Manchester United have had the majority of possession in 10 of their 14 Premier League matches so far this season, winning only one – a 3-1 victory over 19th placed Norwich.
In games where they have had less of the ball Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team have beaten Chelsea 4-0, high-flying Leicester 1-0, an impressive Brighton 3-1 and even secured a 1-1 draw with this season’s unbeatable looking Liverpool.
Many a pundit has observed games are not won on ‘possession stats’ but for United, the cliché is becoming a genuine problem. It is increasingly clear that the best way to beat Manchester United is to give them the ball.
Solskjaer’s desire to bring back ‘The United Way’, which according to the ancient scrolls is a counter-attack style with wingers and last-minute winners, is difficult without the quality of player United are used to, and particularly without a midfield maestro or creator capable of unlocking the packed defences usually deployed at Old Trafford. Worse, by trying to both control possession and operate as a counter-attacking side, they have ended up being neither.
United have fallen into a series of traps this season against sides designed to hurt them on the counter. By getting players behind the ball and teasing United into opening up, Sheffield United, Aston Villa and Southampton have secured unlikely draws while Newcastle and Crystal Palace claimed important victories. The more of the ball they have, the worse the results.