How Man United's diamond system can work to contain and expose Barcelona in UCL quarter-finals

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Manchester United face the daunting task of hosting Lionel Messi and Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie on Wednesday night.

The encounter at Old Trafford promises to be one of the biggest tests in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s young managerial career.

Here, we analyse the key tactics he may employ to get the better of Ernesto Valverde.

Click here for Barcelona’s key tactics.

MIDFIELD DIAMOND

Maintaining a compact shape and cutting out passing lanes particularly through the middle will be paramount to United’s attempts of containing Barcelona.

The absences of Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera only make the system even more necessary. Scott McTominay and Fred will be tasked with replicating their dogged displays away to PSG in the previous round while Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard offer more drive and creativity going forward.

McTominay’s role will be crucial as the 22-year-old must operate as a sweeper ahead of the back four while paying special attention to his left where a centrally-drifting Lionel Messi may target pockets of space that could appear behind Pogba should the Frenchman not be as defensively diligent.

DIRECT PLAY

A diamond system will also enable United to pose a significant threat on the counter attack. With a two-pronged attack, it’s a strategy that worked exceptionally against Chelsea and Tottenham.

With Pogba on the left of the diamond, he can be available deep enough to receive the ball and try to hit one of either Romelu Lukaku or Marcus Rashford early.

The Belgian offers options for flick-ons or even to hold the ball up while his strike partner would be the chief threat in behind. If neither pass is on, Lingard could prove key in the transition, driving forward before linking up with the front men.

Barcelona have been vulnerable this season to sides who haven’t been afraid to go from back to front quickly and Solskjaer will be confident his side possesses the weapons in their armoury for such an assault.

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