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Detailing one way Manchester United can exploit Tottenham Hotspur’s main weakness



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The positional switch of Alejandro Garnacho from the left wing to the right has had a huge impact on both the player and Manchester United since its inception on Boxing Day.

With both Alejandro Garnacho and Marcus Rashford being best coming off the left, but Erik ten Hag lacking a quality option on the right wing, the decision was made to play the Argentine on the right wing against Aston Villa. This decision paid off, with Garnacho scoring a brace for United.

It has simplified Garnacho’s game, which stumbled slightly earlier in the season, as a natural right-footed player and offered United a quick, direct outlet on the right-hand side. His off-ball running caused Aston Villa’s high line a lot of problems at Old Trafford on Boxing Day.

Whilst tactically a very different side, Ange Postecoglou’s Tottenham Hotspur share the aggressive high line with Unai Emery’s Villa. They have managed this incredibly well throughout the season, but United’s front three from that Boxing Day fixture have shown both individually – in the past – and collectively – in that game – they can exploit these higher lines.

Marcus Rashford, Rasmus Højlund, and Alejandro Garnacho are all at their best when running directly at and behind defenders. They are physically powerful runners with and without the ball, and have a good sense of movement.

These qualities, when paired with good creative passing from behind, are how high lines can be undone. All three of United’s attackers offer this, and the passing ranges of players like Andre Onana and Bruno Fernandes, with the likes of Lisandro Martínez and Casemiro potentially returning too, mean that United have players who can pick out the runners in behind.

Postecoglou will naturally have a lot to think about on Sunday in terms of trying to inhibit United’s ability to play behind them. However, regardless of how much threat it may pose to his side, the Australian manager will set his team up to play high and aggressively regardless. His mantra ‘Just do it, mate’ defines his coaching, and whilst admirable, it gives United a direct avenue to Spurs’ goal with that offensive trident.

Spurs, like United, have seen an availability crisis at the back this season. New signing Radu Drăgușin is eligible to play for Spurs and will add something to their backline, but Old Trafford, at its finest, is the hardest place in the Premier League to make your debut, especially in a game of this magnitude.

Spurs are not perfect structurally, either. The insistence on pressing high no matter what is something that can work against them at times, but they can also be exploited when teams focus their play on one side of the pitch and can switch to the far side, creating an overload on the full-back.

With Lisandro Martínez possibly returning to the side, United’s left-hand side will have a huge boost in possession. This could give Alejandro Garnacho some favourable situations against Destiny Udogie on Tottenham’s far side. If United choose to play down the right in moments, then we have seen the threat Marcus Rashford offers when isolated against his man too, and he has a good goalscoring record against Tottenham.

United are not seen as favourites for this game, and rightly so because of how poor they have been, but they caused their upcoming opponents a lot of issues for large parts of the reverse fixture earlier in the season, and with the way their attack is constructed could very well cause them again, this time with home advantage.