In a game with several plot lines— Memphis’ return to PSV, Luke Shaw’s injury, Martial getting his first start after a great debut, Wayne Rooney’s injury prohibiting him from playing, as well as PSV’s coach, Phillip Cocu, a former player under Van Gaal, the three goals all being scored between the 40th and 60th minutes were just another piece of an already interesting game.
Goal 1 – Memphis Depay (41’)
This goal, though scored in the 41st minute, really started unfolding in the 40th minute, as seen below. Manchester United had been keen to push their outside backs forward, previously with Shaw, and then with Blind. PSV were able to get 7 behind the ball, with more defensive support coming. It should be further noted that despite the fluid nature of PSV’s play, all 4 backs and all 3 midfielders were in the same positions as when the game began at this moment. With this defensive organization, Memphis does not even make a run in behind the defense and instead receives the ball from Blind facing up against 7 defenders. This build up eventually led to Manchester United unable to break down the organized PSV defense and in fact to a PSV counter attack.
After conceding possession due to a poor pass amidst their counter attacking effort, PSV initially had a good defensive shape as Schweinsteiger began the build-up for United.
Very quickly though, the compact defensive diamond was pulled apart by Manchester United’s great movement away from the ball. First, Schweinsteiger took a couple dribbles central, dragging Propper of PSV with him, leaving Ander Herrera with space to move into.
Propper was then unsure of where to go. Was he supposed to follow the pass to Ander Herrera or stay more central and just track back? He chose the latter.
Then Hendrix, PSV central midfielder, was pulled away toward his own goal from a run out of the midfield by Mata. With Guardado and Propper now the only two midfielders available to defend, Guardado, like Propper, stayed in the central part of the field. This left PSV’s right back, Arias, stranded. Herrera was coming at him with the ball, Blind was out wide, and Memphis was behind him.
Arias responded by electing to close down the man with the ball, not wanting Herrera to penetrate any further. Herrera cooly played the ball wide left to Blind (who was unmarked), and then drifted centrally. This way, Herrera kept Propper in the middle of the field and ensured Arias was still in a difficult position defensively. Ahead of the play, Martial and Mata were able to occupy all four defenders.
Arias was now stuck in an unwinnable 1 v 2. He ran back to Memphis out wide, leaving Blind all the time he needed to weigh a great pass in behind. The space for the pass was even more available because Mata and Martial had done a great job anchoring all four backs to the center of the field and had created an even larger gap for Memphis to exploit behind Arias.
At this point, though the build-up was tactically great, Memphis still had a bit of work to do. Nevertheless, he received a great pass, outpaced Arias, and after beating the defense, slotted the ball through the keeper’s legs putting Manchester United up in the 41st minute.
Goal 2 – Hector Moreno (47’)
With a fair amount of stoppage time due to Luke Shaw’s injury, PSV had ample time to try and level the game before heading back to the locker rooms for halftime and did so off of a corner kick. It is worth pointing out that the corner kick came by way of both Smalling and Darmian getting caught up chasing the same long pass from a PSV defender as seen below.
After the ball was initially won, the second ball fell to Lestienne and left Smalling scrambling to recover. He was then forced to head the ball out for a corner off of Lestienne’s attempted service.
During the corner, there were two separate areas of activity. There was a 3 v 3 near the far post and a 1 v 1 with Darmian and Moreno moving toward the near post. Lestienne delivered a great ball that did not allow any other Manchester United players to become involved, and then Moreno simply over powered Darmian and headed the ball toward goal.
Blind did indeed deflect Moreno’s header before it entered the net, but that should not detract from the fact that Darmian needed to do better. Moreover, it was impressive to see Moreno refocus on the game and have such an impact after being involved in Luke Shaw’s injury earlier.
Goal 3 – Luciano Narsingh (57’)
The development of the game’s final goal began from a long ball from the PSV goalkeeper. As Chris Smalling went to challenge, Narsingh optimistically gambled for the second ball— sneaking in behind Blind and in a position where it is hard for Rojo to see him as seen in the image below.
After two aerial challenges, the ball fell to Darmian. Darmian, having finished the first half in not the best fashion, and without much pressure, misplayed the ball to Guardado. And immediately found himself out of position to handle the PSV counter attack.
Guardado, in two touches, played a beautiful ball to Lestienne, who had already drifted wide of Darmian. Guardado’s immaculate pass would allow Lestienne to not only hit the ball first time, but to have ample time to lift his head up before hitting the ball and pick out his target.
Away from the ball, Narsingh, on the right side of Blind in the eyes of PSV, had a huge positional advantage. Below, you can see Blind notifying Rojo as Rojo turns his head to see what is happening behind him.
Between all that Rojo had to assess, it proved to be slightly too much. He ended up coming just short, misjudging the ball as it flew over his head. Narsingh waiting, easily took care of the rest with his head. Below, you can see just how close Rojo’s timing was to saving Manchester United from PSV’s go-ahead goal.
Written by Sam Polak
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