Aston Villa manager Unai Emery has already explained how his side worked on the gameplan that left Manchester United struggling to create chances in the first half at Old Trafford.
Erik ten Hag’s side went into the break 2-0 down against Villa, who scored through John McGinn and Leander Dendoncker.
McGinn’s goal came following a ‘1000 IQ’ piece of play from Villa star Leon Bailey, who stood behind Andre Onana before the free kick was taken only to sprint away from the goal as the Scotsman stepped up.
Dendoncker then put Villa 2-0 up after Clement Lenglet’s flick-on, with fans and pundits left with questions about the marking in the lead-up to the goal.
Ten Hag has some major work on to rescue anything from the game and prevent his side from recording a fourth Premier League defeat in six matches – despite a promising beginning to the second half.
But one remedy is to respond to a nightmare statistic in the first half, that saw United record more offsides (six) in a single half of Premier League football this season.
Six offsides for Manchester United in that first half.
The most in the Premier League in a single 45 so far this season. https://t.co/hPC2PRYt93
— Carl Anka 🇬🇭 (@Ankaman616) December 26, 2023
Worse was to come for United early in the second half, when Alejandro Garnacho thought he had pulled a goal back for his side only to be adjudged offside.
Speaking before Villa’s 1-1 draw with Sheffield United on Friday, Emery explained how his side managed to employ such a high offside trap to prevent opposition attacks – a trap Ten Hag’s side fell into on multiple occasions in the first half.
Before that game, Villa had trapped their opposition offside on 82 occasions, 26 times more than Tottenham and double the amount of any other team in the Premier League.
He told Sky Sports: “I always work at it. But not always at the same height. Sometimes we are higher, our back four trying to hold the line and be aggressive, sometimes less.
“When I arrived here, I started working the same way I work always.
Aston Villa have caught opponents offside more than anyone else in the league… pic.twitter.com/371fGvVD5l
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) December 22, 2023
“The players, progressively, were feeling good. Sometimes, the players were higher than I wanted. Why? Because they were feeling good, they were feeling comfortable, they were feeling confident.
“But I tried to work a lot at it, because we had to be clinical, we had to be demanding in doing it, and trying to make the excellence defensively while doing the high line.”
In a separate interview withSky Sports, he revealed the origins of the tactic: “When I started as a coach 20 years ago, I started off so high at the beginning.
“Sometimes we were struggling and I changed it a bit. But always I was managing higher rather than lower.
“We were doing it at Villarreal too but not like here, where we are so high. When I arrived here and started working with the players, they were progressively getting more comfortable being high.”