Manchester United - Their weaknesses exposed!!.

I have had a look at Manchester United and have come up with some key weaknesses in their game that we need to exploit tonight. We all know...

I have had a look at Manchester United and have come up with some key weaknesses in their game that we need to exploit tonight. We all know about the threat they pose going forward. Chelsea need to remain solid and disciplined defensively first and foremost. If we can keep Nani quiet and frustrate Wayne Rooney we are half way there.

I have taken examples from three of United's games. Wigan away, City at home and Blackpool away and have found some examples of the same weaknesses being exposed. In some cases they are exploited, in some they aren't, it's up to Chelsea to make sure they have done their homework!. You could say, If I have spotted them in just three games, then our scouting network should have pointed the same out to Carlo.

Because of the rules regarding video footage of the Premier League, I will use still shots taken while the video is playing to demonstrate my points. Please excuse the quality of the pictures, hopefully they will be clear enough to make my point.

1. Set plays.

United's defending of set plays is woeful at times. Many of their players get caught ball watching as a cross comes over. In the game tonight, Vidic and Smalling will have the responsibility to win the ball. The problem United have is that Chelsea are one of the biggest sides in the Premier League. With Didier Drogba, John Terry, David Luiz and Fernando Torres in the box, they have their hands full.

Home V City.

As you see United defend on the edge of their box with a defensive line. Pretty much looks like everything is covered. However, look at the left hand side of their defensive line. You'll just about make out Berbatov and O'Shea. Watch what happens when the in swinging cross comes into the box.

Three City forwards have made a run towards the near post. Five United defenders have been sucked in following their run and underneath the flight of the ball including O'Shea. As a result, Berbatov is caught out having left Carlos Tevez with a free header on goal.

Blackpool v United.

Here is Blackpool's first goal against United. Evra, Gibson and Nani are marking no one around the edge of the box. Again, THREE attackers make a move towards the near post, followed by THREE united defenders including Vidic and Smalling. This leaves Rooney marking DJ Campbell in front of Van Der Sar, Berbatov marking Cathcart and Fletcher marking Taylor Fletcher. Watch what happens when the ball is played to the far post.

The three big boys in United defence have all covered the near post run. Rooney is trying to stretch to head the ball clear but can't reach the ball, Berbatov has been caught flat footed by Cathcart who has a free header from 8 yards and scores.

Blackpool v United (2).

The second Blackpool goal from a corner and this time the ball is played into the near post for a flick on. Three attackers have again made their move to the near post, covered by FOUR United defenders and note it's all the big boys plus Nani. Once more, Berbatov is on Cathcart and Campbell is in the six yard box. Watch what happens.

Blackpool win the flick on taking all the taller of the United defenders out of the game. As the ball is flicked on towards the back post, Campbell takes a step back and this happens:

Campbell rises unchallenged and scores from close range with three United players and Van Der Sar caught ball watching.

What Chelsea need to do:

We need to use three out of our four biggest players to make runs to the near post to take the likes of Vidic, Smalling and O'Shea away from goal. Fernando Torres or even someone like Essien could make a late run in behind like Cathcart did and would find themselves with a free header to punish United.

2. Late run's into the box - United's back four dropping deep.

The same instance that happens over and over again with United is their tendency for their back four to drop deeper and deeper when you run at them. There are massive gaps between their defence and midfield in defensive areas and Chelsea can really exploit this tonight. Chelsea can score tonight if we can get the likes of Frank Lampard in and around the box late with one of his trademark runs and to pull the ball back across goal from near the byline, back towards the penalty spot. I will highlight a few instances for you.

Blackpool v United.

The ball is played in behind their right back. Taylor-Fletcher chooses to play the ball square into the near post. Look at Varney on the edge of the box with all United's defenders watching the ball. A simple ball played back towards the penalty spot would have created a chance for Varney to score. Look at what I mean here:

The picture shows Van Der Sar grabbing the ball at the near post. If you look towards the penalty spot, there are two Blackpool players in a perfect position, unmarked for the pull back. United's midfield are nowhere.

