Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Solskjaer sees new style of play developing

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes the perceptions around the style of his Manchester United side may need to change.

The Reds are known to be able to control possession but also provide a serious threat on the counter-attack with some pundits feeling this has been a hallmark of this team. However, in the modern game, pressing has become a valuable tool and it was suggested Southampton, who always employ this tactic under Ralph Hasenhuttl, would cause problems with their high-energy approach at St Mary's.

United came from behind to win 3-2, after conceding two goals to set-pieces, but it was also interesting to note that the stats show Ole's side actually out-pressed the Saints, arguably beating them at their own game.

Most presses: Southampton 2 United 3

Player Club  No of presses 
Fred United  35 
Bruno Fernandes  United  24 
Donny van de Beek  United  24 
Oriol Romeu  Southampton  21 
Edinson Cavani  United  18 
Nemanja Matic  United  18 

Not only did Fred press the most (35 times, according to FBREF.com), and by some distance, but Bruno Fernandes and Donny van de Beek also outscored the hosts' top presser, Oriel Romeu, as the Reds came out on top 190-130 in this area.

Ole has since praised Edinson Cavani for his ability to defend from the front, which was really evident when he came on in the second half, while the fact skilful creative players like Bruno and van de Beek were working so hard off the ball will have been pleasing for the coaching staff. It's nothing new from Fernandes, of course, as he has pressed the joint-most in the division for United in 2020/21, along with the effervescent Fred.

 

“Look at the stats and our pressing stats,“ Ole told us on the eve of the big Champions League clash with Paris Saint-Germain. ”There is lots of talk about us as a team in possession and what we want to do with the ball.

“I’ve not really spoken too much about this but it’s something we work on in training. The coaching staff are fantastic with their enthusiasm, energy and detail, and I saw some graphs before the Southampton game which showed Leeds and Southampton were the two highest-pressing teams this season but we were up there with them.

“The closer you can win the ball back, the shorter it is to the goal. That’s something we’ve been working on.”

Presses in 2020/21 Premier League:

Name No of presses 
Bruno Fernandes  162 
Fred  162 
Aaron Wan-Bissaka  97 
Luke Shaw  85 
Scott McTominay  83 

The pressing game will not, of course, suit all fixtures but the tie with PSG could be another occasion where our opponents will need to be shut down quickly in their own half. 

According to FBREF.com, Ole's men out-pressed Paris 178-115 in the 2-1 win at Parc des Princes, with five Reds (Fred, Fernandes, Scott McTominay, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Marcus Rashford) recording more presses than PSG's leader in this field. 

It is likely to be a different tactical battle at Old Trafford but Fred ranks highly in the Champions League for his pressing - before this latest round of matches, he was in joint-eighth spot overall. The clear leader is Enoch Mwepu of RB Salzburg, with former fans' favourite Rafael, now with Istanbul Basaksehir, in third spot.

Most presses: PSG 1 United 2

Player Club No of presses 
Fred United  33 
Bruno Fernandes  United  29 
Scott McTominay  United  25 
Aaron Wan-Bissaka  United  21 
Abdou Diallo  Paris Saint-Germain  16 
Danilo Pereira  Paris Saint-Germain  16 

The manager has made it clear since taking charge that he wants his players to out-work the opposition and show the energy off the ball that will allow us to express ourselves when in possession. 

Pressing has become an effective tactic and the effort to close down and harry opponents, particularly in their own half, has obvious benefits.

However, Ole approaches a game where a point will be enough to take us through from a Group of Death, the meticulous planning at the Aon Training Complex will hopefully stand us in good stead against last term's beaten finalists. 

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