Manchester United‘s tactics have changed significantly throughout the course of 2020. Which has lead to a drastic increase in form and a more enjoyable team to watch. I do believe that United is beginning to truly find itself, and as a result is finding itself an identity. I’m going to provide you with some key takeaways from United’s current tactics. With the aim to help explain why we may not be reaching our fullest potential.
Number One, Paul Pogba
I know, many of you may be rolling your eyes and we all have an opinion on Paul Pogba. Although, the fact of the matter is that despite what any of us think, Manchester United is far better off with Pogba in the team. The 4-2-3-1 formation we most commonly prefer under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer only provides the most threat when Pogba is playing. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the duo of Mctominay and Fred. Their workrate and dedication to the team is impeccable and you love to see it. But, if we want to challenge for a title we need more than just heart. We need creativity, and Pogba can provide it.
Let me explain. When we lineup with the Mctominay and Fred pairing we limit Bruno Fernandes. Don’t we want our best player to have the opportunity to utilize his full weaponar? When we employ these two in the CDM slots we force Bruno to come back deeper into the midfield to get the ball into our forwards. Mctominay and Fred can spray a pass now and again, but they are much more defensive minded players and their capability to connect on more adventurous passes is limited. So, in order for the team to consistently work the ball forward Bruno must sink deeper, to a position he will certainly still thrive in but shrinks the teams overall goal capability.
With Paul Pogba alongside any of the three CDM’s (preferably Mctominay) the team is able to be significantly more expansive. When Pogba is in the midfield 2 it allows Bruno to move forward more and really showcase his abilities in the number 10 position. Pogba can spray the ball down the field consistently and successfully, thus taking the pressure off of Bruno to provide all of the buildup play from a much deeper position. This allows the other player in the midfield pair to drop in more central, providing more cover for the defense. Manchester United needs Paul Pogba to truly thrive.
Lastly, let me discuss why the fullback position is crippling Manchester United.
Many United fans are very pleased with what they’ve seen from Wan-bissaka and Luke Shaw, but the reality is they just aren’t good enough for this club. There are two reasons these two fullbacks have yet to reach their full potential. The modern game and United’s current tactics. Successful modern football teams no longer rely on strong defense minded fullbacks, and United’s current tactics only provide more opportunity for our fullbacks to get forward.
Paul Pogba playing in the team changes the team completely, as explained earlier. When Pogba is playing, a player like Scott Mctominay will drop deeper playing more alongside the center backs. With this extra coverage in the denese, there is ample opportunity for the fullbacks to get forward. We have seen a lot of this since the employment of the 4-2-3-1 and it has produced a significant increase in chances created. But, it has also lead to an increase in my anger levels and the number of broken things in my house. Neither Luke Shaw or Aaron Wan-bissaka can provide a decent ball consistently to save their fucking lives. When the spider brings the ball forward I can close my eyes and envision the overhit cross prior to it actually occurring. While when Shaw gets forward, all I can wonder is how will this end up in a goal kick?
Sure, both of our fullbacks are decent players and good on the defensive side of the ball. But, neither of them provides a real consistent offensive threat. With our current tactics and our prefered formation, we need more imaginative and creative fullbacks in the attack. Seriously, just picture United with Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander Arnold at the fullback positions.
The 4-2-3-1 is United’s Identity
The other week I wrote an article on the lack of an identity or theme at Manchester United. But, with a deeper look at the teams prefered formation I can see the attempts by Ole to instill his desired theme. Paul Pogba is key to Ole’s success, even if he isn’t the teams best player and our fullback position needs an upgrade. If Paul Pogba does leave, then United will need to replace him. Possibly Grealish? Maybe Telles is the first step to improving the fullback position?
The theme of United in the modern age of football is taking shape, but we need just a couple of more pieces. Let’s just hope we never see anything like the formation below ever again…seriously…we had to put up with that at one point? Fuck me.