Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Classic Match Series - AC Milan 4-0 Barcelona (1994)

Johan Cruyff's Dream Team against Fabio Capello's personal version of the tactical ideas laid out by Arrigo Sacchi.

In the build up to the match Barcelona were seen as the favourites. In some ways they were seen as heavy favourites. Milan were without their defenders, Franco Baresi and Alessandro Costacurta as well as being without Marco Van Basten and their young attacking threat Gianluigi Lentini.

Added to this was the fact that because of UEFA rules at the time, they were forced to leave out Florin Răducioiu, Jean-Pierre Papin and Brian Laudrup.

They therefore started in a rough 4-4-2 formation without many of their first choice players.

Barcelona could field a very strong line up with renowned players such as Koeman, Guardiola, Bergiristain, Stoichkov and Romario. They set out in a 4-3-3 formation, similar to the system that the current Barcelona have.

Now with the fact that Barcelona had a strong line up, their system was fairly similar to what they usually held. Their possession game was good, they opened up and shaped wide when they had the ball, they passed it around at the back. Guardiola drifted around making himself constantly available for the short option in defensive midfield. Bergiristain and Stoichkov stayed fairly wide though did come inside when the ball was on the opposite flank and Romario was the head of the line. When the full backs moved forward, the centre backs moved wider and they kept the ball fairly well up to the middle third.

From the middle third to the front third was where their main problem lay. Mostly, this was because of Milan's defensive shape, which had the midfield four fairly compact and one of the strikers dropping deep. It was very hard for Barcelona to pass through this defensive shape because it was so compact. Stoichkov and Bergiristain were being tracked very tightly by Panucci and Tassotti on the ball and because of the narrow Milan midfield, it was very difficult to play it straight through to Romario.

Milan's midfield four very compact in front of defence and Barcelona finding it hard to break through.

Romario himself was struggling to find space. The Milan back four were generally sat deep when Barca had possession so he struggled to go behind, nor could he drop deep because there was little gap between the defence and midfield. When a straight ball was played to him when he did drop deep, Galli marked him very tightly with Maldini the spare man, whilst Albertini and Desailly were in close company.

Romario marked very tightly by Galli in the green. Meanwhile Maldini acts as the spare man at centre back

Barcelona perhaps could have done with moving Stoichkov and Bergiristain further infield whilst allowing the full backs to make more overlaps. Ferrer and Sergi did move up the field but not high enough to unbalance Milan nor making many quick overlaps when Stoichkov or Bergiristain got the ball with their backs to goal. This was part of the reason why Stoichkov and Bergisitain had fairly quiet games. They were tracked so tightly by Tassotti and Panucci that when they received the a short ball from deep, they generally had their backs to goal and were unable to turn their respective full back.
Therefore Barcelona's attacking threat was very limited. They couldn't pass through the Milan midfield (the only time they did was when the Milan midfield had pressed them naively and left space between the defence and the midfield, resulting in pretty much the first opening for Barcelona). They weren't that dynamic on the flanks because the full backs weren't overlapping and the wingers weren't allowed to turn, and so they were generally passing it about in non-threatening positions.

They created very little overall. As said they had one opening when they'd created an overload between  Milan's midfield and defence and they had one shot on goal when Stoichkov was on the ball, cut inside and had a shot from 25 yards out. Other than that their only other openings occurred when they played diagonal, long balls from deep, behind Panucci for Stoichkov to run onto.

In fact they possibly could have done by taking more risks with their passing. Because of their lack of ability to break through Milan's midfield, they possibly should have played it longer more often because even if it had been cut out by Milan's defence, it would have meant they would have been able to press Milan from the front instead of midfield or defence where they were having to do a lot of their pressing.
Milan with their formation, had one less man in the middle of the field. Guardiola was generally the spare man for Barcelona in a deep, playmaking role so Milan had to deal with that. They dealt with it in a couple of different ways.

The first way was by simply dropping one of the strikers deeper when Barcelona had possession, thereby creating a narrow 4-4-1-1 formation. This meant that Guardiola could be pressed and meant that Barcelona couldn't take advantage of any extra man in midfield, simply because they didn't have one.

Milan's 4-4-1-1 shape in possession

The second way was something that seemed to occur after a few minutes. The fact that Barcelona's full backs weren't going very high up the pitch (in the way Dani Alves does now) meant that this was easily possible. What Milan did was to get Albertini to occupy Guardiola. Then Desailly would occupy one of the centre midfielders, while either Donadoni or Boban would occupy the other centre midfielder.

