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Drawing Up the Battle Plans II – Why it is important to welcome a progressive formation

In the first part of this series, I spoke about how the 4-2-3-1 method is hampering Manchester United’s best players. Here, we talk about an alternative formation that would deal with the issues holding our stars back while ensuring the solidity the current system provides.

The formation chosen for this purpose is the 4-3-3 style of play. The system provides the same defensive stability provided by the current system with at least two midfielders always stifling the opposition midfield and reducing the space for them to work with. It is a solid and proven system used so effectively by this season’s Champions-elect Manchester City.

This system provides greater freedom for Paul Pogba to work with. While he was effective in a midfield two to start the season, his lack of defensive awareness limits his ability to get ahead and work with the forward players. Having two players would free him up for real. Talent and ability wise, he is our best outfield player and the manager should be playing a system that suits the team’s best player. Pogba made his name playing in a midfield three for Juventus and even made the FIFA Team of the Year playing in this system at the age of just 21.

While Pogba himself has to make a concerted effort to put in Championship quality performances, it still remains the manager’s job to set his side up to work to his players’ advantage. Playing the system would in all likelihood require the signing of another central midfielder especially with the expected departures of Carrick and Fellaini but United have been linked with quite a few midfielders.

Coming to the problem hampering Anthony Martial, the 4-2-3-1 leaves him in a deeper starting position than he should be actually starting. Marcus Rashford and Alexis Sanchez also get hampered because of this. Playing 4-3-3, the wide men like Martial, Rashford, and Sanchez start in the same line as the striker. All three are exceptional dribblers of the ball and are not afraid to take on the fullback. Starting in a much more advanced position will obviously bolster their goal, assist and chances created stats but will also enable them to have a much greater say

Starting in a much more advanced position will obviously bolster their goal, assist and chances created stats but will also enable them to have a much greater say in the attacking play. The wide men of teams playing this system like City and Tottenham Hotspur have prospered with players like Heung-min Son, Raheem Sterling

The wide men of teams playing this system like City and Tottenham have prospered with players like Son, Sterling, and Leroy Sane having great seasons while being having great stats. There’s no reason why United wingers can have similar consistency and numbers given the freedom to have positions further up the pitch and greater freedom in the attacking third.

In part one of this two-part series, I spoke about how the current system leaves Romelu Lukaku isolated despite his underrated ability to link things up and hold the ball up top. Having the wide men play at the same level as him would go a long way in helping the team play to Lukaku’s strengths. Playing 4-3-3 would enable the wide men to feed off Lukaku and we already have snippets of that link-up in the few games that United have employed this formation.

United have played this system in some of the games against the top six this term with the games against Chelsea at home and Arsenal away. Of course, Lukaku got the goal and the assist against Chelsea but even against Arsenal, he was excellent despite being in a rut of form. Both games also saw dominating performances from Pogba and the wide men had decent games in both matches.

While the 4-3-3 system is not flawless, it is definitely an upgrade on the current system and works to the strengths of our best players. It will also bring an attacking and pressing style of play that the fans have been crying out for the majority of the season. The 4-3-3 system is definitely the way to go forward for United next campaign if Jose Mourinho wants his side to play attacking football all the while winning things.

Written by Vivek Menon

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