Date: 25th February 2011 at 12:15pm
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So a slight change with regards to my usual topics of discourse i.e. what happened in the game but a slightly more proactive offering this time, attempting to offer a solution to the quite often mundane football we’ve been subjected quite recently (though some would argue there has been a deeper malaise full stop in terms of attractive football. To those I’d point out our wins v Blackburn/Birmingham and whenever Carrick had Anderson alongside him in an orthodox 4-4-2).

Anyway the following areas I percieve as problems in the side whenever we adopt 4-3-3 and issues that were much evident against Marseille and other sides away from home, whereby despite the fact we generally look solid defensively. Up front we are more functional and generally devoid of any real ideas and furthermore lacked the ability or cohesion to create a sustained period of pressure.

1. Midfield Malaise (No Anderson…)

Hopefully Anderson’s initial diagnosis is not as bad as we all were made to think and he will slot into the side near the business end of the season, ready to play a pivotal ball-carrying role in the center of the park. If however he suffers a further set back and generally struggles fitness wise to get sharp (all hypothetical) its clear that the midfield duo of Carrick & Fletcher lacks the required silk to dominate possession and create chances against top opposition especially considering the form they’re in. So what are we to do? One suggestion would be to play Berbatov in a deeper role, almost as a third midfielder (this task can be interchangeable with Rooney or even Nani drifting off the flanks) and making sure these two always have a more technically gifted playmaker to lay the ball off to under pressure.

Where do Scholes and Giggs come into this? Well games away from home generally require young legs especially in the first half and I think it suits them best to come on in the second half whether it be in midfield or in a wide position as in the case of Giggs.

2. Lack of Penetration

Its clear to most people that United’s 4-3-3 inevitably drifts into 4-6-0 whenever Berbatov plays up front alone. We simply don’t possess a genuine goal threat when he is up there as he doesn’t have the pace or movement to be a menace behind the backline and wreak havoc on the counter. Similarly when Rooney is made to play up front alone whilst in his current form, he is left isolated and he gets frustrated, his touch goes slightly awry, hold up play suffers and the team has sporadic moments of quality possession. We tend to win games with a moment of magic rather than dominate teams with our concept of a 4-3-3.

The solution could be instead to go 4-2-3-1 and introduce the hitherto unused big match weapon Javier ‘Chico’ Hernandez, providing a constant focus point for the team up front, a genuine goal threat and someone who can take the goalscoring burden off messrs Rooney and Berbatov. Furthermore it could also give the breathing space that Fletcher and Carrick are crying out for under pressure, can you imagine Carrick under pressure spotting Hernandez off the shoulder off the last man and dinking it perfectly in the path of the goal-hungry Mexican, I can and his presence could solve two problems with one perfectly aimed little Pea.


A few unmentioned issues I’ll briefly cover in the conclusion, Rafael in for O’Shea. I think we need the Brazillians presence especially with that midfield. If there is any way we can include talented ball carriers who can aid our industrious but not particularly creative/silky midfield we must take it and his presence is much appreciated and effective. A final issue is that of Ferdinand, it could possibly be Smalling ousts him from the first team set up, unlikely but with this lads rate of development anything could happen. In this situation though I’d stick to tried and tested and Ferdinand is top class.

Finally I just want to put across how much I want to see that swashbuckling spirit United used to possess regardless of the situation (home or away, UCL or FA Cup) whilst at the same time maintaining the new found defensive discipline we’ve developed over the years. Its a balance that has tipped too much in favour of result over performance recently and the aforementioned formation/lineup is one example of a proposed selection designed to win games but in an exciting manner.

What’s yours?

Another fantastic piece by RaeesM who can be found on Twitter as @RedRae7


9 responses to “Is this Manchester United’s best option?”

  1. Good thought provoking post but not convinced that Anderson is the solution when fit. Has had plenty of chances and is very inconsistent. When he is good he is fantastic but too many poor games esp away from home.

    Like the idea of Chich, Roo, Berba and Nani in same team. May get a bit narrow but attacking full backs would help solve that.

    • Redrae7 (Rae M) says:

      Hey Written, read your piece on the ‘Flair’ element which was missing against Marseille, excellent article and this formation ties in nicely with some of the points you raised.