Albertini, Desailly and Donadoni track Barca's 3 in midfield while Boban is up against his direct opponent Sergi. This leaves Ferrer free on the right but means that Barca are covered in the middle.

This would generally occur when Barcelona had the ball on one side meaning the full back on the opposite side was generally left free. Then when Barcelona spread the ball to the opposite side, the system would swap sides, leaving the other full back free. (Video below)

Milan could use either of these options depending on whichever suited their positions when they lost the ball.

Milan's attacking play had a number of different patterns to it. The overall strength of it though was how fluid it was. A lot of teams who have lots of specific tactical plans are quite rigid in the execution of these. In fact Barcelona were meant to be the exciting, fluid team and Milan were meant to be the rigid, defensive team. Yet in a way it was the opposite in terms of attacking play. Barcelona were too rigid in their 4-3-3 and Milan had lots of interchanging and little tactical ideas moving smoothly from one to another.
It did help Milan that because of their excellent defensive shape that they generally won the ball in the centre of the pitch. If they had won it in the defensive third of the field, as spoken about already, Barca's pressing could have overwhelmed them at that point. Yet they generally won it in midfield so could move quickly from there.

The main damage took place on the counter attack. With quick one twos and interchanging with midfielders coming from deep, they generally took over between the lines on the counter. The strikers, Savicevic and Massaro, worked together well positionally. One generally went deep, the other went long, they both stretched the centre backs with Savicevic generally playing to the right in between Nadal and Sergi and Massaro generally played on Koeman or between Koeman and Ferrer.

Savicevic and Massaro's general positions. Savicevic in the space between Sergi and Nadal

Milan's midfield going forward were excellent. The 'wide' men weren't generally on the flanks, especially Boban,so they could interchange well in those positions. Often the strikers would interchange with the wide men, particularly Boban and Savicevic, so the striker went wide while the wide player cut inside.

In terms of general positioning in midfield, Milan mainly committed three of the four midfielders forward and leaving one, usually Desailly, to hold. Desailly actually found himself lots of space from deep and had a good game with regards to passing so his distribution from deep was good.

Desailly in the lone holding role in midfield.

Another example

Milan's compact four in midfield.

Boban and Albertini press two of Barcelona's midfielders. Meanwhile, Desailly covers.

The ball drops to Desailly in space and he has time to pick one of the options in front of him.

Albertini had license to move forward from centre midfield and was generally the highest of the midfielders, often resulting in a diamond formation in midfield.

Milan's diamond on the ball

With such narrow positions though from the midfield though, they needed to be able to spread the play when Barcelona actually got men back. This is where Tassotti and Panucci came into the attacking phase of play. Though Milan got forward quickly and smoothly on the counter attack when there was space, there had to be a good shape when they Barca dropped deep. As the first half went on, Tassotti and particularly Panucci moved very high and wide up the pitch, able to stretch the play well and cause several chances for Milan.

In terms of actual attacking play, it varied for Milan. Savicevic was often used as a target man when Milan one the ball back and with his positioning generally on the right, it gave the chance for the diagonal ball. Massaro often did the same on the left hand side though he was usually more central than Savicevic when Barcelona had the ball.

Milan made good use of triangles and one twos because with two strikers and three midfielders forward as well as the full backs, they could afford to interchange. If one player moved forward, the other would cover. They executed this excellently and because everyone was aware of each zone that needed filled and were aware of different players positioning, it flowed superbly and Barcelona struggled to deal with it.

As Desailly charges forward, Boban acts as the holding player.

Savicevic picks up the ball and drops deep while Albertini and Desailly make runs.
Tassotti gets forward from full back, providing width. Albertini (blue) breifly sits in the holding role while Desailly runs back and Boban, out of your picture, makes the overlap on the right.
Tassotti moves forward with the ball while Boban (blue) makes a run on the right. Up front, Massaro stays on the defender while Savicevic comes deeper. Meanwhile Desailly on the left trots back to hold in midfield. It was this kind of play that made Milan dangerous. Everyone was aware of the space that needed to be filled and they stretched Barcelona where ever they could yet still maintaining one player in the holding role.

The use of the strikers as target men on occasions also meant that they would hold the ball up in the centre while midfielders rushed forward with momentum. Thus they managed to split open Barcelona and create space to work with.

