These are three formations that Manchester United could thrive in and Solskjaer should definitely use as the team struggles for form.
The way in which the season has started, it harkens back to the disastrous start of 2018/19 where a lack of transfer activity encroached on the mood of Manchester United like a bleak cloud of miserableness. The league has seen three performances whereby the Red Devils have been outclassed on each occasion, the last culminating in a thorough and disgraceful beating at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur to the tune of a 6-1 scoreline.
There is so much to fix and when nothing seems to be going right often the case is that perhaps a significant switch in personnel and system could bare the fruits of success. For too long, the 4-2-3-1 formation has only aided to Manchester United’s staleness in and out of possession. A starting point for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would be to set up in a different way for the first time in 18 months
Before we get onto how the personnel we have is deployed, there are certain things that need to be considered before picking these formations as to how they could help lessen the load on certain tactical weaknesses we have shown since Solskjaer has been at the helm:
Spacing – It is a problem that riddles this Manchester United side throughout out the game, in whatever game state they are in. In defensive organisation, we leave too many gaps and don’t shift when the ball is switched; defensive transition, players are positioned too far apart so that teams can quickly progress play into our defensive third.
In attacking transition, our attackers are often without a link between themselves and the rest of our team as our number 10 scurries around filling holes; and in attacking organisation, we are too close to each other rather than spreading out to stretch the opponents laterally and all show for the ball, so we do not stretch them in behind.
For a team that isn’t well drilled, the 4-2-3-1 presents far more issues than it solves in this regard. Modern football focuses on the half spaces, which are beside the two midfielders and without the wingers doing work to track back, it means a lot of space to cover. Furthermore, on the ball, players are standing in positions they should be running into. Disorganising then relies on switching positions which only increases the lack of speed in passing.
Passing Lanes – It brings us nicely onto passing lanes and options as too often United are ponderous on the ball as they usually do not have certain out-balls to play when they are being pressed or unable to properly survey their surroundings. The lack of positional play to fall back makes it easier for our attacks to break down or to build up enough momentum to move the opposition out of their shape.
Often, it will take a brilliant combination play for our offensive outlets in order to fashion chances. There isn’t a calculated way in which we continually get the ball into our biggest threats feet without it being off the cuff.
Too often, the player on the ball does not have viable options close to him in order to progress play and it leads to having to go backwards, starting off a chain of consecutive useless passes before a forced pass means a turnover or by some sort of miracle, we are able to get into a dangerous situation.
Pressing – This is perhaps the most alarming issue given that Solskjaer has spoken about making sure this is an area of our game he is especially keen on making sure his Manchester United team displays. Whenever we lose the ball, the Red Devils are not even positioned well to stop potential forays into our defensive half.
The press is led by one man, that man often being Bruno Fernandes, making it that much easier for the opposition to simple pass it around him and open us up even more. We press even when we are in a disorganised shape and it’s unsurprising how little we resist team’s attempts to play through us. We don’t have any situational triggers to initiate any sort of press, whether it be medium or high. We are never converging on loose touches or specific players with notorious bad ball control.
Considering these things, these are my contenders formations I believe would help get us further than the current system, from my least favourite to my most favourite.