Dec 03

Time for a radical change at United?

Tag: Tactics & Analysis @ 8:05 am

Cardiff-City-v-Manchester-United-Premier-League-2847763If there’s been one lesson to be learnt so far this season, is that the options at David Moyes’ disposal resemble a blanket that it’s never quite long enough, thus always leaving some vital parts of United not properly covered.

Wednesday’s superb performance against Leverkusen highlighted how big a difference Shinj Kagawa can make when deployed in his favoured number 10 role but, given the injuries that sidelined Robin Van Persie and Michael Carrick, the formation Moyes adopted in Germany was borne out of necessity rather than conviction.

Furthermore, the same system – albeit with slightly different personnel – struggled to hit the same heights against Tottenham on Sunday when, amid some slick passing and neat interchanges between Kagawa, Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney, United were denied the acres of space in midfield they had been allowed against Leverkusen.

United’s conundrum isn’t easily solvable, for while any manager should always try to maximise his team’s strength – particularly when, as is the case with United, such strengths are few and far between – they always asked to field not just the most logical of line-ups, but also the one that can produce results and, lest we forget this is entertainment business, play good football.

Robin Van Persie is arguably United’s only world class player alongside Wayne Rooney – at least the vintage we have witnessed since the start of the season – and together they form a formidable partnership but, as we know all too well, deploying both of them forces Kagawa out wide, where the Japanese is nowhere near as effective, nor threatening as he is when he’s played through the middle – even though he failed to impress in said position on Sunday.

Considering that the midfield props itself on Carrick, the 40-year-old Ryan Giggs and a centre-back-cum-central-midfielder in Phil Jones, the aforementioned blank is likely to remain always too short, unless United spend in January – about as likely an event as a waking up to find Santa Claus in your living room on Christmas day – or they radically change system and ditch a defender.

Before you dismiss the notion of adopting a 3-5-2 formation as the ramblings of a clueless moron who’s spent too much time playing FIFA and Football Manager, allow me to buy sometime for myself by saying that I’m not suggesting that a change in formation would work or be easy/feasible.

However, considering the squad at Moyes’ disposal is far from world class, it’d be tempting to see him playing it to its strengths, without having to oust a quality player in favour of another.

Whether it’s in its Carrick-Cleverley, Carrick-Fellaini or Cleverley-Jones configuration United’s midfield struggles enormously against the majority of opponent, for the pairs that guarantee passing options (no prizes for guessing which is the recurrent name in these duos) struggle to sustain physical challenges, while the more dynamic combinations are dramatically limited from a technical point of view.

A lack of options in the middle means that United’s widemen are either starved of supplies or are fed the ball with such systematic regularity that they’re immediately double-teamed and dispossessed – that’s also partly due to their chronic inability to beat their man, but we’ll leave this for another time.

United’s back four isn’t protected well enough either, for the players forming the central midfield duo are either too busy trying to cover for each other’s errors – more often than not when Cleverley is one of the two – not suited to tackle or engaging in other activities – which, presumably, is why £27m were poured into Everton’s coffers for Fellaini.

Based on that, dropping a defender seems as logical as playing without a goalkeeper. However, were Moyes to pick a 3-5-2 formation, it’d allow him to select Kagawa in his preferred role, which would partly relieve the midfield of creative duties, thus, theoretically at least, allow one between Cleverley, Jones or Fellaini to focus on shielding the back three.

Furthermore, as much as we all love Patrice Evra, it’s undeniable that his defensive game is no longer up to scratch, in fact it hasn’t been so for a couple of seasons, but he remains a reasonably good option going forward, and the same can be said about Antonio Valencia and Rafael on the other flank – Nani and Januzaj would be valid options too, although wing-backs are probably a safer option than traditional wingers.

Rooney and Van Persie with Kagawa in the hole would prove to be a headache for the overwhelming majority of defences across the country, not to mention that having more attacking players on the pitch would increase the passing options for Carrick, as well as ensure United keep a higher line instead of dropping deep – which has already costed us four points against Southampton and Cardiff.

