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The Hargreaves Situation

While my superstitious self can now almost safely assume that Owen Hargreaves is indeed coming over to Old Trafford, some bookies have already gone to the extent of putting odds of him becoming the player of the season 2007/08 at 50/1.

The question however, is how he will feature in the team next season.

While his role as a holding midfielder is well documented, the question of how Sir Alex will use him to fit into the United setup will figure prominently. His pace and box-to-box approach will definitely bring that bite and aggression into the midfield that we’ve been missing for a long time. We also think when Scholes slowly gets phased out of the United first XI, we will be left with the midfield duo of OH and Carrick.

However next season, when Scholes will still be expected to play a big role in the United setup, we might see situations where some tough tactical decisions might be needed to make the system work. Will that system work from a results perspective, but come at the cost of the style and attacking verve that characterized our play this season?

Let’s take the first scenario, where we have OH, Carrick and Scholes play in midfield. Assuming a four man defence, we will be left with three attacking men to contend with. Rooney and Ronaldo will get the nod, and the left wing will be occupied by Giggs or Park or whoever comes in over the summer.

Now here’s the thing: If we were to bring in a winger like say, Nani then we would be playing a 4-5-1/4-3-3 system where the wingers would be expected to cut in to provide Rooney some service. Rooney on his own has shown a tendency to get frustrated when not provided adequate service. However this system might yet work if we modify it to a 4-2-3-1 (where Scholes plays in the hole behind the striker) with the front four interchanging. This would probably be the best solution.

The other case would be the acquisition of a striker. This would in essence mean shunting Rooney to the wing, where he is least effective, and the striker who comes in then should show more mobility by being able to switch around with the other three (we’re still talking 4-2-3-1 here) A good finisher who doesn’t show much movement might seriously inhibit the effectiveness of this system. Also where will all this leave Rossi? That’s something to ponder.

The third scenario would be getting both a striker and a winger. Then the effectiveness of 4-2-3-1 would be seriously hindered until either Rooney or Scholes is kept out. In all the cases above we assume the constants that are OH and Carrick playing at the middle of the park, by virtue of being the most expensive purchases in recent times. So obviously they are going to get maximum playing time.

A ‘European system’ might allow United to boss the midfield, but will we be able to see the attacking urgency with this new midfield import? It is something worth thinking about before going out to the market to buy either a winger or a striker. In the long term however, a 4-2-3-1 system might best work out with Rooney playing in the hole behind the striker (be it Rossi or whoever we buy), and two wingers to flank them.

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. samg

    26 May 2007 at 09:45

    i’m just guessing here, but i think where fergie may headed with this……..

    i think he is going to replicate the style and formation of barca from last season (not this one, the 05/06 season when they won the double)…. i see a hybrid of a 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 formation……. heres how it pans out…

    u have 2 deep lying defensive midfielders, one who’s there simply to protect the back four (like marquez and edmilson did for barca, hargreaves will do that) and one who picks up the ball and intiates the attacks (they had xavi, we have carrick)
    one midfielder who can play from a deep role, but is free to roam and pop up in places unmarked and build the play (i’m talking about deco or scholes)
    then u have two versatile forwards who can go wide or move into the box and really trouble the defenses (barca’s very own messi and ronaldinho, i believe ronaldo and rossi can do that)
    finally a striker, mobile, pacy, strong (not necessarily the biggest bloke around) and a decent finisher (i’m talking about eto’o guys, though u could argue that rooney fits that description too!!)
    and u can add to that our defense (lets face it, barca never really had one!!)

    i still think we will need a winger and a striker to add to the squad (we are not going to win anything with just 11 good players)……….. in the long run we need to find a replacement for scholes

  2. samg

    26 May 2007 at 09:48

    the beauty of this system is that we can still boss the midfield and as barca proved, not loose any of the attacking flair that we value so much!

  3. Tomas

    26 May 2007 at 19:43

    But no matter the tactical numbers, signing someone like Hargo gives us greater flexibility…and certainly improves our chances in Europe, where SAF prefers the 3-man midfield anyway (now we basically just replace Fletcher with Hargreaves).

    Domestically I don’t know how SAF will fit all that talent, but I’m pretty sure that we’ll see even more of Rooney on the left. But naturally it also leaves us with great opportunity to rest players, since we’ll stick to the 4-4-2 at least at OT and in presumed easy away games.

  4. Pingback: Man Utd Season Review | Part III | The Attack and Team Play | Red Rants

  5. Keith Moses Kaira II

    27 May 2007 at 23:45

    4-2-3-1 will be played. Just like in the later part of this season. Only Rooney won’t be the target man9 that will be fore the striker we will sign, Saha and Smith) nor the playmaker behind the main striker. Rooney
    and Ronaldo will occupy the flanks covered by Rossi and Park/Smith while the playmaker role behind the striker will belong to Giggs and Scholes.
    Hargreaves and Carrick will be the deep midfielders covered by O’shea and Fletcher

  6. Red Ranter

    28 May 2007 at 00:13

    [Keith]
    The 4-2-3-1 wouldn’t be difficult to implement once Scholes leaves. But till then I wonder how they plan to maintain this sort of formation while accomodating Scholes Rooney, a new striker and a possible new winger. (Assuming OH and Carrick are in the side already)
    The worry is in the immediate future. Not so much with the distant one.

  7. Keith Moses Kaira II

    29 May 2007 at 04:16

    Red Ranter, I see this:

    Scholes/Giggs in the Berkamp Role, Rooney and Ronaldo wide, a Saha type up top. A new winger would be cover for Ronaldo and Rooney against the big four sides .

    As for Scholes, sometimes he would play as one of the deep two instead of Carrick. Especially against weaker sides than the top 4, with Rooney playing in the hole, with Ronaldo and the new wide man on the flanks.

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