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Three Scenarios: Wildcard systems Jose Mourinho could use next season

One of the best attributes of Jose Mourinho’s first season as Manchester United manager was the formational versatility the Red Devils showed. Before injuries plagued United’s squad and Mourinho reverted to a slightly adapted version of Louis van Gaal’s pragmatic approach to win the UEFA Europa League, Mourinho deployed United in many formations to adapt to the opponent, including editions of 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3, 4-4-2, 3-5-2, 3-4-3, and even a balanced 3-3-2-2 formation that saw a remarkable triumph against Premier League winners Chelsea.

With United’s ever-growing squad and the variety of players in it, it would be no surprise to see many more systems next season to make United unpredictable and target the opponent. With so many special footballers and teams in the Premier League and Champions League, one of the three wildcard formations below in the right system could make United more prominent in a season that could be extremely mediocre if not treated very carefully.

3. The Rival Option: Reinvention of the 4-1-4-1

Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp, on paper, have deployed their sides in a very similar 4-1-4-1 formation that includes four attack-oriented midfielders, an aggressive defensive midfielder, and players to provide natural width. The system somewhat failed for both sides from a defensive standpoint, but United has two players who could make it even more functional at Old Trafford.

Paul Pogba would be the perfect attacking central midfielder, offering the same attacking ability as most attacking midfielders with incredible extra defensive nous. Pogba would finally be able to score more goals, and he would dovetail with Mkhitaryan, Mata, or even Andreas Pereira to create goals and fire United through matches.

Anthony Martial could be a very good striker in this system, with the technical ability and finishing quality to score many goals and bring many others into play. The side still lacks a natural winger to complete this system, which is the only potential downside.

Linked Transfer Target Who Would Improve This System: Ivan Perisic (Left-Winger)

2. The Classic Option: Attacking 4-4-2

There isn’t a Manchester United fan who doesn’t want to see a 4-4-2 again. The sentimental nature of the formation, which brings back memories of some of Sir Alex Ferguson’s great sides, combined with the fact it seems to be the formation which brings the best out of various sides in Europe, makes it an attractive proposition for United.

United’s players, particularly without Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Antoine Griezmann as neither has signed, aren’t suited to this system, but it could be effective in breaking down opposing defences with narrow wingers to add quality in midfield with overlapping fullbacks. Ander Herrera would control the midfield from deep, and Paul Pogba would have six runners to reach his passes. Perhaps this system could be made more feasible with the addition of another striker who offers more physically than Martial and Rashford.

Linked Transfer Target Who Would Improve This System: Alvaro Morata (Striker)

1. England’s New Favourite Option: Ball-Playing 3-4-3

The formation to bring out the best out of United in specific matches could very well be a 3-4-3, and now that Victor Lindelof has joined, a back three of him, Eric Bailly, and Daley Blind would be very hard to beat, as well as very good on the ball. This formation would allow Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Juan Mata to both play their best positions and offer technical ability, helping United overload the midfield and create numerical disadvantages on the pitch.

Furthermore, this system could be perfect for Anthony Martial, allowing him to play off a focal point but also be close enough to goal to make a massive impact on every match. The same applies to Jesse Lingard, who looked excellent when deployed in a more makeshift version of this system against Middlesbrough. United’s current side looks suited to this system, even without further additions.

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