The romantics dreaming of the days United played 4-4-2 are, quite frankly, stuck in the past, for the a formation including two banks of four is simply no longer sustainable in modern football – certainly not with the tragically poor midfield that has hampered United for years – while the 3-5-2 in enjoying something of a renaissance, with plenty of European teams adopting it as their preferred option.

Awful as it sounds, even Liverpool have successfully switched to such system under Brendan Rodgers and with good results so far, so surely we can afford a gamble for a game or two?


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Tags: Tactics & Analysis

13 Responses to “Time for a radical change at United?”

  • Its not a bad shout at all. We made the move to a more centrally focussed formation with a diamond midfield last year against Newcastle and it worked great but we didnt use it for long. I think variations of 3-5-2/3-4-3 could definitely improve our ball movement, especially through central areas and make us way more of an attacking threat.

    I’ve been dreaming of us getting Luke Shaw, Ross Barkley and Koke as well..

    But that is even less likely to happen than the Chosen One becoming a bit more of an Adventurous One I think.

    Can always hope though.

  • The_Philosopher

    Love this Dan.

    Great sugestion. One of my biggest gripes against David Moyes is the fact that he refuses to try anything risky. This kind of line up would be well worth a shot but Mr play-it-safe Moyes is so boring and mentally deficient that I doubt he would have the know how (let alone the balls) to try something like this.

    I totally agree with trying a 3-5-2.

    And I would envision it like this:

    —————————De Gea






    This setup works so well for so many players.

    It includes our best players playing in their best positions.

    We have the personnel to pull it off but our underwhelming manager is clueless.

    David Moyes doesn’t know the meaning of the word idea. Moyes hasn’t got a creative bone in his body.

    Zero imagination. . .

    • @The_Philosopher: In a line up like this we can give Rooney license to roam freely and affect the game as he wishes while Januzaj and Valencia provide width when it’s needed.

      That attacking threat is so lethal. Chicha can be subbed in after 70min in every game to give RVP a break. My heart wants to believe we could go on a run playing a formation like this.

      Kagawa and Carrick will play better with so many options to pass to. Kagawa, Carrick and Januzaj can really pass the ball so Rooney and RVP would get excellent service.

      Good bye boring football!!

      And when it comes to defense we are well setup for it as well. 1) To echo what you have already said Dan, if we’re camped out in the oppositions half they will be more interested in trying to keep the ball out of their own net than in trying to put it in ours (David Moyes’ conservatism only invites pressure thus making opponents harder to beat) and 2) if they do catch us on the counter we have the pace of Phil Jones and 3 centre backs waiting in the box as a buffer.

      When they attack down one flank we don’t need two fullbacks. Just one. If they’re coming down the left flank then Evans can come out to meet the threat, with Phil Jones bearing down in support, while Vidic and Smalling man the area. Micheal Carrick (he’s defensive awareness is amongst the best in the team) can also come in late to provide additional support. But that still leaves Rooney, RVP, Januzaj, Kagawa and Valenica just waiting to launch a counter of our own.

      Again, if they come down the right flank Smalling can come out to meet the threat while Jones and Carrick (who will probably arrive late) will be there for back up, with Vidic and Evans waiting at attention in the box.

      The only flaw I can think of defensively is that we will always be vulnerable at the far post.

      Defensively it’s not perfect but is the correct ratio of risk vs reward that we can come up with based on our current player roster.

      We have to take risks. Moyes’ safety first (and safety last) tactics are not realistic. If you want to be a champion you have to go out on a limb and take a freakin risk!!!

      The top teams in the world always set out to win. They go for the jugular. They go for the win. Oft times David Moyes plays not to lose.

      The hell kind of mentality is that?!?!

      I think you have nailed it on the head Dan. This is the setup that provides the most solutions to all our problems.

      This formation solves the Rooney vs Kagawa problem as well as gaining efficiency by cutting out the ineffective games Evra and Smalling are playing down the left and right flanks respectively.

