How Manchester United Should Line Up This Season
Why Change the System?
Mourinho has adapted and implemented multiple styles during his time at Old Trafford. From the formation he arguably made famous, the 4-2-3-1, to attempting several different 3-back systems, nothing has really seemed to click into place. The personnel at the manager’s disposal are simply not cut out to be used in a typical formation. Manchester United do not have an effective right winger, the left back and center back position have consistently changed from game week to game week, and center midfielders change frequently based on form or injuries. The only two positions that are seemingly locked down, even with all players fit, are the goalkeeper, David De Gea, and the striker, Romelu Lukaku. If this team has ambitions of lifting trophies, most notably the league and champions league, then a consistent system and starting lineup needs to be put into place.
4-3-3 (Inside Forward)
Now, Manchester United have attempted to use the 4-3-3 on many occasions, mostly to try and utilize Pogba more effectively. It hasn’t worked. Under the 4-3-3 system, Manchester United have looked lackadaisical and devoid of any creativity or drive to push play forward whatsoever. However, the 4-3-3 does have a variation that seems as though it could reasonably suit Manchester United’s players, the inside forward. All of the wingers at the club love to cut inside onto their stronger foot, they don’t push the byline to swing in a cross, they are utterly predictable. In an inside forward system, the right sided winger could play close to the middle, almost as a second striker. Real Madrid’s recent success in Europe has come through this formation. Cristiano Ronaldo played through the middle alongside Karim Benzema, he spent most of his time making runs through the middle of the opposing team’s defensive line. However, when he needed to be out wide, he made sure he was available. Manchester United do not have Cristiano Ronaldo, but they do have a few players who are effective as a striker that have been pushed wide due to the success of Romelu Lukaku, most notably Marcus Rashford. With Rashford playing alongside Lukaku, they could form an attacking unit in which one player would stay central while the other ventured out right or, alternately, both players could make runs through the middle causing havoc for their opponents in the final third. Throughout the success of Sir Alex at Old Trafford the main system that was implemented was a 4-4-1-1 or a 4-4-2. Look at the strike partnership between Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke that was formed during the late 90s and early 2000s, these two functioned as one of the most effective duos the league has ever seen. This same type of bond could be formed between the likes of Rashford and Lukaku and the club would most certainly prosper from such a relationship.
Manchester United have tried this formation in the past, under the great Louis Van Gaal. It resulted in 4th and 5th place league finished and one FA Cup trophy during LVG’s disappointing stint at Old Trafford. However, Van Gaal did not purchase smartly in the market and didn’t have the players necessary for this formation to work. It would be exciting to see Manchester united play a 4-4-2 diamond with De Gea in net, a defense of Shaw, Bailly, Lindelof, and Valencia, a midfield of Matic, Pogba and Fred as the central midfielders and Lingard in the CAM role, with a front two of Lukaku and Rashford/Alexis. Now, this formation, on paper, seems to be very central and predictable, however, with the strikers both able to comfortably roam wide in order to cross the ball in if necessary the center attacking midfielder and one of the two center midfields, probably Pogba could make runs into the box to create an effective attacking game plan. Alternately, Lingard could move wide, if needed, or the team could go direct through the middle, depending on their opponent. This formation has been around for a while and unfortunately doesn’t have the greatest reputation, but with this Manchester United side it seems like it could just work.
Leave The 4-2-3-1 Behind
Overall, Manchester United cannot stick with the ever-trusty 4-2-3-1 formation that failed them last campaign, something has to change. Mourinho is famous for creating a strong defensive game plan first and putting attacking plays on the back burner, but Manchester United don’t have the creative attacking players to rely on to create effective plays by themselves. They need to have a set plan to follow in order to unleash their full potential.