Manchester United cope with Atletico Madrid aggression – Man United Information And Switch Information

Manchester United played Atletico Madrid today and right from the off, they were put under intense pressure by Simeone’s side.

The first half could largely be divided into two periods for the Spanish side, with each representing a different meaning of the word “aggression.”

The first 20 minutes or so featured an aggressive press, with David de Gea looking uncomfortable in the opening seconds, kicking a ball straight out of play before being closed down again moments later.

Fred was boxed in by Atletico’s forwards with Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof regularly charged down by Yanick Carrasco, Angel Correa and Matheus Cunha.

However, Erik ten Hag’s insistence on composure almost bore fruit immediately, with two fantastic opportunities falling for Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial within five minutes of kick-off.

A thunderous start showed that this United team never really lost its ability to effectively attack at speed, even if they did do an excellent job of hiding it over the last 12 months.

It was clever play from Tyrell Malacia that started the sequence for Rashford’s early chance, as he used his strength to turn Correa under pressure and find a ball out to Bruno Fernandes, who played in the England international beautifully.

In the early stages, this was not a game for settled possession, as both sides were quick to make challenges for the ball in a fiery contest.

The added work on possession has clearly benefitted Ten Hag’s team, as they were able to create chances as a direct result of Atletico’s early high press.

However, their attempts to unsettle United in the opening 20 minutes seemed to wear on them, with the Madrid side a couple of weeks behind the Red Devils in their preparations.

That gave United a different challenge, as they went from dealing with a co-ordinated high press to a tight mid-low block, with Simeone’s team eventually forced to defend exclusively in their own half.

In this second period of the half, “aggression” was synonymous with “dark artistry,” with Atletico relying on a series of cynical fouls familiar to their spectators.

No Atletico game is complete without fisticuffs, and they came shortly before the first half ended, with some excellent acting from Jan Oblak giving his teammates an excuse to petition the referee for a red card on Scott McTominay.

The referee saw a yellow card as a more fitting award for Oblak than the Oscar he was expecting, however.

The Red Devils kept their heads through this period well enough and managed to retain possession and work opportunities, with Anthony Elanga squandering a good chance just before half time.

In the face of aggression, the correct response is bravery and United were able to show it both on the ball and in heated moments.

The second half was much the same until the hour mark, when Atletico Madrid made nine changes, although they were still unable to recapture their early intensity.

While Atletico did manage to register their first shot on target 73 minutes in, United did a fantastic job of managing the game through its varying states.

Unfortunately a Joao Felix goal against the run of play late in the game took the shine off the performance.

In a recent United Matchday Magazine article I discussed David de Gea’s habit of conceding from the “sucker punch” and it seems to be an area he still needs to work on, although Felix did strike well.

For much of the game, United showed a maturity that was lacking when the sides last met, however that goal and Fred’s subsequent red card demonstrates that doing it for 88 minutes is not quite enough, particularly when chances aren’t taken.

Nevertheless, with the intensity of this match rendering the word “friendly” a misnomer, fans have plenty of positives to take away from this game.

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