What Does “Man On” Mean in Football?

Definition of the Term “Man On”

In football, the term "man on" is used to communicate to a teammate that they are, or will soon be under pressure from an opposition player. It is most commonly required when the opposition player is approaching from behind the teammate, and they are not aware of their presence. Therefore, teammates will shout "man on" to alert them, so that they can make a quick decision to avoid being dispossessed.

If the term could be translated into formal English, it would be something similar to "There is a man on you, so you need to think fast". However, the two syllables of "Man on" is much easier to say during a game though!

The phrase can be considered the opposite of shouting "Time", which would indicate to a teammate that they are under no pressure from the opposition, and they can take their time to make their next decision.

The term is most often shouted by teammates, however, if there is a crowd watching the game, the fans will also yell "man on" to signal to the player on the pitch that a tackle from the opposition is imminent.

Why Do We Need to Shout “Man On”

Spatial awareness on the pitch is one of the most important skills required to become a good football player. Playing with your head up and having a mental map of the surrounding players is integral to keeping possession of the ball. However, even the best players in the world cannot know where every player is at all times. This is why it is so important for teammates to help each other. Shouting "man on" is an example of good communication on the pitch and will help your team to maintain control of the ball.

Equivalent Terms

We should also mention that "man on" is not the only term that is used to communicate that a player is under pressure. Other common phrases include "turn" and "behind you".

Do Female Football Players Shout “Man On”

Female football players can also use the term "man on" to communicate with their teammates. The term "man on" is not specific to male players and can be used by players of any gender. It is simply a term used to describe a situation in which an opposing player is closely marking or following a player on the same team, regardless of the gender of the players involved.

“Man On” in Different Languages

Football is a truly global game, and countries across the globe each have their own phrase for warning teammates that an opposition player is putting them under pressure.

Language variations for the football term "man on"
LanguageTermEnglish Translation
Portuguese (Brazil)"Ladrão""Theif"
Portuguese (Portugal)"Polícia""Police"
German"Hintermann" or "Plecy""Backer" or "Back"
Spanish (Spain)"Hombre" or "Detras""Man" or "Behind"
Spanish (Mexico)"Te llegan""They come to you"
Spanish (Venezuela)"Ladron""Theif"
Norwegian"pass Rygg""Watch your back"
Swedish"Akta rygg""Watch your back"
Icelandic"Maður í bak" or "Maður""Man in the back" or "Man"
Polish"Rosną ci plecy""Your back is growing"
Dutch"In je rug""In your back"
Turkish"Arkanda" or "yaklaşti""At your back" or "Approached"
Cantonese"Yauw gwai""Ghost on your back"
Arabic"Mahjoom""(You are being) attacked"
French"ça vient""It is coming"
Estonian"Seljas""On your back"

What to Do if Somebody Shouts “Man On”

If you are in possession of the ball, and somebody shouts "man on", you must think quickly to try to avoid being tackled by the opposition. If you cannot see any opposition player in close proximity, you can assume that the threat is from behind. Either way, you have options:

  • Shield the ball, and prepare for an incoming tackle
  • Make a quick pass to an open teammate
  • Feign, and make a turn to quickly change direction in an attempt to fool the opponent
  • If you are in a particularly vulnerable area of the pitch e.g your own penalty area, and you are not confident that you can complete any of the above options, you may choose to simply kick the ball up the pitch to safety, or even off the pitch completely. It is better to concede a corner kick or a throw-in than to concede possession in an area that could directly lead to a goal.