UEFA Champions League 2018-19: 3 reasons why Manchester United will lose to Barcelona in the quarterfinals
The UEFA Champions League quarterfinals draw was held yesterday in Nyon, Switzerland.
Without a doubt, the best matchup of the last eight has to be the faceoff between the Catalan heavyweights, Barcelona, and Manchester United. In the previous four occasions, Barcelona have won twice, both being finals in Rome and Wembley. Manchester United won once in the second leg of the 2008 semifinals.
Things have changed a lot since these sides last faced off as the last game between the teams came in 2011 at Wembley. Barcelona won the final in comprehensive fashion but only three members of the title-winning team are still a part of the squad. Manchester United only have Antonio Valencia and Chris Smalling in their squad from back then.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has had a fairytale run since he took over the team. The Red Devils managed to get past PSG in the Round of 16 despite a 2-0 loss at home. In the league, they held Liverpool to a 0-0 draw while going on a 12 match unbeaten streak. Even though Ole has stabilized the ship at United, it is very unlikely that they will get past Barcelona.
Here are three reasons why Manchester United will lose to Barcelona.
#3 Manchester United still don't have a definite style of play
A thing that is good and bad in games against European heavyweights is the unpredictability of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The former Devils player has tried a lot of things at United. The false-9, diamond midfield, changing formations in every game, it looks like a very innovative thing. Ole's work is commendable since he is trying to get the balance right for the next season and still keeping the top 4 hopes alive.
But what this causes is a lack of playing with a definite style. Player roles tend to change with a change in the formation. Marcus Rashford has played as a wide attacker, lone-striker, false 9 and second striker.
Four roles in just under 10 matches or so. In the meantime, he has to combine with Pogba and Fred in the midfield on certain occasions, while in other games as a second-striker, he needs to combine with Lukaku or even Alexis Sanchez.
The point is that the players don't have a constant role for all matches. Thus, the understanding between players also goes down by a margin. The formation also keeps changing.
It was a 4-2-2-2 against Leicester, almost a 4-1-4-1 against Burnley, a 4-4-2 against Arsenal, a 4-3-3 against Crystal Palace, and a 4-3-1-2 against Liverpool. This also creates changing roles for players.
Dalot has featured as right back, right winger, wide midfielder etc. Sometimes Fred is a central midfielder and sometimes he has to slot into a double pivot with Matic. Similarly, sometimes Matic is a sole pivot and on other occasions, he has been supported by Fred and Herrara in a double pivot. These changes in the role are not at all easy to handle. A double pivot functions very differently to that of a pivot.
Going up against Barcelona, who have all their bases covered, all the patterns of play tried and tested, all the players fully aware of what is expected of them, this unpredictability of Ole adds little to the result. The Blaugrana don't study their opponents as much as they are concerned with executing their gameplan.
We know that Barcelona will play a 4-3-3 and Messi has a strong link-up with each and every player on the pitch. For all we know, a poised style of play is required against Barcelona, players have to excel in their roles. One mistake is all it takes for Barcelona to pounce.
And above all, Manchester United haven't even faced as horrific a press as that of Barcelona. Without familiar roles and teammates, it seems a huge task at hand for Ole's United, a task that they have to dig deep to overcome.