Manchester United triumphed to 3-1 victory against an out-of-form Swansea side at the Liberty Stadium. A brace by Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba’s thumping volley was enough for the side to capitalise over the Welsh club, despite a second half consolation goal by Swansea City’s Mike van der Hoorn.
Amongst positives like the end of Zlatan’s goal drought and Rooney’s impressive performance, United’s midfield stability was very noticeable. Despite Phil Jones and Ashley Young returning in the defensive line, it was Michael Carrick as the number six who caught quite a lot of attention. This was, surprisingly, the veteran’s first Premier League start of the campaign and without any doubt it was due to Michael Carrick’s presence in midfield that Manchester United looked more confident when attacking.
In total, Michael Carrick has started in only five games this season in all competitions, against Leicester City, Northampton Town, Manchester City, Fenerbahçe and Swansea City, in which the team scored 13 games and conceded just three. Despite what the statistics suggests, according to Jose Mourinho, Carrick is too rusty and unfit to start week in, week out for the team. However, with the inconsistency in the performance and the chances of a title challenge looking slimmer by the week, United could use the stability of Carrick in midfield. In my opinion, a formation change to 4-3-3 flat could be key to getting back to winning ways.
In February 2015, when the renowned United flop, Angel Di Maria was sent off in the FA cup, 1-2 defeat to Arsenal at home, ex-United manager Louis van Gaal changed his usual 4-4-2 formation to a 4-3-3 flat, including of Carrick, Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini as the midfield trio. The following convincing wins, against Liverpool and Manchester City amongst others, proved that Louis Van Gaal had finally found his starting eleven.
Louis van Gaal’s Starting XI:
A four-week muscle injury against Manchester City to Michael Carrick proved to be a costly one as Manchester United managed to lose their momentum in the league, despite managing to get the fourth position they were aiming to achieve at the end of the season. Jose Mourinho, like Van Gaal, can consider a rare change in formation in order to include Michael Carrick in the starting eleven.
Jose Mourinho’s Possible XI:
Even though Mourinho’s current formation is very reminiscent to a 4-3-3 flat, the players are set up in a way that does not make Carrick the traditional number six that’s usually present in a midfield trio.
While Carrick’s immense ability to orchestrate the play will bring excitement back to side, there will be many deserving players who will miss out on playing regularly. Juan Mata, who has been one of the most consistent performers for United this season will not be able to play in his preferred role at Centre Attacking Midfield and probably settle as a false right-winger or on the bench. His Spanish amigo, Ander Herrera, will also get rare starts due to Mourinho’s preference towards Marouane Fellaini alongside Michael Carrick and Paul Pogba. Lastly, it would be the club captain, Wayne Rooney, who would play second fiddle in every position from midfield to attack in a change of formation.
An alternative to the formation change could be the return of the left out Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Schweinsteiger is the only one who can match Michael Carrick’s presence in midfield. A return for Bastian back in the squad could mean Carrick not having to play games every week and definitely get the much-needed rest for full fitness in crucial games.
With the number of fixtures increasing and a very busy December on its way, a consistent performance by the team is essential and for that to happen, Carrick’s involvement in those matches is vital.
By Umang Bharali