App-25 Scored-39 Conceded-24 W-11 D-7 L-7 (PL Stats)
So far this season, out of our 25 Premier League games, the team has fielded with a 4-2-3-1 formation 22 times! Solskjaer has settled on this formation as his favourite during his time at the helm of the Old Trafford club. When on the pitch, it often becomes an asymmetrical formation, with the left winger (usually Marcus Rashford) often drifting very central and close to the striker (usually Anthony Martial). Quite often, the average positions show Rashford playing the game higher than Martial, with the striker in this formation instructed to come deep and be involved in build up play. The striker will usually then use the right winger as an outlet on the wing, lay off the number 10 near him or play in the left winger who is now filling the striker void. One issue with this formation, is the lack of natural wingers currently at the club. Recently, can be seen very well in the game vs Burnley (Jan 22nd 2020), the front 4 attackers are all on top of each other in the central 1/3rd of the pitch as both wingers look to cut in, the striker drops deep and the central attacking midfielder is already here too. Then if we look back to the match against Norwich (11th Jan 2020), Marcus Rashford (LW) is the furthest forward player as earlier described, with Anthony Martial dropping deeper. Our full backs, in games against lower sides, sit very high, ahead of the two central midfielders who stay as a line in front of the centre backs. Our right winger (Mata on the day) drops deep and central, a problem we have with most of the options at right wing this season. With Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s lack of attacking output thus far, the right side of the pitch requires a presence on that side for him to link up with as the right back often becomes isolated when he ventures forward. With the acquisition hopefully of a specialist right winger this summer, this should help with a lot of the attacking issues we have, by having an option in space on the right, and allow for combinations to be made with the right back, right sided central midfielder and the attacking midfielder in the formation, something we have lacked so much. With the recent purchase of Bruno Fernandes too, he should slot in at the number 10 slot, and with his higher technical ability and vision, be able to increase the chance creation from the position, as others have struggled to perform in this role so far this season.
App-4 Scored-5 Conceded-3 W-2 D-1 L-1 (PL Stats)
The 3-4-1-2 has been used in the league this season in just 4 appearances, 1 of those being against Liverpool in the 2-0 loss (19th Jan 2020) and in the 1-1 draw with Liverpool again (20th Oct 2019). Solskjaer only uses this formation against the top teams as he also used it in the recent Carabao cup 1-0 win over Manchester City and 2-0 league win over our city neighbours. The formation is good because it allows more defenders in the deep block when under attack, the wing backs fall on either side of the back 3 to in effect create a back 5. However, with our specific squad, this once again runs into issues. In this formation, a lot of the attacking impetus is left on the wing backs to deliver; with Wan-Bissaka still developing in an attacking sense, he needs someone on the right wing to help him. In this formation because you have two strikers, there is no right winger to assist, so as mentioned, it relies heavily on the wing backs being able to dominate the wing by themselves. We can see that in the 2-0 loss to Liverpool, 47% of our attacks were from our left side, further showing that in this formation as a wing back, Wan-Bissaka doesn’t have enough attacking threat to be able to make a massive difference. Defensively, when United play this formation, they traditionally play in very compact blocks, with not much space between the lines as they look to make it hard for the opponent to play through them, hence why it used against the better sides in the country. The number 10 in this formation, now Bruno, initiates lots of the pressing high up the field to get the rest of the team following suit.
App-1 Scored-3 Conceded-3 W-0 D-1 L-0
The 3-4-2-1 has only been used once this season, in a 3-3 draw against Sheffield United (24th Nov 2019). During that game, the two wide centre backs played deeper, with the central centre back (Maguire) playing much higher, only just behind Fred in the midfield. The wing backs in this game were sat much deeper than they did when using the 3-4-1-2 formation. Up front, the striker dropped deeper again as the 2 in behind him pushed past him to create almost a 2-1-4-1-2 formation on the pitch. At half time in this particular game, one of the centre backs was removed and replaced with an attacking midfielder, as the team reverted to a 4-2-3-1.
App-1 Scored-1 Conceded-1 W-0 D-1 L-0
So far this season, we have only started in a 4-1-2-1-2 once, and that was in the 1-1 draw against Everton. United has 14 shots in that game, but with 9 of them being from outside of the box, with the team struggling to break down the defence. In theory, this formation should be good at breaking down the opposition with the extra midfield man, but the lack of width instead hurt the side. The second striker, Greenwood, dropped very deep alongside the attacking midfielder to try and gain touches of the ball. Also, despite United having 56% possession, the ball spent the least amount of time in Everton’s third of the field, with the Toffee’s holding the advantage of territory. This means that despite holding more of the ball, we had the ball in much less advanced position, if we are to continue with this formation, it requires a lot of work with chance creation.