I think the British teams need to get back to doing that, particularly in Europe. When we came back into Europe and won the Cup Winners' Cup in '91, we weren't playing in a continental way. We were still high-tempo, closing people down and working hard. If you look at the trends for the way teams play, everybody is doing that now, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Dortmund.

"That's why we were so feared in Europe; we worked so hard and closed teams down. We didn't give the European teams time to play, we were pressuring them right from the front players, closing down their defenders.

"Now all the European teams are doing that and it's funny how football moves in those cycles. They've got the technique as well, but that has given them an edge on all the British teams."


Premier League