Manchester United: Tactics Board

August 14 2007

The King is dead! Long live the King! Rooney is out, Tevez comes in! Simple, n’est-ce pas? Maybe not as simple as you’d think.

Manchester United began their opening fixture against Reading with the 4-2-3-1 formation that many commentators expected them to adopt this season. Carrick and Scholes sat deep in midfield, Evra and Ronaldo attacked from the flanks and Giggs played in support of Wayne Rooney up front.

This! – cried The Mirror, in the wake of the signings of Nani and Anderson – is Fergie’s vision of United’s future. Carrick and Hargreaves in midfield, Nani, Anderson and Ronaldo just ahead of them, Rooney in attack.

As far as I’m concerned, they’ve all got it wrong. Including Fergie.

The 4-2-3-1 requires certain types of player, all of which United possess. The key is in fitting them all together. Observe the following, hastily scrabbled together diagram:



I’ve used ‘old-fashioned’ shirt numbers, because they will help me to embellish my point(s). In this system, the two central midfielders sit deep in front of the back four. The number 4 is responsible for winning the ball and breaking up opposition attacks. It’s the number 8’s job to get on the ball, pick out a team-mate and set the team’s attacks in motion.

The wingers (number 7 and number 11) play further forward than mere ‘wide midfielders’. It is their job to a) attack the goal directly and b) create chances for the strikers. The presence of the deep-lying central midfielders enables the full-backs to push forward alternately (it can be dangerous if both do so at the same time), so the wingers are not required to hug the touchline like wingers of old.

Crucial to this formation are the two forwards (number 9 and number 10). The number 9’s role is fairly conventional. He is the goal-getter and target man, but he must also be skilled at holding the ball up and playing with his back to goal.

The number 10 is the man who brings it all together. He is the metronome which sets the pace for the entire team, and he needs to be on the ball as often as possible. With the central midfielders sitting deep and the number 9 pushing the opposition centre halves as close to their own goal as possible, he has the run of the pitch to create magic. And that is exactly why he is in the team.

To my mind, such a system would suit a United first eleven that looked like this:

1. Edwin van der Sar
2. Gary Neville
3. Patrice Evra
4. Owen Hargreaves
5. Nemanja Vidic
6. Rio Ferdinand
7. Cristiano Ronaldo
8. Paul Scholes/Michael Carrick
9. Louis Saha
10. Wayne Rooney/Carlos Tevez
11. Ryan Giggs

And there it is. Ferguson – despite having bestowed the number 10 shirt upon Wayne Rooney before the season began – is playing Rooney as the number 9. This is not a position he suits.

Any idiot could tell you that Rooney is at his most dangerous when he receives the ball in deep areas and then heads for goal. Working the line on his own – as he did until Michael Duberry’s untimely intervention against Reading – is not what he’s cut out for. Yes, he will provide moments of inspiration, but that’s despite, rather than because of, the formation.

Rooney is good enough to have a team crafted around him, but English football has tended to look scornfully at attacking players who demand a free role. Rooney is a natural playmaker, not a goalscorer, and playing him as an old-fashioned centre forward takes all the joy out of his game.

United will undoubtedly miss Rooney, but they have as good a replacement as you could possibly wish for in Carlos Tevez. The player who really makes the 4-2-3-1 tick is Louis Saha, and it is his currently unavailability – rather than Rooney’s – which makes Alex Ferguson’s decision to sell both Alan Smith (who played the number 9 role so admirably in the 7-1 demolition of Roma) and Guiseppe Rossi seem foolhardy.

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14 Responses to “Manchester United: Tactics Board”

  1. Mustapha Yusuf Says:

    Hi
    Brillant formation for the Red devils.It’s a job well planned by Alex Ferge.We are ready for any team if this is adopted and we will sure win to retain the Premiership title.You are unstopable as l keep saying Go Man U! Go Manchester!! Go Manchester United!!! We love you and your players including the Coaches

  2. Dave Says:

    Tim Lovejoy is hosting the 5live phone in on the radio tonight. How cool is that!?!?

  3. Fergie Fan Says:

    Manchester is the best soccer team. Also Chelsey is not bad now
    (after abramovich bought them) but manchester is the best!


  4. […] Filed under: 4-2-3-1, Alan Smith, … Observe the following, hastily scrabbled together diagram: …https://stillbeautiful.wordpress.com/2007/08/14/manchester-united-tactics-board/Forever Football: March 2005… challenged, there are loads of diagrams too, which i reckon an […]

  5. craig lemon Says:

    What a tactical disaster against Liverpool,heres hoping they sort it out for the Chelsea game.Team id use. Van,evra rio brown Neville hargreaves in front of the back four,Nani scholes Tevez,Rooney just infront of them and Berb upfront

  6. RaiulBaztepo Says:

    Hello!
    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language 😉
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

  7. AbigailQO Says:

    Hi guys,

    Just saying hi to the forum.

    Abigail

    ————–
    Blinks

  8. M.U. Says:

    W. Rooney best player in M.U.!!!
    idiot u!!!

  9. Flicsdoowsvow Says:

    http://www.vkmag.com/member/374773/ – private security


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