On Saturday, West Ham took on a Manchester United side reeling from a big game loss to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League. As a result Solskjaer named a much changed United side at the London stadium and the Reds were conceding chance after chance before Soucek put the Hammers in front just before half time.
Manchester United ended up winning the game 3-1 with Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s tactics and in game tweaks bringing them a huge comeback win. I analyse both teams setups in the first half, Ole’s changes and how they ended up giving United 3 goals in the 2nd half.
David Moyes deployed the 3-4-3 system that has seen West Ham get off to an impressive start this year; two flying wingbacks in Coufal and Masuaku and a front 3 of Bowen, Haller and Fornals caused United a lot of trouble in the first half. Solskjær set up in a very unbalanced 4-3-3 system, with Pogba, McTominay and Van de Beek in midfield and a front 3 of (mainly) strikers in Martial, Cavani and Greenwood.
How they shaped up
West Ham found plenty of joy down the flanks in the first half vs Manchester United, this was mainly due to lack of coverage from the “wingers”. I put wingers in quotation marks because in reality, all of the front three played like out-and-out strikers. There was not a lot of tracking back or covering the fullback at all. Because of this West Ham were able to play around the United midfield and create 2v1s out wide with the Wingback and Forward in the half space.
In the situation above, West Ham have both Coufal and Masuaka extremely high up the pitch alongside Bowen and Fornals. Masuaku and Coufal in particular were very dangerous in the second half; both wingbacks combined to create three (3) chances in the game.
United’s problems in attack
Even when United settled early on and possessed the ball in the first half, they could not sustain or create any threatening situations in attack. Greenwood, Cavani and Martial were very lacklustre and it showed as Martial and Cavani were subbed off in the 2nd half. The main problem for United was that all the strikers wanted to do was receive the ball at their feet, they barely created separation or made any runs in behind. Thus it made it easy for the West Ham back 3 to pick them up man-to-man in the first half.
In this frame, Pogba breaks the line to find Cavani between the lines, but take a look at Greenwood and Martial; none of them is making any runs or stretching the defence. The ball was turned over as Cavani had no forward passing options.
Before I analyse the second half, Solskjær’s words on how United changed the game in the second half are very useful to this analysis:
“Second half we tweaked a small couple of things tactically, made space bigger, more runs that created space for Bruno in the middle, and the quality of the finish, the three goals were all exceptional quality.”
The introduction of Bruno and Rashford at half time did two things for United:an attacker willing to run in behind and stretch the opponent, and a passer who can find runners in behind. These two changes worked to devastating effect as we will see below.
As soon as Rashford was introduced in the game, he kept on making runs and Bruno was either on hand to pass him the ball or create space for other midfielders to play that final pass in behind.
The change also had a bit of a domino effect on how West Ham approached the game in the 2nd half, as they couldnt risk sending both of their fullbacks bombing forward with Rashford lurking in behind.
This game was literally the cliche concept of “a game of two halves”; West Ham dominated the first half and if they had their shooting boots, they could have well been 2 or 3 goals up before halftime.
However Solskjær made a few changes and tweaks that had a massive impact on the result. Bringing on Bruno and Rashford was a very good move (arguably one he should have started the game with).
Both were on the pitch for 45 minutes and they combined to produce 4 shots, 8 chances (2 big chances) and a goal and an assist. It is already very telling that if Manchester United want to push for Champions league qualification again, these two need to be on their A-game.