Marseille 0-0 Manchester United: stalemate

February 24, 2011

The starting line-ups

A lack of goalmouth action resulted in the only goalless game of the Champions League second round first legs.

Mathieu Valbuena was only fit enough for the bench, and Andre-Pierre Gignac was out completely, so Didier Deschamps used a patched-up 4-2-3-1 with Brandao as the lone forward.

Sir Alex Ferguson fielded Wayne Rooney on the left of a 4-1-4-1, with Darron Gibson surprisingly starting over Paul Scholes in the centre of midfield.

The game was by far the poorest of the eight Champions League games that have been played over the past ten days – neither side were intent on scoring, and both seemed to settle for a 0-0 at a fairly early stage.

With similar formations, there was relatively little to choose between the sides in tactical terms. Michael Carrick broadly picked up Lucho Gonzalez, whilst United’s two more advanced midfielders did battle with Marseille’s double pivot. Neither side conclusively won the midfield battle – the sides attempted a similar number of passes (449-497) and had a similar pass completion rate (81%-80%). The ball spent most of the time in the middle of the pitch, but none of the six players in that zone dominated the game to any real extent – Carrick was disappointing despite having a fair amount of time on the ball, but Gibson’s passing was more incisive.

With such a stalemate, a full-scale match analysis would be rather unnecessary, so instead here are some chalkboards, courtesy of the fantastic TotalFootball app.

Wayne Rooney's passing

Wayne Rooney reverted to a disciplined left-wing role, rather than the lone striking role he’s played recently when Ferguson has gone 4-5-1 away in Europe. From that position his passing was generally sound, although he often lost the ball when attempting over-ambitious passes.

Both sides' interceptions

Both sides intercepted the ball reasonably high up the pitch – barely any interceptions happened in the final third – demonstrating how rare it was for the ball to actually be played into attacking positions.

Manchester United's crosses

Marseille coped well with United’s crossing (which generally came from the right wing) – none of the 14 crosses from open play were successful, it took a corner to provide a completed ball into the box.

Marseille's passes in the attacking third

Marseille’s passing was focused down their left – the vast majority of balls played into the final third came down that flank.

Paul Scholes' passing

Paul Scholes’ late introduction provided the assured passing United had missed until then – he completed 96% of his passes, the only exception being when he tried a ‘key’ pass into the opposition penalty box.

Marseille 0-0 Manchester United: stalemate

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