When Barcelona got men behind the ball, Milan tended to concentrate down the flanks and Boban and especially Donadoni moved slightly wider than previously to create numerical superiority on the flanks. Ferrer had trouble with this and it was no coincidence that the second goal of the game came through this - Donadoni got past him on the left and ran into the area before pulling it back for Massaro to knock in his second.
Nadal at centre back for Barcelona was directly responsible for two of the goals, the first goal when he messed up his heading from the back and was then too easily beaten by Savicevic and the third goal straight after half time when he again dallied around the ball allowing Savicevic to close him down, the ball off him and lob the keeper. Despite the individual mistakes, Barcelona as a whole defended poorly.

When they got hit on the counter attack they generally had numerical inferiority around Guardiola. When they had men back, their central midfielders were too deep. Hence when they cleared the ball it often came straight back at them.

An example of Milan's 4-1-3-2 on the counter attack with four defenders, Desailly holding, the other three midfielders going forward and the two strikers, one dropping short, the other going long.

The systems at the start of the second half didn't change really. Milan were concentrating more on the counter attack than in the first half and Guardiola was getting more time and space on the ball but the overall outcome was the same. Milan's 3rd goal came quickly after the break and at that point Barcelona seemed to know that they weren't coming back. Milan's play in the attacking phase was still as quick and smooth as before and Barcelona were becoming increasingly frustrated, picking up three yellow cards in succession.

One player who became more influential in the second half was Marcel Desailly. In the first half, his role meant he was seen as fairly quiet. Barcelona weren't really threatening in attack and he was mainly playing the holding role when Milan had possession so he wasn't really seen in that area. In the second half, Barcelona had even more possession than they did in the first half (they had 56% of possession in the first half) so Milan's defence was becoming more important. Matched with the fact that Albertini was playing a more restricted role than he did in the first half, Desailly was able at points to charge forward or to close down quicker because, unlike in the first half, he had a covering man. He scored Milan's fourth goal of the night after winning a challenge in midfield and exchanging passes with Albertini before getting behind the defence and slotting it past Zubizaretta into the right hand corner.

From there on, the game was effectively dead. Milan's full backs stayed back and very rarely made forays forward. Desailly and Albertini sat deep in midfield so Milan generally had a 4-2-2-2 in attack. Barcelona made a couple of substitutions and slight changes of system but still struggled with the same problems they'd had in the first half.
Milan started closing down and compacting within 30 or 40 yards of goal so Barcelona still struggled to break through Milan's defence. In the end the only team who looked like scoring again were Milan and they got behind Milan's full backs on a couple of occasions, one in which the ball was pulled back to Savicevic who should've scored.

At which point the game ended and Milan after one of the most amazing performances ever in a European Cup Final took the trophy home leaving Barcelona's Dream Team in tatters.
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Saturday, 9 July 2011

Brazil struggling with lack of width

Two draws in the first two games of the 2011 Copa America for Brazil. Two games where they've struggled as an attacking unit.

Under Dunga, they were criticised for sacrificing flair and creativeness for work rate and defensive capabilities as well as an emphasis on counter attack. Menezes has tried to reinforce the mentality on attack and a settled 4-2-3-1 formation compared to Dunga's lobsided formation that depending on which way you saw it was a 4-2-3-1, a 4-4-2 diamond or a 4-3-2-1.

However the problem in the first two games so far for Brazil, against Venezuela and Paraguay, is that they have struggled with a lack of width in the final third of the pitch. Both opponents have defended very well and made it very hard to break through. The space in the middle has been tight and compact and at points it's made Brazil look clueless.

Brazil's first goal came mainly from the tenacity of Ramires. He won two challenges in the Paraguay midfield in quick succession and for the first and only time in the match, Brazil created an overload of 5v4 in attack and Jadson hit it into the back of the net with a good strike from 20 yards out.

It was no coincidence that for the last few minutes of the half, Brazil had their best period of the game. Paraguay opened up a bit more and Brazil looked dangerous on the break with their passing and use of angles. Ganso had found space hard to come by between Paraguay's midfield and defence, but he was now getting more involved in the game and the team looked threatening. 

Paraguay however looked like embarrassing Brazil in the second half, with goals from Santa Cruz and Valdez and Brazil didn't look good. It took a quick one touch pass from Ganso in a tight space and a turn and finish from Fred for Brazil to get the draw.

