Manchester United’s full-backs showed that they can have an attacking influence after an encouraging display against Newcastle United, but there is a long way to go for them to be mentioned in the same breath as the very best.
There is no denying that Aaron Wan-Bissaka is more comfortable running back towards his own goal instead of charging down United’s right-hand side.
But his cross for Marcus Rashford’s goal showed that he has the quality to contribute to United’s attacking side of the game.
Wan-Bissaka’s assist for Rashford was his first goalscoring contribution since joining the club in the summer.
After beating Jetro Williems on the outside, the former Crystal Palace man produced a tantalising cross for United’s number 10 to rise highest and head the ball home.
It was only a few minutes later that United’s number 29 sent in another inviting wicked cross, but this time there was no one on the end of it.
A step in the right direction
Before Newcastle took a shock lead at Old Trafford, the hosts had already been caught on the counter-attack on a couple of occasions.
It was clear after the shambolic defeat against Watford, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wanted his full-backs to start higher up the pitch and be a constant attacking outlet.
Luke Shaw played a role in the equaliser, after making progress down the left, he found Andreas Pereira, who cushioned the ball into the path of Anthony Martial.
The Frenchman’s shot was too hot to handle for Martin Dúbravka.
After the equaliser, United were all over the visitors and although Newcastle were architects of their own downfall, there was a greater willingness and desire to get forward from our full-backs.
Having Wan-Bissaka and Shaw play further forward allowed our wide men Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood to get closer to the goal and be the finishers instead of the creators.
Still room for improvement
It is no secret that United have struggled in games against teams in the bottom half of the table.
Playing against compact sides, who sit deep and offer no space to run in behind has proved to be our undoing on too many occasions.
There is a glaring lack of creativity, but the shortage of movement and desire to influence matches in an attacking sense from our full-backs makes it extremely easy to play against us.
With Paul Pogba stepping up his comeback with 45 minutes under his belt, United’s full-backs need to be overlapping their wingers and trusting the Frenchman’s ability to find them if they make darting runs.
Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold are the benchmark, they are exemplary at both sides of the game, but it is there contributions in the oppositions half of the pitch that are crucial to Liverpool’s success.
Playing in a game that were expected to win and dominate, which was emphasised by the 74% possession racked up, Shaw registered 2 crosses, 2 shots ( 1 on target) and 2 dribbles according to WhoScored.
Alongside his two crosses, Wan-Bissaka had one dribble.
For context, in Liverpool’s pivotal title match away to high-flying Leicester City, Alexander-Arnold scored once and registered 2 assists.
Liverpool’s right-back amassed a staggering 17 crosses, his influence in Jurgen Klopp’s team continues to grow.
Robertson registered 2 key passes and 10 crosses according to WhoScored.
United’s full-backs showed a greater intent against Newcastle, but we are a long long way off the level that is being set by Liverpool’s formidable full-backs.
They have set the standard, it is up to Shaw and Wan-Bissaka to step up to the challenge and match their numbers and influence on matches.
It isn’t going to happen overnight, but United’s ability to win tight matches will be significantly enhanced if Shaw and Wan-Bissaka step up to the attacking plate on a regular basis.
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