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Manchester United formation switch relies on two players to succeed

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The most frustrating aspect of Manchester United’s weekend defeat to Aston Villa was that fans felt like they had seen it all before.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side failed to make their attacking quality count as they struggled to breakdown the Aston Villa low-block, looked vulnerable to trickery on the counter-attack and then eventually lost the match after failing to defend a basic set-piece routine.

Perhaps it was an ode to Johnny Marr’s appearance at the other Old Trafford later in the day that United ensured there was Panic on the streets of Stretford after such a dire display left many wondering if their Premier League title dreams were premature.

With one-dimensional play and frustration building Solskjaer finally looked to change the game when he rather reluctantly introduced Edinson Cavani from the bench with less than 10 minutes of normal time to play.

Solskjaer had been deliberating how to change the match throughout the second-half but saw his options limited after injuries to Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire saw his side limited to just one attacking switch.

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Cavani, Donny van de Beek and Nemanja Matic were the three players regularly occupying the touchline as the match dragged on and in an ideal world Solskjaer might well have introduced the Serbian as well, such as he did to successfully change the game at West Ham a week previous.

Instead it was the Uruguayan who came on as United adopted a disjointed 4-4-2 formation in the hope having two experienced strikers on the pitch would result in a greater threat on the Villa goal.

It was the combined central threat of Cavani, Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Pogba in the opposition area which led to Kortney Hause’s handball for the late penalty kick as Dean Smith’s side struggled to deal with the long-ball threat – and in another world United’s late formation switch might well have brought instant results.

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Just because United failed to get anything from the match it is easy to suggest their late gamble failed but with a bit more fortune it might well have paid off, it remains a Plan-B approach which is worth considering when circumstance requires.

Solskjaer had already hinted at it in his pre-match press conference by insisting Cavani and Ronaldo could play together in an attacking duo and the formation also has the added bonus of by-passing their flimsy central midfield by focusing on direct passing from out wide.

However, to make it work more effectively the approach will likely be defined by the extra attacking threat provided by their full-backs given the inverted nature of their wide men.

Shaw’s early withdrawal didn’t help matters given his replacement Dalot was also inverted playing on the left side of defence while Aaron Wan-Bissaka remains an inconsistent attacking threat, but is getting gradually better despite plenty of criticism.

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Stats from WyScout show it is actually Wan-Bissaka who has provided a more consistent output than his full-back partner this season with a crossing accuracy of 44.4 per cent in contrast to Shaw’s astoundingly low 5.9 per cent success rate.

Wan-Bissaka also has a 87.6 per cent short-pass completion rate to Shaw’s own 83.6 per cent, though the left-back leads 50 per cent to 41.2 per cent in regards to long pass accuracy.

In order for United to make the most of their main attacking focal points in the box they need a combination of creativity from their inverted wide men which is complimented by support from their full-backs, there is clear room for improvement.

Even in weekend defeat Cavani and Ronaldo proved they can cause concern as an attacking duo, now it is down to Solskjaer and his full-backs to get the best from them.

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Barcelona youngster in line to bench Jordi Alba for Real Sociedad clash – report

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As Barcelona drew 0-0 against Rayo Vallecano for the season opener, Jordi Alba was among the five to be substituted off to make way for offensive depth. The Spaniard is usually among the brightest offensive outlets in the team, but failed to make an impact last week.

Alba also looked out of his depth during pre-season, and it was reported that people within Barcelona were surprised that he started over Alejandro Balde.

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The 18-year-old was impressive during the run-up to the league opener, and was expected to take Alba’s place in the lineup.

While that did not happen vs Rayo, Javi Miguel reports that he is in line to start against Real Sociedad as the left-back. Xavi has informed Balde about his decision, and has told him to train with high intensity leading up to the game.

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Balde has been linked with an exit from Barcelona, especially given Marcos Alonso’s imminent arrival. However, an impressive performance at Anoeta could open the doors for his continuity.

The Chelsea defender has reportedly completed his move to Barcelona, subject to registrations and signatures. The club plan to announce it in the coming days if they are able to register Jules Kounde in time for the game.

Balde played in every single one of Barça’s pre-season fixtures, even registering an assist — to Raphinha —, against Inter Miami.

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Barcelona fans will hope the gamble pays dues, especially because it will likely not go down well with Alba, who is one of the team captains

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Barcelona yet to receive any offers for exit-bound right back, price tag sits at €20m

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Barcelona are said to be pushing Sergino Dest towards an exit, but a recent report from journalist Adria Albets has confirmed that the player does not have any offer at the moment.

Regardless of what has been said in the past, neither have Manchester United tabled any formal offer for the right-back, nor have they made contacts with the 21-year-old’s representative.

For the moment, Barcelona are clear pretty clear about offloading Dest but in order to fulfil the operation, they are demanding in excess of €20 million.

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For that particular reason, his agents are finding it hard to find a suitor as no club is willing to match the valuation for a player who is already fallen down the pecking order.

Xavi has so far preferred to use make-shift centre-back, Ronald Araujo, as a full-back. And while the Uruguayan has done well at times, it’s pretty clear that the team is looking to bring in a full-time right-back this summer.

For that, several players such as Hector Bellerin, Juan Foyth, Diogo Dalot, Thomas Meunier and Jeremie Frimpong have been considered, but there remain several complications in carrying out the operation

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To begin with, Villarreal’s valuation of €42 million for Juan Foyth is proving to be a hindrance.

Barcelona are finding themselves in this situation mostly because their attempt to sign a certain Cesar Azpilicueta failed.

Meanwhile, as far as Dest is concerned, he knows in order to get regular minutes, he needs to move away from Camp Nou, but Barcelona’s asking price of €20 million is putting a stop to his desire.

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Manchester United were thought to be weighing up a fresh move worth €20 million for the defender, but the Premier League side is yet to make any formal move. Hence, the Dutch-born American defender continues to train within the Barcelona ranks for the time being.

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Report: Chelsea prepared to listen to offers for their ‘huge talent’, will demand nearly £60m

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Report: Chelsea prepared to listen to offers for their ‘huge talent’, will demand nearly £60m

Chelsea would reportedly prefer to sell Christian Pulisic rather than loan him out this summer.

According to The Sun, Manchester United are interested in signing the 23-year-old Blues attacker on loan

is understood that Chelsea would rather offload the American on a permanent basis, though.

The report says they’ll listen to offers for Pulisic during the next couple of weeks, but want to recuperate the full £58million they paid for him a few years ago.

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With Chelsea demanding nearly £60million for the forward, will any club step forward with a bid?

Chelsea prefer to sell Pulisic

It makes little sense doing Man United a favour by sending them Pulisic on loan, so you can fully understand why a permanent transfer would make much more sense.

Described as a “huge talent” earlier this year by Gary Neville, Pulisic is a player that frustrates supporters at Stamford Bridge.

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The winger can produce moments of brilliance in the final third, but there’s no major consistency in his game.

He finished last season with eight goals and five assists in 38 matches across all competitions, which wasn’t a bad return considering he missed a couple of months with an ankle problem

However, the United States international can’t seem to become a real favourite under Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel.

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His 2019/20 campaign is proof of what a talented player he can be.

The forward had 21 direct goal contributions in 34 Blues appearances, but it was a familiar case of injuries interrupting him whenever he builds up some momentum.

It would be quite a surprise if a clubs willing to fork out a near-£60million sum for him.

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