Menezes' substitutions didn't seem to really help. The substitution of Jadson for Elano was probably the strangest. Jadson had had a decent half, cutting in from the right and also getting the goal but bringing on Elano, generally a midfield playmaker, almost seemed to add to Brazil's problems of playing too narrow.

Brazil's play has been mainly foccussed down the middle, with a slight emphasis to the right. There's a couple of reasons for this. First of all Neymar playing on the left, cut's inside more often than not. With both oppositions, playing narrow so far, he's just been running into traffic and not helping at all. Santos at left back, has also not been as attacking as Alves on the right and so play has been slightly leaning to the right.

However Alves' runs forward haven't had the same pattern as his runs forward for Barcelona. His runs for Barcelona have mainly been very wide next to the byline, stretching the play so that the high right forward, be it Pedro or Villa, has the option to cut inside but still have a good amount of space. For Brazil a lot of his runs have been angled from the byline towards the middle of the pitch, trying to create triangles for Brazil's midfield. However this has just clogged up the middle of the field and it has been easier to defend against them.

Line up against Paraguay

There is a case to be made that Brazil are concentrating too much on the link up play and not enough about creating space for the link up play to work at it's best. Making sure Santos and Alves stick more to the flanks in the way Barcelona do, could open up play a lot better than they currently are.

Ganso was tipped to be a possible star of the tournament, yet he's been virtually anonymous so far. Both Venezuela and Paraguay brought their  midfields back when defending and kept the gap between them very small. Ganso in that attacking midfield role has therefore not had the time or room to make an impact for a sufficient period in both games. Neymar, as mentioned, has had the space that he likes to take up, cramped up and has looked very far off the £40 million release clause that Santos have set for him.

In fact the only real bright sparks for Brazil have come from the players in the deeper lying central roles who have had more space. Lucio has built up play well from the back and helped set up a chance for Pato in the first half. With him coming forward on the ball, Paraguay had an extra threat to deal with and while closing him down, left Jadson with more space behind the midfield to feed in Pato who had his shot saved by the goalkeeper.

Lucas and Ramires have provided a well balanced defensive midfield partnership. Ramires was probably Brazil's best player before he was substituted and his energy provided Brazil's opening goal. He also got forward a fair amount, helping linking the defence and attack. Lucas was in effect, playing the Busquets role, constantly making himself available for the pass and also forming a back three with Brazil's centre backs, when it was needed.

However if Brazil are to win this, then they are going to have to find a way of making more space in attack for their frontline to have a bigger impact not just their deeper players. Their best period of the game against Paraguay was when they were counter attacking and it may be something they will have to rely on a lot more if they are to win the Copa America this year.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Classic Match: Manchester United 2-1 Bayern Munich (1999)

Manchester United, without their dynamic central midfield duo of Roy Keane and Paul Scholes, went with David Beckham and Nicky Butt in the middle with Ryan Giggs playing as an inverted winger on the right and Jesper Blomqvist on the left. They set out in a fairly straight forward 4-4-2.

Bayern were without Elber and the French left back Bixente Lizarazu so in came Zickler and Tarnat. Their formation was slightly more complicated and was a cross between a 3-4-3 a 5-2-3 and even a lobsided 5-3-2.

First Half

Man United came into the game knowing that one win would guide them to an historic treble. Bayern themselves knew that a win in this game would also guide them to being on the verge of a treble though they hadn't yet sealed the other two trophies.

The first few minutes were fairly even. Both sides were looking to get players forward. When Bayern Munich had the ball, their wing backs, Babbel and Tarnat, pushed forward and looked to spread the play with some quick runs from deep. There was also some good switching of the ball to each side highlighting the strength they had in width. Man United looked to push their wingers high up when they had the ball and at points when they had possession in the final third were in a formation close to a 4-2-4 with both Giggs and Blomqvist high up.

The first goal however came after just 6 minutes. Ronny Johnsen fouled Carsten Jancker just outside the box after the target man had been sent through by a high ball by Zickler on the left. Mario Basler took it and wrong footed Peter Schmeichel by curling it past the wall into the bottom corner.

Now the emphasis was on Manchester United to show what they were made of. However Bayern were extremely well organised, efficient and tactically clever.

Because of the three players high up the pitch for Bayern, the high wide players, Basler and Zickler and Carsten Jancker as the target man, the United back four were struggling. The full backs weren't used to getting so little time on the ball because of Basler and particularly Zickler so high up the pitch and Jancker was a constant nuisance for Johnsen and Stam. He was a big outlet for Bayern when they picked up possession.

