Manchester United have been warned by Stan Collymore that their struggles in possession will “come back to bite them” against tougher opposition, with clashes against Tottenham and Manchester City on the horizon.
The Red Devils mustered more than a single goal in a Premier League match for just the third time this season on Sunday in beating Brighton.
United had gone nine games failing to score more than once until they beat Norwich 3-1 last month and last weekend they beat Brighton by the same scoreline to get back to winning ways at home after back-to-back Old Trafford draws.
Andreas Pereira and Marcus Rashford scored either side of a Davy Propper own goal, with Rashford’s strike restoring the hosts’ two-goal lead shortly after Lewis Dunk had halved the deficit.
Despite the victory, which Ole Gunnar Solskjaer described as their best performance so far this season, ex-Liverpool and Nottingham Forest forward Collymore has a warning for United.
Solskjaer’s side had just 43 per cent possession against the Seagulls, though they managed 21 shots and 11 on target while Brighton – for all that they had of the ball – managed just six shots and only two on target.
That allowed United to clinch a win that moved them up to seventh heading into the international break, albeit sitting nine points off of fourth-placed Manchester City.
And Collymore believes it is clashes against City and Chelsea where United will be made to pay for what he thinks is a lack of ability with the ball.
It was a solid result but, in modern football, United have to learn that possession is nine-tenths of the law
United have shown this season that they are at their most effective on the counter attack, having been left frustrated up against teams who set up with a low block in their own third to deny Solskjaer’s attackers any pockets of space behind their back four or in between defence and midfield.
Writing in his Daily Mirror column, Collymore said: “Sunday’s victory over Brighton was a great win for Manchester United but the statistics showed that the next steps for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team are crucial.
“The fact Brighton had significantly more possession than their hosts tells you that, while United have undoubted talent with which they can hurt you, against better teams their lack of ball retention will come back to bite them.
“It was a solid result but, in modern football, United have to learn that possession is nine-tenths of the law.”
Collymore’s word of warning comes with United taking on both Tottenham and City in the next five weeks.
The 20-time Premier League champions’ next matches see them travel to Bramall Lane to take on Sheffield United on Sunday November 24 before hosting Aston Villa the following Sunday, the first day of December.
And after that, their top-flight commitments see them face Spurs at Old Trafford on Wednesday 4 December before making the short journey across Manchester to the Etihad to take on rivals City just four days later.
Both of those teams, despite Spurs’ struggles this term and City’s defensive issues, will hope to do more damage if afforded the same amount of possession Brighton were given against Untied.
Speaking last month, Solskjaer urged his side to take more risks in possession, saying: “We need to create more chances, because at the back we’ve looked solid. But we haven’t been adventurous enough, taking enough risks.
“If you watch the best teams, they take more risks with the ball, they make more runs in behind and that’s part of the process for the boys.
“When they’re losing confidence, maybe they want to play it a bit more safe, but it’s not safety that does it here – at this club you do take risks.”
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