'Revert to quick attacks, United'

Sharpe criticises former club for slow play that fails to exert pressure on opponents

Manchester United need to get back to playing counter-attacking football if they want to be considered serious title contenders for the English Premier League (EPL) title, says former winger Lee Sharpe.

Calling their sobering 0-3 loss to Arsenal in their last EPL match a wake-up call, Sharpe urged United's manager Louis van Gaal to unleash the attacking brand of football the Red Devils are known for and used to.

"If you look down the years, the teams that have won the league have generally counter-attacked with pace," he said on the sidelines of the Castlewood Group Battle of the Reds press conference at Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel yesterday.

"You need to get the ball forward quickly. You can't go passing sideways and let the other team come back, get into position and get comfortable... It just kills you.

"Not to play counter-attack and allow Arsenal to have the ball at the Emirates is beyond me."

PLAY TO TEAM'S STRENGTHS

He's got quick, wide men and midfielders who are not afraid to play in the box. He's got the ammunition to do that (attack), but for some reason, he doesn't choose to play that

LEE SHARPE, former Man United winger, on Louis van Gaal

Sharpe, 44, who won the Premier League thrice and the FA Cup twice with United as a player from 1988 to 1996, bemoaned the lack of pace he sees in the team now. "Louis van Gaal likes to keep the ball, he likes to pass it sideways, and I can't see why they had to do that."

Even though van Gaal's players are capable of creating attacking chances, the manager's conservative approach means that they are unable to exert pressure on their opponents' defence.

"He's got quick, wide men and midfielders who are not afraid to play in the box," said Sharpe. "He's got the ammunition to do that (attack), but for some reason, he doesn't choose to play that way."

One of this season's new signings Anthony Martial, 19, has impressed so far, contributing three goals in four games since moving to Old Trafford from Monaco.

But Sharpe said the Frenchman could be even better. He argued: "He's (van Gaal) stifled them (Martial and midfielder Memphis Depay) a little bit. If he can play a quicker game getting the ball forward, it will suit them.

"The manager has talked about playing three up front like Real Madrid and Barcelona. You need to get the ball forward quickly, to allow them to play three against four because they are good enough to do that."

Sharpe also felt that a tactical change could be what Wayne Rooney needs to rediscover his scoring touch. The captain has struggled this season, scoring just a solitary goal in the league.

"It's baffled me a bit - it seems that his mind is not on the game," he said. "His passing is not great, he's been giving away the ball cheaply. But hopefully it's just a spell he's going through."

While it is still early days yet, Sharpe already feels that United might not be the title favourites.

He said: "I'd like to think that Manchester United can win, but I still think (current league leaders) Manchester City (will win)."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 07, 2015, with the headline ''REVERT TO QUICK ATTACKS, UNITED''. Print Edition | Subscribe