Let’s talk tactics: Analyzing United’s Formation Options

Greetings, reds!

  Before we discuss anything, I’d like to begin by congratulating one Ed Woodward on the fantastic business United have done thus far. Last time I was here, United had not added on to the acquisition of Memphis Depay then all of a sudden,  Woodward made three signings in three days with the arrivals of Matteo Darmian, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneirderlin; all in quick succession. Mr.Woody boldly claimed that United can do things in the transfer market that other clubs can only dream of doing, and he went right on to prove that, much to the fascination of every United (and football) fan.

  Just like Chelsea did last season en-route to wining the title, United have done the business early in the areas that needed to be addressed: the deep six ‘Carrick role’ and full back. LVG then confirmed that United still have some transfers to complete, with talk of a ‘surprise striker’ signing in the pipeline (could be anyone really, from Robert Lewandoski to Charlie Austin). The areas that need addressing now are center back and the striker department, after the rather sad departure of Robin Van Persie and Falcao, who reportedly took a massive pay cut to join Cuadrado on the bench at Stamford Bridge.

  With all that in mind, let’s first lets look at the potential impact of the players that we have,with regard to the new signings. United have done great business in signing both Basti and Schneiderlin . Last season ,we heavily relied on Carrick to  control the tempo in midfield and when he was unavailable, United suffered a great deal, most notably losing three in a row in the tail end of the season that I believe cost United an automatic Champions League spot and in his absence the likes of Rooney and Herrera were forced to fill the gap, which upset the whole balance and rhythm of the team as both players are not accustomed to that role. Now that we have adequate cover in that department, the question on every fans’ lips now is how will we use this rather star studded world class midfield?

  I don’t know nearly as much as LVG knows in terms of tactics, as I am a ‘couch coach’, but I think the most likely formations that will be used throughout the course of this coming season are:

  1. 4-2-3-1
  2. 4-4-2 (Diamond)
  3. 4-3-3
  4. 3-5-2

  Lets begin with the, (my personal favorite),


United_Formation_ 4-2-3-1
UNITED XI (1): De Gea, Shaw, Smalling, Jones, Darmian, Schweinsteiger/Carrick, Schneiderlin, Valencia/Di Maria, Depay/Young, Mata, Rooney

  This formation excites me. A lot. The back four remains flat, preferably playing a high line to deny the opposition space to pass the ball around and press when they are in possession. This worked to great effect when Spurs came to Old Trafford last season. There is also the added advantage of breaking with speed when the turnover comes through. De Gea looks set to stay for at least one more season after Madrid opted to re-sign Kiko Casilla from Espanyol, so he obviously starts in goal. Matteo looked like a proper full back in United’s first preseason game against Club America over the weekend, always looking up when in possession and tracking back well. He’s ‘a typical Italian’, as Basti put it. Smalling and Jones looked to finally tick last season,but whether it will last remains to be seen because United may still decide to reinforce that position. Shaw completes my selection for the back four. I think it would be exciting to see the kind of partnership that will be forged with him and Memphis, as they are both quick and adept at crossing.

  In the double pivot, Schneiderlin starts alongside either Carrick or Schweinsteiger. Carrick and Shweini are almost identical in my opinion. Both love to control games and no doubt they can play together. Morgan has EPL experience and was integral to Southampton’s excellent defensive record last season when played in the same position alongside Kenyan international Victor Wanyama. Morgan seemed to fit right into the squad against Club America and I’m very excited to see how he will do when the season begins.

  Morgan is a constant threat going forward and his five goals for the Saints last season and his goal against Club America are testament to that, meaning he can bomb forward and chip in with Bastian or Carrick running the show and protecting the back four behind him. United are spoilt for choice when it comes to the wings, with the exciting Depay and Ashley ‘Old’ (as he recently turned 30) battling out for the left flank and on the right, Mata and Di Maria. Up top is a no brainer, with captain Wayne Rooney leading the line and with him finally devoid of his midfield duties, I expect to see him hit 20 in the league


United_Formation_ 4-3-3
UNITED XI: De Gea, Shaw, Smaling, Jones, Darmian, Schneidrelin, Schweinsteiger, Herrera, Mata, Depay, Rooney

  Anyone who knows the gaffer knows that LVG loves this formation. Once again, I’ve picked the same back four for consistency reasons . In midfield however, I paired Schweini and Schneiderlin, with Basti covering the defence and Schneiderlin in that box to box role. This allows Herrera to go further forward and as we quickly learned from his very impressive stats last season, he’s quite the play-maker, perhaps most notably demonstrated at Anfield last season when he set up Mata with that mind blowing, defence splitting pass. With the experience of  Schweinsteiger behind him, Herrera, Mata, Depay and Wazza can express themselves in a way that will leave most defenders with major migraines next season.

4-4-2 (Diamond)

United_formation_ 4-2-2
UNITED XI: De Gea, Shaw,Smalling, Jones, Darmian, Carrick, Di Maria, Herrera, Mata, Depay, Rooney

  This formation and line up screams goals. Still the same back four, but I have introduced Carrick in the base of the diamond. I am of the opinion that Schweinsteiger should be utilized mostly for Europe and if we are playing with one holding mid, it has to be Carrick for me. The England international has the class to dictate play and at the same time provide sound cover for the defense in this formation that more often than not,exposes the team to conceding goals due to the nature of the formation. Don’t forget the vast amount of experience he’s got in the Premier League.  I would like to see Di Maria and Herrera play down the middle, just like the Argentine did for Madrid the season before last to great effect,with Mata in the number ten role and Rooney pairing with Depay up top. LVG talked of using Depay as a striker and I think it would be interesting to see what the Dutchman is made of up front.


United_formation_ 3-5-2
UNITED XI:De Gea, Smalling, Jones, Blind, Schweinsteiger, Schneirderlin, Young, Darmian, Mata, Rooney, Depay

  There has been talk around that with the signings we’ve made that maybe LVG would want to switch back to this dreaded formation. It failed miserably at the beginning of last season and I personally don’t think it can work in England,most notably because the pace of the game in the Premier League. However, I would go for this formation if we sign Nicolas Otamendi from Valencia. The signing of Basti and Morgan also makes it slightly easier to play this formation and if the players can manage to get it right, then we are in for some scintillating football at the very least. 3-5-2 guarantees goals. Problem is that it’s also quite vulnerable to conceding goals,, so you have to rely on outscoring your opponents. Antonio Conte at his tenure in Juventus executed it to perfection, but then again, the football in Italy is very slow at times thus allowing them to thrive with it. I went with Blind as the third center back because of his excellent reading of the game,though huge question marks over his pace,or lack thereof. The most integral players are the wing-backs in this formation, and I elected Young and Darmian. Young seemed to have understood the wing back role when he played there last season,so he gets the nod over Shaw, whose fitness issues may limit him. Darmian is a versatile player that I believe will fit in as the other wing-back . The double pivot of Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin does it for me, with Mata supporting Depay and Rooney up top.

Editor’s comment: This is of course just a rough sketch, as the transfer market is far from closing and we could see a lot of ins and outs between now and September. With two more signings reportedly on the way, it will be interesting to see how United take shape, especially now in their preseason warm-ups. All I can say is that these are very exciting times, as far as the rebuilding process is concerned. King Louis is now reassembling the squad in line with his own vision and with the funds available to him, United should challenge in EVERY competition come August.

What do you guys think will best suit United next season? Drop your comments below. Until next time, STAY RED!


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