Manchester United’s recent fettle has made Mourinho dwell whether he should doubt his personnel or his formation, in general opinion, it’s a combination of both and the manager needs to find the best formation for this set of players.
Until now Mourinho deployed his plan A 4-2-3-1 formation with Pogba and Fellaini in the central midfield role; Rooney just in behind the striker Ibrahimovic; Martial/Rashford and Mata flanking in wide attacking areas. Blind and Bailly were his primary centre-back choice. There was huge doubt whether Fellaini could slot in well in that defensive midfield role, maybe he couldn’t prove the doubters wrong. It all started well for the Belgian for the first three games where United played against so called ‘mediocre opponents’.
In came the game against Manchester City and the Belgian struggled a lot, he got isolated on more than few occasions as Pogba was more industrious in his play and failed to mark either of de Bruyne or Silva. This clearly showed the lack of potency Pogba has when he’s slotted in that midfield two alongside a player who’s not very comfortable winning tackles and playing it into feet.
As we see in the image above, there were more than few moments where this happened and Manchester City just made them pay for it. Once this happens, all of a sudden it’s City’s five forward players against United’s back-line, a terrible position for a defending team to be in.
As much as United’s midfield shape needs a closer look, their attacking play needs a fair amount of look too. The wide players are very narrow on more than few occasions which forces the fullbacks to remain higher up and be the crossing threat, this creates a problem of fullbacks getting caught higher up the field and Fellaini is not good enough to cover them up if required too. It happened against Watford where United struggled to break through a central defending side. Fullbacks got caught too when Watford’s wing-backs got forward covering was not present in good numbers.
Rooney’s position in behind the striker is not being justified by his performances. He looks very rigid in his movements and passing has been very awful in recent past. Many misplaced and defensive minded passes doesn’t account good for a number 10 playing just off the striker.
There are problems aplenty for Mourinho very early into his job at United and needs quite a good amount of rectification to put his team back on track.
Changing the formation is one option along with keeping the wide attacking players as wide as possible to stretch the opposition defence and allow the fullbacks to be more justified in their forward movements. A 4-3-3 with wide wingers and tucked in central midfielders to support both defence and attack can be a way forward for Mourinho and his men.
Let’s take a look at 4-3-3 formation which can change United’s way of play and possibly their fortunes after recent day woes :-
As we see in the image above, the 4-3-3 formation with a proper defensive midfielder supported by two central midfielders, wide attacking players are wide enough to stretch the opposition defence.
What this does is give more freedom to likes of Pogba to move forward because he knows there are two midfielders which can cover his left space and in the process become more potent for his team. Wingers in wider positions will allow fullbacks to think judiciously whether his forward man is enough to take on the opposition wide defence, if not then he’ll move forward to help or if yes then he’ll make up his mind to be more wary of in behind runs from wide areas. This will somehow cover up free wide spaces left by fullbacks going forward fully and struggling to track back from that position.
All in all, there are many ways that can make United a formidable team with current set of players, only thing is that the 4-2-3-1 formation is not fitting them (specially Pogba and Fellaini as 2 in midfield). A subtle tweak in formation may see Red Devils turning things around.
By Mizgan on 21st September, 2016
Twitter – @mizgans