United's main threat in attack was actually how deep Beckham was coming to get the ball, no matter how much Ron Atkinson kept insisting that he should be further forward. Bayern's formation had no one in attacking midfield so when Beckham moved deep he got more time on the ball. And with his range of passing, he was the one bright spark of United's play in the first half. He was spreading long diagonal balls forward from deep and from there he could force Jen Jeremies, who was often marking him tightly, to go higher up the pitch to close him down which left space behind.

However United weren't exploiting that space because their 4-4-2 was fairly rigid and this played into Bayern's hands. The Germans had two centre backs with Lotthar Matthaus covering in the libero position. This meant they outnumbered the United strikeforce. Their wing backs were very disciplined in keeping Giggs and Bomqvist in check and in midfield, Jeremies and Effenberg were fairly comfortable dealing with Beckham and Butt.
Man United's midfield 4 linked by the green lines. Bayern's 4 (2 centre mids plus Zickler and Basler) linked by blue lines. Yorke and Cole not dropping into the hole between Bayern's midfield and defence so Bayern finding it easy. Matthaus (red) has come out to help the closing down, knowing that space behind him won't be used. Man United too rigid.

Man United couldn't break through at all. Bayern's three at the back were surrounding their strikers, there was no one in the hole for United so no one could run at Bayern's defenders and when the ball went out wide Giggs and Blomqvist were cutting inside with no overlaps from Neville or Irwin. Hence Beckham was dropping deeper to get space. However United's front players were showing an alarming lack of movement and Bayern could then  retain the ball and move into the attacking phase.

Effenberg was fairly quiet by his high standards but his positioning was terrific. He was disciplined defensively and quietly causing problems in attack. He made a good number of runs forward from deep, often just off the right hand side and this meant Basler could stay deep and probe from there. With Effenberg's runs it meant that United had to deal with an extra body coming from midfield and also meant that Jancker had a number of options when the ball was played to him with his back to goal, usually in the air.

Bayern going forward weren't spectacular or particularly attractive but they were very efficient. Jancker was the main target man and plenty of balls were played long to him to challenge against Stam and Johnsen in the air while Zickler and Basler came inside for the flick ons. Often in fact it was Effenberg getting forward to the inside right position instead of Basler and their attacks built from there.

Jancker (blue) leading the line waiting for the ball with his back to goal. Zickler and Effenberg narrow and moving forward making it easier for Jancker. Zickler in particular was causing problems with his diagonal runs.

Basler, as mentioned, was actually fairly reserved in his positioning, which seemed strange at first but it did mean that if Bayern retained the ball, he, as Bayern's most creative player, could get more space to penetrate and create.

After the Bayern goal came, Bayern's wing backs were far more reserved. Tarnat was in as a replacement for Lizarazu and was the most attacking wing back but even he didn't get that high up the pitch. Babbel was mainly in the right wing back role as a defensive option, where he did an extremely good job against Blomqvist but showed little going forward.

After 25 minutes Lothar Matthaus was starting to build up some of Bayern's attacks. One way was that his sweeper role often allowed him space if United were dispossessed - he had no one directly to mark and therefore had no one directly marking him. On a good number of occasions, after Bayern won the ball he had plenty of time behind the centre backs to hit it long towards Jancker and thereby Bayern pushed United back and could hurt them. With Johnsen and Stam struggling to contain Jancker it always allowed Bayern an outball and made sure that United couldn't keep piling on the pressure.

Another way Matthaus was building up attacks was from getting forward from his position. With no one directly marking him and with United with no extra man in midfield, he could come out of his position and Bayern would outnumber United 3v2 in the centre. This caused problems especially with Effenberg moving forward. That meant that Beckham and Butt either had to go deep or press high. On more than one occasion, they did neither and allowed Bayern room to roam in the centre. Jeremies who later became a sweeper for Bayern after Matthaus retired, was more than capable of holding the midfield while Matthaus and Effenberg moved forward. In this scenario, with Bayern's wing backs fairly reserved, the formation in attack often became a 4-1-2-3 which was comfortable and taking advantage of the holes at defensive midfield and attacking midfield that Man United left playing a straight 4-4-2.

Beckham loses the ball in Bayern's half. Matthaus takes hold of it from midfield.

He moves forward over the halfway line with no one picking him up while he charges forward.

Bayern, with Matthaus getting forward from the back, have a 4v4 in attack. Matthaus' runs were beginning to hurt United.