Blackpool v United (2)

Once again. The ball is played wide in behind United's defence. Rooney is covering Evra at left back, Vidic is facing the ball as well as Smalling as it's played across the box. Scholes on the edge of the box has no intention of following the play into the box and neither does Evra. Watch what happens here:

Five United players are within 10 yards of the ball. Vidic and Smalling have dropped too deep and Evra and Scholes haven't covered the late run from midfield. As a result the attacker has a free shot on goal and should have scored.

Wigan v United.

This is last weekend. United won the game 4-0 but Wigan had more than enough chances to score. A better side like us can punish them. Look at the picture above. Wigan have the ball down the left wing and are looking to cross the ball into the box after turning John O'Shea. Carrick has doubled up with O'Shea, done nothing and played himself out of the game. Fletcher is out of it not tracking back.

Look at once again, how United's other three defenders have dropped deep onto their 6 yard box. Smalling, Vidic and Evra are all there. Paul Scholes is ball watching as McCarthy (standing behind him) spots a chance to make a late run to the back post. Rodallega and N'Zogbia are making runs towards goal in the box. Watch what happens here:

The ball is played across the box to the penalty spot in between Evra and Scholes. N'Zogbia has gambled and has a chance to shoot first time but, see's the late run to the back post by McCarthy and decides to flick the ball behind him. Watch what happens now:

All the United players that were too deep have been sucked towards the ball or when the ball was played were taken out of the game. McCarthy who gambled on a flick is in at the back post with a free shot on goal. In this case Van Der Sar reacts and comes out to block it. United defend way too deep, especially in their own box.

What Chelsea need to do.

It's simple. Get the ball forward quickly and get it wide. Force the full backs onto the back foot, whoever is up front to force Vidic and Smalling back towards Van Der Sar to create space for the ball pulled back towards the penalty spot for whoever is making the late run or whoever has pulled off their defender to walk onto the ball and strike it home!.

3. In between the lines.

Carlo Ancelotti has spoken of the way in which we look to play certain people in certain positions in between the lines of the oppositions midfield and defence. This is where someone can really influence the game against United. Someone that can get in behind their midfield even in the middle of the pitch, can hurt them tonight. There is one encouraging still shot I want to show you all ahead of tonight.

Wigan v United.

Wigan playing with just one up front, two wingers and two attacking midfielders have turned United in the game. United's defensive cover of two banks of four in defence and in midfield should be caught with a ball through to Rodallega who has dropped off Vidic. If you look at the picture, Carrick and Scholes are caught ball watching again. Look at Carrick, rather than cover in behind he has stepped forward to close the ball down leaving Scholes with a two against one situation. Smalling has been pushed back away from the midfield by the man furthest forward so the gap between Smalling, Vidic, Scholes and Carrick is big enough to get in behind.

It really depends on who Carlo decides to go with tomorrow and the formation. Chelsea can hurt United by playing 4-3-3 with either Torres or Drogba up front. If we can get Lampard and Essien/Ramires up supporting him and in behind their midfield we should have enough about us to cause them all sorts of problems.

What Chelsea need to do.

It really does all depend on how we line up tomorrow. Whatever the formation, Chelsea need to get that someone in between their defence and midfield to play the ball into, force them back and to force either Vidic or Smalling to step out of the back four to shut the ball down. If they do that, we need to be alert to make that run in behind to the space they have just come from and to look for that through ball, killer pass in on goal. A perfect situation for a Lampard to Torres/Drogba/Anelka finish passed the keeper into the net.

Whatever happens we just need to play at a high tempo and to play well. Some of this you may or may not agree with me and that's fair enough. All I will say is that it's there in the still shots as proof.

United have weaknesses defending set plays, they do not cover the run from midfield and defend too deep when the opposition get in and around their box and play at times with too much space between their midfield and defence.

Chelsea CAN exploit one or all of these tomorrow and Chelsea CAN win the game.


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