Players are given the responsibility to change Dons’ approach during games

“I have faith, trust and confidence in the guys, and rather than restrict them, I want to empower them”

Friday, 26th November 2021, 4:42 pm

Liam Manning and Chris Hogg on the touchline for MK Dons

Changing tactics and game-plans mid-match might not be a revolutionary footballing idea, but Liam Manning appears to be letting that responsibility lie with his players.

While watching on from the sidelines at Hillsborough on Tuesday, Dons’ head coach said he wanted to see his side be braver and use attack as the best form of defence. So why didn’t it happen?

Last Saturday against Burton Albion, anyone in the vicinity would have heard the Brewers’ management team of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Dino Maamria almost kicking every ball for their players, giving them play-by-play instruction to navigate the game at Stadium MK.

On the reverse side of the coin, Manning leaves that game-reading, that instinctive reaction up to his players.

“Teams can change in the middle of a game, where we (on the sidelines) have minimal impact,” he said. “The players have to see that, feel that and step up and adapt.

“It's sometimes easier to say 'you have to do this, you have to do that' but when players are in moments where they have to problem solve and think, they're not used to it.

“The guys have been great at it, it's not an easy thing to do but they've stepped up and responded well. We want to dominate the ball, be aggressive with our press. I have faith, trust and confidence in the guys, and rather than restrict them, I want to empower them to make decisions and impose themselves on the game.”

New experiences each week

Sheffield Wednesday player celebrate their win over MK Dons

Tuesday night’s defeat to Sheffield Wednesday was the first under Manning’s watch where Dons edged towards a smash-and-grab win. Rather than staying on the front foot, Dons defended deeper and deeper, inviting the pressure from Wednesday before eventually that pressure told.

Though they fell seven minutes shy of pulling it off at Hillsborough, the Dons boss feels his side are constantly adding to their footballing knowhow and after the disappointment they suffered, will react differently when faced with the scenario again.

He said: “The group are going through so many new experiences, finding the balance of the style we want to play as well as winning football matches. There is always an element of going through experiences and finding out how to manage them better.

“The attitudes, their desire to compete, how hard they worked, how they defended set pieces are all important qualities. But if we're in that situation again maybe we'll get on the front foot again.

“The biggest thing for us would be to take better care of the football and manage the game that way.”