As the first half moved on, Alexander Zickler was increasingly finding himself in the central striker role and was working well with Jancker from there. Jancker's target man ability was also used as a decoy to attract the attention of one or both of the centre backs while Zickler sneaked round the back
with some clever diagonal runs, exploiting the space left by the centre backs.

Effenberg picks up the ball in midfield. Jancker being marked by Stam (green) is waiting for the ball over the top. Meanwhile Zickler circled red makes his diagonal run.

As Effenberg plays it over the top, Stam has got very tight to Jancker. Zickler makes the run in behind.

Stam realises that the ball is going over the top and leaves Jancker to try and get back for Zickler.

Zickler gets a header on target.

Bayern were well organised with their defensive line. When United built up possession and pushed them back, they were happy to pull their wing backs deep and soak up the pressure making it hard for United to break through. Irwin and Neville weren't providing many overlaps because of the threat of Bayern's front three attacking them at pace. Meanwhile Jancker never came back but stayed high up the field waiting for a long ball and also meaning that the Johnsen and Stam couldn't move higher up the pitch and bring more pressure for Bayern Munich.

With Bayern sat deep and compact, United had a lot more possession in the first half (57%) but no real chances.

Beckham playing in central midfield made a couple of interchanges with Ryan Giggs on the right hand side, allowing the welshman to move inside and also spreading the width for United. It also meant that Beckham got more space because Bayerns coudn't afford to get to tight because they would leave space for Giggs to run into the penalty area.
United's front two of Yorke and Cole were playing as just that - a front two. Neither of them were particularly dropping deeper in between the midfield and the defence and this meant much of United's threat had to come from spreading the ball out wide. And as already said, they weren't getting much glory here. When the ball was played direct towards them, Bayern, though lucky on occasions, managed to deal with it well and dealt with well with them physically particularly Kuffour who had an excellent game at centre back.

Because of Bayern's three at centre back, they could also afford to track the strikers if they went out wide because Matthaus was always covering in the middle.

Both strikers, linked by the blue, are being man marked by Kuffour and Linke. Lotthar Matthaus (red) is covering in the middle, not picking either striker up but making sure that he is well positioned if either striker gets free. As such Yorke and Cole struggled to make any impact on the game.

Bayern were becoming increasingly concentrated on the counter attack and were very solid in sitting deep. Towards the end of the first half Jancker moved to the left when United had the ball, meaning that diagonal balls could be played to him from the right or the centre and it also meant that if Bayern attacked quickly Zickler could use his superior pace to get behind Johnsen and Stam.

Zickler in the centre, in blue, whilst Jancker (red) is on the left. Thus Zickler could use his pace down the centre if Bayern won the ball and Jancker was available for the long diagonal ball to the left.

Second half

At the start of the second half there wasn't much change for either team. Bayern were sat back in a lobsided 4-1-3-2 with the wing backs fairly deep and Basler playing right midfield in front of Babbel to stop Irwin. Zickler and Jancker were the two forwards but were over to the left hand side without possession and moved into the centre when Bayern had the ball high up the pitch.

Matthaus was moving further forward and was now mainly playing in the anchor role in midfield, taking hold of any loose balls or second balls and moving forward. This started to become Bayern's main pattern in attack. Taking the ball from deep, Matthaus or Jeremies would run forward with the ball whilst they waited for support. Effenberg was starting to have more influence in an attacking role as United started to concentrate more on attack than defence and Effenberg started to find more space as United moved forward. Meanwhile Basler made a couple of terrific runs from deep, one run which resulted in the substitute Mehmet Scholl hitting the post.

Man United were still having the same problems as they did in the first half. They were still to rigid in their formation and their wingers were cutting inside to no avail while their full backs were still sat very deep, not pushing Bayern's attacking wide players back.

This was in the opening minutes of the second half. Man United' back four aren't really looking to get forward. Neville and Irwin are very restricted in their positioning and not making many runs forward.

With Manchester United still failing to break down the Bayern defence, Teddy Sheringham came on for Blomqvist and resulted in a formation change for United - 4-3-3. Nicky Butt sat in the holding role while Beckham and and Giggs were on their traditional sides but tucked in so that the midfield would not be overrun.

The formations used after Sheringham and Scholl had come on.

