Film Focus: Which Manchester United Will Be on Show at Everton?

Paul Ansorge@@utdrantcastFeatured ColumnistApril 18, 2014

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - APRIL 05:  David Moyes manager of Manchester United looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Manchester United  at St James' Park on April 5, 2014 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
Jan Kruger/Getty Images

As David Moyes brings his new side to his old Everton stomping ground, Manchester United fans will be wondering which version of their team will be on display.

In this Film Focus piece, we look at some of the different iterations of Moyes' United and consider which he might chose to deploy against the Toffees.

United's season is effectively over, but with rumours surfacing that their owners are insisting on a push for Europa League qualification, per Miguel Delaney of,  this game has significance above and beyond Moyes' personal pride.

If Moyes is to stay in the job, United fans will be hopeful he has taken on board the lessons of recent weeks and begins to trust his creative players to do the job in games against sides above United in the league as well as those below.

Moyes' United have a truly appalling record against clubs that currently sit above them in the league. Played 11, won one, drawn three, lost seven. Away from home, as the game against Everton is, the record reads played five, won none, drawn two, lost three.

Given how spectacularly unsuccessful United's attempts to best the league's better sides have been, it is almost impossible to imagine Moyes not taking a bolder approach in this game than he has against "bigger" sides so far this season.

Against Arsenal, in the nil-nil draw at the Emirates in February, United took a very conservative approach when Arsenal were in possession. United dropped into a 4-5-1, as shown here, with only Robin van Persie excused from defensive duties.

BT Sport 1 HD

This morphed into a 4-4-2 when United were on the counter-attack, as seen here.

OTE Sport

If United fans hope to see the best version of Moyes' United, they will certainly fear another outing for the worst.

The two games that saw perhaps the very worst of Moyes' approach were the games at home to Fulham and away to Olympiakos.

United deployed a 4-4-2 / 4-4-1-1 in both of those games, although they were games with very different complexions.

Against Olympiakos, United's players struggled to find each other, as they were set up to cover space. In the still below, as United have possession on the right flank in their own half, it is notable how rigidly the players on the left flank are sticking to their positions. This leads to the play getting stretched and explains why so many long passes were played across the field.

ITV Sport

The rigidity of the 4-4-2 is also shown here, although Wayne Rooney is about to drop back to make a 4-4-1-1.

ITV Sport

This tactical approach, and the personnel used to apply it, lead to a very disjointed performance, one in which United struggled to maintain possession or create much in the way of significant chances.

Against Fulham, the problem was very different. United had plenty of possession but used it very wastefully. The sheer volume of crosses appears to have shifted Moyes' approach. There has not been a game since then in which United have been so devoted to wing play. Given Everton's strength at full-back, it seems unlikely Moyes will target the flanks in this Sunday's game.

If those games represent the stylistic and tactical lows of United's season, the recent 4-0 demolition of Newcastle United at St James' Park was the opposite.

Admittedly, Newcastle made for extremely welcoming hosts, as this still from a replay of Juan Mata's second goal indicates.


However, the creation of that goal was notable. Starting from a long clearance from Anders Lindegaard, United are again seen using the whole width of the pitch.


The play is quickly concentrated down the right wing, however, with Javier Hernandez's ball control and pace and Shinji Kagawa's movement tearing apart the Newcastle defense. Mata is preparing to time his run into the box to maximum effect, and Adnan Januzaj is off-screen to the left cutting inside, occupying defenders.


While Everton's defense is unlikely to be as generous as Newcastle's, there will be space behind the full-backs should United have an opportunity to counter-attack. It will be interesting to see if Moyes reverts to type and selects Antonio Valencia for his perceived defensive contributions or if he gambles on a 4-2-3-1, deploying the Mata, Januzaj and Kagawa axis.

In truth, it is hard to imagine Moyes not being fearful of the possibility of damage caused by Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman from full-back in combination with Everton's attacking midfield talent.

Moyes' team selections against better sides have been reactive all season long. Rarely has he set the side out to impose its will on the opposition if he perceives the opposition as strong.

Scott Heppell

Moyes has an opportunity to make a statement against his old side. He has the opportunity to show that he is prepared to gamble to try to win games. He has the opportunity to show that he is prepared to fully embrace the role of manager of Manchester United rather than Everton manager on a season-long secondment.

If he is going to keep the job, he needs to start doing this sooner rather than later. There is no better time than against his old club.


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