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