Manchester City schooled Manchester United in their 2-0 Premier League win at Old Trafford. City were completely dominant against United and even after a change in formation at half time, United were no close to being able to compete. Solskjaer switched to a back three formation after the defeat against Liverpool and United played admirably in their win against Spurs. Although it didn’t quite work out against Atalanta, Solskjaer stuck to the back three formation against Manchester City.
Pep Guardiola when asked about Manchester City’s tactics of switching the ball from one flank to the other in the post match press conference said, ” Because of the shape, they play with a 5-3-2. When you are in the second part of the buildup, the 3(in midfield) cannot control the width of the pitch. And the spaces were there. And we used it really well with Kyle and Joao”
Both the goals United conceded were from crosses out wide by Cancelo clearly showing that Guardiola had planned for Solskjaer’s back three/five formation. United on the other hand were clearly confused on how to handle City’s flank switching and on how to mark their full backs.
The above screenshot which is taken just moments before Bailly’s own goal captures what Guardiola mentioned in his post match press conference. City play the ball out wide for Cancelo and there is confusion among United’s players on who should be tracking the City full back.
The same confusion repeats again for the second goal with this time Fernandes nowhere being close but Wan-Bissaka still looking unsure about his role.
This is a fundamental problem with the back three/five formation where if the opposition has the time and the ability on the ball to switch from one flank to the other, then the defending with a back three becomes tough. After the first goal, Solskjaer should have adjusted how United were setup on the field. Either by asking Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw to push up high against City’s full backs or by asking Greenwood to drop deeper to track Cancelo. He waited till half time to switch the formation and by that time City had scored 2.