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Thinking through assertions of those “straightforward” Manchester United tactics

Feb 10, 2014, 10:30 PM EDT

Britain Soccer Premier League AP

We’ll set aside for now the wisdom of Rene Meulensteen having a wee go at mighty Manchester United. David Moyes’ first year as boss around Old Trafford certainly isn’t going as planned, but does anyone doubt that in the long run, the trophy count around Old Trafford will trump the total at cozy Craven Cottage?

The Fulham boss, perhaps drunk on elation of seeing his team’s big accomplishment in a 2-2 draw at United, labeled Manchester United’s tactics as “straightforward.”

This BBC story notes that the men of Manchester United supplied 81 crosses, and says that was the most by any team in a Premier League team in a contest 2006. Of that telling total, 18 found a United target.

Fulham’s manager was proffering that United became surprisingly easy to defend.  Essentially, he said, it comes down to “see cross, deal with cross.”

It’s not always that simple, of course. Center backs and goalkeepers need to be more or less mistake free in terms of positioning, communication and technical merit to successfully deal with 70 to 80 crosses over 90 minutes. Give any team that many opportunities and you’re asking for it at some point.

United did, after all, score twice. It certainly wasn’t an alarming number of crosses that saw United concede two at home to the Premier League’s bottom side.

(MORE: Prindi’s picks for this weeks’ Premier League matches)

But the Fulham manager does get us to this point: wasn’t Juan Mata’s ballyhooed January arrival supposed to help in this very matter? Wasn’t the former Chelsea man’s move north from West London supposed to address the Red Devil’s over-reliance on service from wide areas?

On the one hand, Fulham put so many bodies behind the ball that crossing from wide areas was often the one and only way through. On the other hand, it’s on Moyes to get the most from what should now be a potentially devastating, attacking foursome of Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Adnan Januzaj and Mata, however that may be.

The team’s next chance to get it right comes Wednesday at Arsenal.

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