Manchester United travel to Liverpool this Monday with Mourinho still not figured out his go to starting eleven and formation, maybe Jose’s plan B (4-3-3) can reap rewards for him at Anfield.
Until now, the Portuguese started his plan A 4-2-3-1 formation with Pogba being the central figure in that and Herrera recently supporting him in that central midfield. The exclusion of Rooney meant starts for Mata, Lingard and Rashford behind Ibrahimovic.
But against a teams like Liverpool, he should know that an expansive 4-2-3-1 and giving Pogba the freedom to roam forward will not work. So, either he instructs Pogba to be more watchful and see both sides of the pitch or start with 4-3-3 formation which will automatically give the Frenchman chance to roam forward and track back only whenever needed.
We all know Liverpool have the front three who love to be flexible but attack in central areas and playing on the space, their wide attacking options are fullbacks. So, Mourinho can block the supply lines from midfield in central areas by fielding a 4-3-3 lineup which has more midfielders who can break up play and move forward with the ball. He certainly has an option to start with Fellaini/Rooney/Carrick alongside Pogba and Herrera.
Let’s now look at how Mourinho should line United up at Anfield and look at prominent supply and attacking lines for Liverpool which can be cut down with this formation :-
As we see in the image above, United lineup if Mourinho decides to go with his plan B at Anfield. What the above shape will do is allow Pogba to be more industrious in his forward movements and can go for flick ons that Ibrahimovic can provide. The Frenchman can act as an auxiliary no 10 with his movements. He will allow other midfielders to be more conservative and stop the counter by being central.
Defensively, this can be good for United as stated earlier, Liverpool’s front three prefer to be in between the lines centrally and be flexible, so if the three midfielders stand their ground, they’ve a chance to block the supply lines from midfield of and can force the Liverpool fullbacks to move at every instance compulsorily. This in turn will allow likes of Rashford, Lingard from wing area to run in that gap left by forward fullbacks on the counter. We can see in the image where Liverpool’s front three and midfield 8s are well marked in triangles with this formation and with pace in flanks, the counter will be on.
This just adds an extra balance to the shape of the team and Jose’s system of playing on the counter in big away games can also be implemented by this.
So, all in all Jose as a manager hasn’t lived up to his expectation at Old Trafford as he’s still in process of identifying the squad and making it clear as to who has the future in this club. This can be a peculiar game for him as United have struggled in recent past when they’ve been pressed higher up the pitch, so they need to make sure they make use of long balls to good effect and bring Ibrahimovic to win more headers and runners like Pogba looking to pounce on those. The reason why United can deploy Fellaini in midfield three for the game is his aerial prowess and extra midfield figure, Liverpool we all know aren’t a good high ball and set piece defending side, perhaps their Achilles heel which needs to be exploited.
Jose has deployed this system before in away games where he thinks he needs an extra midfielder, he certainly needs one extra at Anfield and going with a 4-3-3 shape will allow his team to be competent in defending and deadly on counter with pace on the flanks.
It’s big game for both the teams but the heat is on United to perform well after recent stutter, it’s a matter of winning the tactical battle and playing according to the situation rather than thinking to far ahead.
By Mizgan on 16th October, 2016
Twitter – @mizgans