      I think Anderson is inconsistent but the mere fact he has that ability to retain the ball under pressure and take men on makes him a must in our midfield when fit. I’ve deliberately not included him in the side above because I wanted to retain a defensive balance to counter the attacking quartet selected, but imagine Anderson was in that side too.. it would blow away any notion that this United sides contains no talent and is merely functional.

  2. bruce thomas says:

    The root of all United’s issues is not the squad but the owners. We have not strengthened and we are now reaping the results.

    Firstly, all the talk about the Qatari’s is Glazer bullshit designed to hype up their junk bonds.

    If the Glazers remain, they will continue funding themselves at the team’s expense.

    Scholes is already being pressurised into staying on. Cleverly and Welbeck’s return and Carrick getting an extension, will be presented as all the squad strengthening needed.

    SAF’s “success” in papering over the squad’s cracks has been counter-productive, and Green & Gold has died a death while everyone fantasizes about what we might win.

    If we don’t win anything much, then people might actually see the cracks for what they are — a once-thrilling team reduced to holding on for grim 0-0 and 1-0s, reliant on others’ inadequacies rather than its own strengths.

    • deaz says:

      totally agree with you. we need to get the glazers out, if all united supporters stop funding them they will be forced to sell. we need to boycot all offical united products, you dont need to buy the shirts the mugs the caladers…etc to support the team. carry on supporting the team, but dont fund the glazers loans.

  3. JB says:

    The diagram looks good and you make it sound like it could work in principle but i’m not 100% convinced. Sorry but I don’t get this view you have on Berbatov lacking pace and movement? The fact is that any player playing up front on his own is dependant on the quality of service he gets from the midfield etc, if it’s lacking then he’s going to drop deep and go looking for the ball in order to try and get himself into the game. From a personal point of view i’d like to see Rooney back up front playing alongside Berbatov and the manager giving Fabio a go on the wing. He could interchange with Nani or Evra and as long as he can stay fit seems a better option then playing Rooney out of position on the left.

    • Redrae7 says:

      Berbatov lacks pace and movement to be the Centre-Forward in a 4-3-3… basically there are two types of lone forwards that can be used in a modern day game. You have your big strong hold up play but can also score goals types i.e. Ibrahimovic, Drogba… or your pacy looking for the run in behind forward i.e. Torres, Villa, Eto’o.

      Rooney last year was a mixture of both styles really and for a period looked like he’d finally cracked the art of playing up front alone. At the moment he looks a world away from that at the moment but as the cliche goes, form is temporary and class is permanent.

      As for Berbatov he simply doesn’t fit into any of these styles and whilst at Spurs he could’ve played the role rather effectively, at United our average midfield and the pace with which we like to counter-attack doesn’t mesh well with his languid style.. he is more suited in a two man partnership where he can interchange between being deeper or making late runs into the box. As a lone forward his movement is too predictable and he doesn’t have the hold up play or the aerial prowess to compensate for that fact. To summarise he cannot as a lone forward make the most of the service he recieves from the midfield as it is and thus he is rendered ineffective up front alone.

      Fabio on the wing is a non-starter for now, unlikely Fergie would put him in the side altogether for big games let alone in an unaccustomed position.. mayebe a possible experiment for the future perhaps.

  4. deaz says:

    berbatov is useless away from home only plays well at old trafford. carrick is useless home and away he should not be anywhere near the united team. anderson is a footballer who cant shoot cant replace scholes.

  5. Louie says:

    Interesting… that set up might work but I don’t think that would be the best position for Rooney…

  6. jonathan says:

    Interesting…I remember during the offseason some people mentioned that Berba should be played in a similar position. It sounded like folly especially after his goal scoring run; but with our current dearth of available wingers and poor away form it may not be such a bad idea.

    My only concern with this setup is that Rooney doesn’t seem to have the discipline to stay out wide as shown in Wednesday’s match. I know many were praising his work rate, but he at times was too concerned with the activity in the middle of the pitch rather than sticking with the intended formation.

    In any case, your proposed formation makes a lot of theoretical sense. Whether or not it will ever be an actuality is another matter altogether.

    On another note, I wouldn’t mind seeing Fabio tested as a proper winger. He seemingly has all the tools to do it. With Evra re-signing, it’s evident his first team prospects are bleak at LB, so it wouldn’t hurt to see where else he can play and potentially become a utility man in a similar vein as O’Shea.