Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Art of the Counter-Attack

Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United have mastered the art of the counter-attack, and it was on full display during their 3-1 victory over Arsenal today.

Too many fans associate the counter-attack with a team that sits back with large numbers defending behind the ball, and then tries to mount an attack once they win the ball by trying to play a lone striker forward.

The true counter-attack is based off of having pace in the critical attacking areas of the field- on the flanks and up front - and being able to get out quickly in transition.

Manchester United has been the best counter-attacking team in the world for several years, and has been spear-headed by the likes of Giggs, Kanchelskis, Cole, Yorke and Ronaldo. The 2009-10 version has just as much speed as in years past with the likes of Nani and Valencia on the flanks, but are armed with as good a goalscorer as there is in the world right now in Wayne Rooney.

Ferguson believes his side's ability on the break proved crucial in exposing Arsenal's weaknesses.

Nani ran Gael Clichy ragged and ensured United had established a two-goal lead by the interval.

He baffled Arsenal with a stunning piece of trickery that forced uncertain Arsenal keeper Manuel Almunia to turn his cross into his own net after 33 minutes and then set up Rooney's 100th Premier League goal four minutes later.

United caught Arsenal cold as they turned defence into attack, Rooney sprinting from just outside his own area to take a return pass from Park and finish in style.

Ji-Sung Park graphically illustrated the gulf between Arsenal and United just after half-time when he took advantage of a path lack of resistance to run unchallenged from inside his own half to beat Almunia.

"Counter-attack has always been a part of our game," said Ferguson.

"Arsenal play a lot of good football and get to the edge of the box regularly, so if you can get the ball, you've got a chance against them."

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