      The awesome threat of Rooney and RVP playing in tandem with the guile and movement of Kagawa and Januzaj supporting them is nothing short of an explosive combination. And few if any defenses will be able to resist such an onslaught.

      We have a handful of really good centre backs who need games and this allows for that. Jones is obviously taking one for the team but the experience he gains from playing defensive mid will come in handy one day.

      It really is a case of playing to your strengths. Our strength is in attack. So why not play one additional attacking player than the average team would?

      This is an excellent idea as far as I’m concerned. But it seems as though it will never see the light of day thanks to Sir Alex’s poor decision in anointing David Moyes.

  • Moyes is a confusionist who easily 4gets what he’d used 2 get what he got previously.I keep saying it here,keeping good legs on d bench during crucial matches,is not helping d club.Playing d right guys @ d right time matters here.Moyes is such a coach whom freight has eaten deep into his face,as he doesnt believe he can come out & win crucial matches.Little wonder,teams are no longer afraid of Man Utd.I dont 4see us going any where with this attitude.A change is what we want & now is it

  • Time for radical change at United?

    Never gonna happen. Unless ofcourse, that radical change is to get rid of David Moyes.

    Mr play-it-safe Moyes was pretty consistent at Everton for about 9 years and he won nothing!

    And by consistent I mean consistently boring!

  • Radical change?

    Not under the present administration


  • @Dan

    ‘Radical change at MUFC’

    How would you feel about a ‘slight’ change to this excellent forum.
    Recently tempers ran high and probably still run high over whether DM is good for MUFC or DM is bad for MUFC and some postings ran very close to the wire if not crossed it completely.

    So, in an effort to….. let’s call it ‘lighten the load a bit’, would you be willing to ‘occasionally’ have a light hearted segment e.g. ‘laziest player ever at MUFC’ or, ‘best goal ever seen from a MUFC player’.

    I know it smacks of ‘CBBC’ BUT… irrespective of the postings heading….
    the rants are always about DM and I thought it might be difficult to say
    ‘DM doesn’t what’s he doing’…… if the topic heading is ‘best goal ever seen from a MUFC player’

    What do you say Dan?


    • @mike_macca: Since I don’t run the blog, but I only post on it, I can’t determine what should be allowed and what shouldn’t. I guess that in a forum one’s always going to have heated opinions, but I agree with you when you say that one thing is being opinionated, one thing is crossing the line. Personally, while I might disagree with some opinions on here I don’t think calling people names is a) going to change their minds, b) lead to a serious discussion and c) improve the atmosphere on the site. ;)

  • “The romantics dreaming of the days united played 4-4-2 are quite frankly stuckIin the pas”.That statement should be plasterd in 3 foot fuckin letters across David moyes office wall.The day he comes up with a revolutionary system to accomadate all our players strength, I’ll start believing in the tooth fairy again.

  • Interesting idea but i think it will be a cold day in hell before we find Moyes attempting anything “radical”. I think he lacks the ability to be able to adapt, i think he showed that very well whilst at Everton.
    He thinks too small, too safe.
    Besides, i don’t think we need a radical change of style. More style would be nice, but not necessarily a massive change. We have the players currently to able to play very effective football, the only problem is, we’re not playing to out strengths. I think that’s because Moyes is unable to adapt to get the best out of these lads.
    What would be best for United would be to play an extremely offensive game, we have the players to do that, but Moyes can’t use them that way. Because he wants to play a cagey, defensive style of play. Something we don’t have the personell for.
    Square pegs in round holes, basically.
    So, until Moyes can assemble a team of players suited to what he wants, then we’ll struggle. Which is why i don’t want him to assemble a team for that style of play.
    The obvious answer to this would have been appoint someone capable of utilising Uniteds “current” strengths, but sadly that didn’t happen.
    I think the chances of Moyes switching to something so outlandish as a 3-5-2 are non existent. If he can’t use what he currently has, because he is failing to adpat, then i don’t see any adapting other than United adapting to be like Everton were.
    The only radical change we should be thinking about is changing the manager. But that won’t happen for a few years.

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