Manchester United problems being caused by opposition

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Sometimes it's not you, it's them. For Manchester United, this has been the case all season long.

David Moyes has struggled at the helm of United in his first season at the club and many have been quick to blame the new manager for United's early season form. However, their football has not been any worse than when Sir Alex Ferguson was at the club.

The difference is that teams are playing United differently now.

When Ferguson was at the club, teams had a tendency to sit back and let United have the ball in their own half. Players such as Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley were able to thrive because they could sit right in front of their own defence and spread the ball from side to side, slowly opening up the defence.

As a result, the entire team had more space and they could prompt and probe at the defence until they put in the final product.

In contrast, teams have played Moyes' side with a high pressing game that has troubled United. The defence is being forced to play with the ball deeper and players like Carrick and Cleverley are receiving the ball near their own 18-yard-box rather than near midfield.

Consequently, the United midfielders have to play a negative ball and the opposing team can press even further up the pitch. The United defenders are then forced to either play a difficult pass or bump the ball long. Both usually end up with United losing the ball.

This style of play was clearly evident in United's 1-1 draw with Southampton at Old Trafford on Saturday.

The Southampton forwards and midfielders worked hard to press up the pitch, while the defence pressed up to close down the space where the United forwards could operate.

Victor Wanyama and  Morgan Schneiderlin were vital as they constantly pressed Carrick and Marouane Fellaini, often making them go backwards or winning the ball high up the pitch.

This forces United to sit back more as they are largely unaccustomed to losing the ball so high up the pitch.

Stats showed that Southampton ended up with more shots and more possession than their counterparts. Possession stats were 54% to Southampton and 46% to Manchester United, while Southampton had 18 shots to United's 12.

With this lack of possession, United cannot be nearly as effective as they were with Ferguson and it is all down to how their opponents are playing them now.

A midfielder like Ilkay Gundogan would be crucial for United as he can turn under pressure and make a forward pass into the striker's feet. At present, United simply do not have the personnel to be successful under this high press game.

The players in the squad right now simply can not deal with the press and the callings of Shinji Kagawa would not be sufficient for this role as he plays further up the pitch.

This is an issue that David Moyes needs to address as the season wears on. United will have to learn to cope with their opposing side's new energy and vigour.

They sense the weaknesses of this club in transition and are ready to pounce on the Red Devils.

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