Ajax Vs Manchester United-A Close Look At Ajax’s System

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Two clubs with illustrious pasts in the Champions League face off in the Europa league for a spot in the last 16. For Manchester United and its fans,playing on Thursday nights will be an unusual affair and with United chasing City to retain their Premier League title,one cant expect Ferguson to play his strongest side always. But as this weekend is an FA Cup weekend and with United already out of it,we may see a stronger than usual United side taking to the field in Amsterdam. Ajax on the other hand are struggling in the Eredivisie and their win over NAC Breda at the weekend was the first win after the winter break.

Formation
Frank De Boer usually sets his team in a 4-3-3 with Enoh as the deepest of the three midfielders,with the highly rated Christian Eriksen alongside him. Janssen,if fit will be the third midfielder for Ajax. Janssen was used as an deep lying playmaker earlier in the season,but then De Boer started playing Enoh and at times Anita purely as a holding mid. Usually Ajax builds from the back and the wing backs do push up forward quite a bit with Enoh dropping deeper to cover. Ajax’s main worry at the moment is getting the ball to the front three,they generally enjoy a good amount of possession in their own half but struggle to split open defences. With someone like Christian Eriksen you expect to see defence splitting passes,but under Frank De Boer he doesn’t look to get forward much and generally is involved in the initial build up play(In recent Eredivisie games i.e).
As i don’t have access to Eredivisie stats,lets look back to the Champions League group stages. Of course Ajax were a slightly different team then with Sigthorsson, Boerrigter,Boilesen and Van Der Wiel all available.
 
Real Madrid Vs Ajax
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Ajax Vs Dinamo Zagreb
I have taken passing statistics from two games,one which Ajax won against Zagreb and the other which they lost to Madrid. In both of the games Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen were the ones who received the most passes. And the most frequent pass combination was not surprisingly between the two center backs themselves. And look at Eriksen’s column,in the game against Madrid he has attempted only 6 passes to the striker Sigthorsson. Also the number of passes he attempts per game is quite low for someone so talented(playmaker). Against a full strength Manchester United team building from the back might be a little difficult as both Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck(If they start) are hard working and cover a lot of ground. So Berbatov starting for United may be an advantage to Ajax,but the Bulgarian may pose other problems.
 
It ll be interesting to see what kind of game United will play,Sir Alex Ferguson over the past few seasons has opted to play a patient passing game away in Europe. If United do play that waiting possession game,it ll be an interesting tactical battle with both the teams essentially wanting to do the same thing. In this case Wayne Rooney will be the key player(as he always is). If he starts,he will ensure that United don’t get outnumbered and so can let the deeper midfielders dictate the tempo and dominate possession. 
 
Coming back to Ajax’s 4-3-3,it does at times tends to become a 4-6-0 when Ajax lose possession. De Jong who started out the season playing as a second striker tends to drop back. And also the wingers don’t stay high up on the pitch. This also is the reason that Ajax can’t counter effectively and so use a slow and patient build up starting from the center backs.

Frank De Boer
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 “Against lesser teams mistakes are not easily punished. We showed against Real Madrid we can keep possession, now to score goals.”-Frank De Boer

 
Possession is all good only if you make it count,and making it count has been Ajax’s major problem this year. But a tie against a side like Manchester United should motivate them and there is talent in the team to cause the English Champions problems. If Frank De Boer decides to play both Lodiero and De Jong,it would be a positive move and will make the game more open and exciting. De Jong does tend to support the striker ahead more than Janssen does,obviously this will mean Ajax will lose control in the center but their effectiveness in the final third will improve.
 
Frank De Boer may spring a tactical surprise and start with a 3-4-3,a throwback to the days of Cryuff. Of course the similarities end their,but there are some advantages for Ajax with 3 at the back,as Manchester United are most likely to play with 2 strikers and if Rooney doesn’t start,United will have 2 men up front who don’t drop deep that often. So a spare man at the back will help Ajax defensively and also in retaining possession.
 
Note-Enoh is out injured,and most probably Ismail Aissati will take his place
 
 
 
 

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