This was a positive change from Ferguson and a very good one tactically that change the whole dynamic about United's play. They now had more freedom to interchange in their roles with 3 up front making more use of the Bayern back line. In midfield, Bayern were now also outnumbered at times and the full backs, Babbel and Tarnat, were confused who to pick up. Sometimes the strikers went out wide. Sometimes they'd stay inside and the full backs would now have no one to pick up. Sometimes Beckham or Giggs went wide and the full backs picked them up.

It all equated to Man United finally being able to break through the Bayern defence. They started to stretch them, get more bodies in the box and actually started to create some chances. Just a couple of minutes after the change, United worked their way into the box and Cole found some space to attempt an overhead kick that flew off his shin wide of the goal. However it was positive and United's play started to get more fluid.

The more defensive minded Mehmet Scholl replaced a tired Alexander Zickler and played a more reserved wide role similar to the role Mario Basler on the right, sitting much deeper than Zickler had previously done. With room now out wide for the full backs to get forward, Bayern couldn't allow them to push forward and create an extra option.

However it now meant that Bayern were now forced to sit deep and allow United onto them. In their attacking phase, Jancker was now up front on his own so long balls were at a premium because of lack of knock down options for Jancker to play it too. The moves therefore became more precisely constructed. It did help them out that Neville and Irwin were now pushing forward and gave them more space to be able to construct these attacking moves. Effenberg was at the heart of them on a couple of occasions, getting up to support Jancker and forcing a good save off Peter Schmeichel.

Mario Basler, took advantage of Denis Irwin being high up the pitch and after some wonderful play, Scholl making a diagonal run, saw his lob hit the post. This was the risk that United took and now had to take. The game as a result had opened up.

United were now looking far more promising going forward, with Giggs beginning to assert himself, moving inside and Sheringham a threat in the air. Because of Beckham's position in midfield, the angle was such that he could start playing some high diagonal balls to Sheringham who was on the left. This was a tactic that worked well and a couple of knock downs resulted in promising positions for United.

Beckham picks up the ball inside to the right.

He plays the long diagonal ball to the left towards Sheringham in the air, a deliberate tactic.

Sheringham knocks it down for Irwin who is now in space and has time to cross. This tactic was used a number of times by United when Sheringham came one.

The build up play was a lot more dynamic. A good passing move in which Sheringham dropped deep allowed Nicky Butt to force his way through the defence and flick it dangerously across goal.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came on for Andy Cole immediately and seemed to have the freedom to drift around fairly freely up front. His first touch just seconds after coming on was a header from a Neville cross at the near post that Kahn was forced to save. Now United had seemed to get an extra energy about their play, even though it was simply the fact that they'd tactically found a way to stretch Bayern and open them up at the back.

Matthaus had come off a few moments earlier and had been replaced by Torsten Fink who had a bigger tendency to sit back than Matthaus. This was a good move and made it tighter for United in the centre because Fink wasn't leaving as many spaces going forward.
At this point though, defensive solidity was not anywhere near the level it had been in the first half for either team. Bayern were still finding space in between the midfield and defence and Scholl, cutting inside behind the United centre midfielders, forced a good save from Schmeichel. Jancker hit the crossbar with an overhead kick just a couple of minutes later and so United were still riding their luck.

Bayern's formation despite these couple of chances showed a big emphasis on stopping United. With less than ten minutes remaining, Bayern were playing close to a 5-4-1 formation with both wide midfielders deep and Jancker leading the line up front.

Both wide players sat deep to create a compact 4 in midfield, while both wing backs are tucked in deep to create a 5 in defence (Babbel is out of shot in this picture)

Sheringham at points was now playing a similar role to Jancker in the first half and being used as a target man in the air with two or three players squeezing in for knock downs. This tactic forced a chance for him in the area but he hit it straight at the goalkeeper. Meanwhile, Neville and Irwin were now for the first time pushing much higher up the pitch and giving United more options. United;s wide play at this point was much more dynamic and with lots of interchanging of positions they were creating chances again. Cole miscued after Gary Neville had got into the area and provided a ball across goal. Then seconds later, Denis Irwin, forward on the left, put the ball into the box that Solksjaer headed straight at Kahn.

Man United's front line in the last few minutes was a lobsided 4-2-1-3 with the three strikers leaning to the right and Giggs slightly deeper filling up the space on the left.
The three strikers over to the right, while Giggs sits slightly deeper on the left.

At this point though, it's perhaps best to not even mention tactics but instead reflect on the last couple of minutes.


One of the most amazing European Cup Finals ever and one that will never be forgotten by Manchester United fans.

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