Gary Neville believes that a move away from the high pressing game has contributed to Manchester United’s decline in Europe and that it has begun to effect them in the Premier League.
In his latest column with the Daily Mail, Neville discusses how it was one of main things he was taught back in the youth team at United – to attack the ball, close the spaces down and put pressure on the opposition.
Under David Moyes, United have so far adopted a deep lying tactic with an emphasis on strict defensive lines and a threat on the counter attack, but Neville feels that has to be addressed. Here is an extract from his full column.
“Back when I was playing for Manchester United’s youth team, I could always hear the voices of our coaches, Nobby Stiles and Eric Harrison, on the touchline delivering short, sharp but consistent messages: ‘Get to the ball quickly! Win it back! Get to him! Shift it quickly! Move!’
Manchester United won the league without playing a high line but I’m convinced they’ll have to change because we’ve been overtaken in Europe.
“Lots of English coaches would have been the same. They were characteristics of our game, the attributes that made up the British footballing identity: the speed of the play, the tempo of passing, sprinting to the ball and getting out of the box quickly to play offside. Values that were drilled into you.
“The game has changed since then and we have been hugely influenced by the influx of foreign managers and players in this country, which helped to produce a golden period for the Premier League between 2007–2009, when, for three years, we provided three of the four Champions League semi-finalists. But as I watched Manchester City being beaten by Bayern Munich on Wednesday, I couldn’t help thinking we’ve fallen behind the curve in the terms of European football.”
As always, Neville speaks a lot of sense. When United have used a high pressing game this year, we have controlled the game. When you shut out the space for the opposition, you force them to play quicker and inevitably they make mistakes or rash decisions. It was a tactic City used to devastating effect against us at the Etihad.
The problem with United is that we don’t have the midfield personnel to play that tactic apart from Tom Cleverley. Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini are both more suited to sitting deeper rather than biting at the heels of the opposition.
Candid columns like this from Neville are exactly why I can’t wait for him to hopefully join the United coaching staff.
More than most, he knows the rewards of hard work and determination. He wasn’t the most gifted footballer but he worked his socks off and worked himself into the position he deserved.
The thought of having our future youngsters taught by Giggs, Scholes, Butt and the Neville brothers is fantastic.