It’s been a slog trying to get through all of the games per week recently. This week while I’ll still post score predictions for all the matches, I am going to focus on one game that interests me for some reason. Might not always be the game you’re expecting, so cheers to the surprises coming.
Sheffield United v Manchester United
I am picking this game because while Chelsea v Manchester City is probably the “big” game this weekend, I think this game is the one I am looking forward to the most. From a Chelsea fan too…….FYI it is 5th v 7th. I think you have two teams in good runs of form. Manchester United has found some rhythm in the recent weeks, while Sheffield has been one of the best surprises of the season. This match has the potential to be a barn burner and could reverberate intent from either club to storm after the top 4.
I will be the first to admit I thought Sheffield was up for the drop this year. I was not sure if they had both the talent and the tactics to survive the top division. What they have accomplished through the first 12 weeks has been brilliant. Currently sitting in 5th place, their season has had some excellent results. The draw away at Chelsea was the first one that opened some people’s eyed, though the own goal was lucky. Still, their win over Arsenal and what should have been a win over Spurs (come at me), they are a team that is giving people fits.
Sheffield United has continued to play with the 3-5-2 system that got them promoted. What is different than you typical 3-5-2 is that Chris Wilder has implemented an adjustment of using overlapping center backs. What this system does is allow for good width in the attack, while still being able to overload the midfield. Looking at the diagram below you can see how the width can force the oppositions left and right backs to stay wide. I can also cause more 2v1 situations in the flanks and allow for easier crossing. With the wing backs coming in, it can also allow for more fee runners through the channels. This can not only cause chaos in the box but better scoring opportunities. While it does seem to be susceptible to being countered easily when broken due to the extra defenders pushed high. You can also put added pressure on the ball upfield creating a system that causes more passing errors and pressure on the opposition. The league seemingly has yet to fully adapt to them so it will be interesting to see how this tactic and formation continue throughout the season.
The biggest loss for Sheffield this weekend has to standout goalkeeper Dean Henderson. He is on loan from Manchester United which means that he is unable to play against his parent club. I still believe that he should have won the player of the month for October. He had been a revelation in net and should be getting consideration for either playing tome at United going forward or a substantial move elsewhere. I would hope Sheffield could good into him but I am doubtful as they will be out priced by his success this year. The only other big news is that John Egan might be a kiss due to a head injury on international duty. He would be deputized by Phil Jagielka, who has plenty of experience and confidence from his manager.
Players to Watch
While Lys Mousset has been the standout on attack this campaign, I think the man to watch is David McGoldrick. His hold up play has been instrumental this season so far. He will relish the chance to go up agains Harry Maguire. He is still looking for his first goal in the top fight after last weekends intervention. Think there will be a fire in his belly to get on board.
They had a nice rebound win over Brighton and Hove Albion 3-1 after the loss to Bournemouth. It was an important victory since there was worry that after the draw against Liverpool it was back to the United we had seen most of this season. Their away form this year had not been the greatest taking 5 points from an available 18. That is against them going into a very tough away match.
Manchester United have set up in a 4-2-3-1 for the majority of the season. They do try a mixture of high press and sitting back to counter. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer does like keeping his midfielders in the wide to give United a substantial width in the attack. Extra width could help prevent some of the overlaps from the center backs at bay with them occupied with the attacks. Their left and right backs will be trying to get up and provide extra width in the attack too. All of this will be a hope to contain the wing-backs and center backs. I do expect United to try to leave one of the defensive midfielders slightly further back to help against the hold-up play from Sheffield. Leaving the one striker high, should also be enough with a one v one match up against the middle non overlapping venter back,
United gets 4 players back this week. Ashley Young is back after his suspension last week, but Williams’s performance may keep him out of the eleven. Luke Shaw, Nemanja Matic, and Axel Tuanzebe returned to full team training on Wednesday, binging reinforcements for selection. Scott McTominay picked you an ankle knock on international duty, and will not have recover in time for the match. That is a massive loss because his work rate is fantastic. Matic can fill to void but doesn’t offer the same going forward. The rest of the injured list is the same, with the significant losses being Rojo and Pogba.
Players to Watch
I think that Aaron Wan-Bissaka and whoever starts at left-back, be it Shaw, Williams, or Young. The wide areas are where Sheffield has found joy, and the containment of those situations will make the most substantial difference in the outcome of the match
Predicted Line Ups
Sheffield United 2 Manchester United 1