We’re often told that attack is the best form of defence.
In most cases, this could well be true. However, for Manchester United on Tuesday evening, defence might be the best form of attack.
The Red Devils take on German giants Bayern Munich at Old Trafford needing to pick up all three points if they are to have any chance of progressing into the knockouts. They also need the game between Galatasaray and Kobenhaven to end in a draw. A win for either side sees them finish second, regardless of whether United manage to defeat Thomas Tuchel’s men.
In the build-up to this clash, many pundits, fans and journalists have made a case for United just throwing everything at Bayern Munich. Erik Ten Hag could opt to go for the jugular. After all, the German side have already sealed qualification and will likely be fielding a weakened XI at Old Trafford.
But a rotated Bayern side is still dangerous and Man Utd have shown just how brittle they truly are on multiple occasions already this season. If they go all out and leave themselves exposed, the German juggernauts have the quality to make the most of these moments and opportunities.
Ten Hag needs to switch things up
By fielding an attacking side, Ten Hag risks turning this into a game of basketball. Just end to end with transitional moments galore. United could well score two or three goals. They scored three in their last meeting with Bayern. But are you convinced they have the players and the mentality to limit the visitors?
Ten Hag’s side have conceded 14 goals in five Champions League outings. Bayern scored four in Bavaria. Kobenhaven scored four in their home match against United. Galatasaray scored six goals across two matches against the Red Devils.
In all five games, United have been positive in their approach. They have found the back of the net on 12 occasions but it has only been good enough to secure one win and four points. For context, Bayern top the group with 13 points having scored just 11 goals.
The difference is, they have only conceded six goals, three of which arrived in the 4-3 win over United. So in their other four outings in the competition, they have allowed just three goals. It makes it so much easier to win matches when you aren’t having to score four goals in a game for three points.
This is why the Red Devils should switch things up against Bayern. The Bavarians will dominate the ball, regardless of who they name in their XI. That is just their style and United will be aware of this. Ten Hag should set his side up as if this was an away game in a knockout competition. Fans might not appreciate it and it might be a horrible watch, but it could well be their best bet of picking up all three points.
In truth, United have played their best football under Ten Hag when adopting an underdog tactic and playing on the break. It suits their squad profile and plays to the strengths of their players. Marcus Rashford, Rasmus Hojlund, Antony, Alejandro Garnacho and even Facundo Pellistri are all fairly quick, they will cause Bayern problems if given space to attack.
Bruno Fernandes is the definition of a forceful player. He looks to make something happen with every pass, so why not unshackle him and play such a style that allows him to play killer pass after killer pass.
If United embrace who they are right now, they will have a chance of beating Bayern. If they try to be something they aren’t, the challenge becomes even more difficult for the Red Devils.