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Analysis Opinion Insight

Friday, August 14, 2009

Making full use of the wings

With the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, and more importantly, the repositioning of Wayne Rooney into his more natural, more effective role as a centre forward, Manchester United, and in particular, Sir Alex Ferguson, face the somewhat daunting task of finding the right combination of players to play out wide on both sides of the pitch. Assuming that all the pre-season talk in the media, by the manager and players, that United will return to its roots and play a more "rigid" 4-4-2 formation, it begs the question, which combination of wingers will get the job done?

Ji-Sung Park, Antonio Valencia, Luis Nani and Zoran Tosic are those who are contesting for the two available positions, with the currently injured Gabriel Obertan to be added to that list upon recovery, and with Reserve players performing consistantly well, as well as the near-constant speculation that David Silva, Ashley Young etc etc are about to be brought to the club, the 5 main contenders will have to raise their individual and collective games to prove to Sir Alex, the fans and the media, that United are still a powerful, creative and attacking force post-Ronaldo.

The changes that have been noticeable in the preseason matches, have shown fans that United will play a much more in-and-out game, whereby the wingers, aren't always used to supply crosses into the box for the strikers, but used as and when the central midfielders and defenders see them in free space, as good options. This has two advantages,firstly, our opponents will be forced to mark all our players, making it easier for our faster wingers to evade their markers, and for the "tricky" players to fool their opponents into time, space and opportunities to creat goal scoring chances. Secondly, it makes it harder for our opponents to be tactically "alert" to where the main threat is, as goal scoring approach play could use one of many routes to goal.
Eg: from the centre of defense, with either a ball played short to a central midfielder, who then picks out a striker who shoots; or out wide to the wing-backs who plays the ball into the channel for the winger to then cross across the field into the box etc etc...

No doubt, Park and Valencia are first choice starters, and Nani and Tosic will have to improve
their skills, decision making ,judgment, and most importantly, their consistency if they are to consolidate starting positions.

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