Since taking over the helm in December of 2018, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has proved flexible with his formations and tactics. He originally used the 4-3-3, 4-4-2, as well as a 3-5-2 that could turn into a 5-3-2 for defense. Going outside of the box, Ole now prefers a 4-2-3-1 or a 3-5-2. Being able to switch lines can keep opponents guessing on what United will do next.
4-2-3-1 If Possible
We have said it time and time again: Ole loves a pacey winger. The 4-2-3-1 allows quick wingers to thrive by giving them space along the touchline with a lack of responsibility defensively. Before Ole’s appointment, Marcus Rashford played a center forward and Anthony Martial on the left-wing. Since then, Rashford has been placed out on the wing and Martial has moved up front. Ole moved them to create more speed on the wings.
This trend continues with United’s signings under Ole. Daniel James adds wing speed and Odion Igahlo is a technical forward upfront. Another essential element to the 4-2-3-1 is a creative CAM, along with a box to box midfielder, and lockdown CDM. Ole’s signing of Bruno Fernandes fits the narrative. However, United still lack a world-class midfielder and true defensive midfielder. Repetitively, Ole has been stating that Paul Pogba can establish himself as United’s dual midfielder.
The Backup 3-5-2
With key players being injured, Ole has shown that he is not afraid to adjust his tactics. The 3-5-2 formation that can fall back into a 5-3-2, allows United to have a different look about them but keep their playing style. The wings still show their speed when Ole has placed Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Brandon Williams out wide. Bruno Fernandes (or another key CAM) is still considered crucial in this formation. While the line may look extremely defensive, Bruno’s creativity allows for quick counter-attacking play.
The Boss Knows His Players
Ole has shown no fear regarding moving players out of their original positions. Luke Shaw has been played into the center back role in the 3-5-2, instead of his original left-back role when Ole arrived. Marcus Rashford has been on the wing frequently, to add quick attacking support. Daniel James and Anthony Martial have both been played as strikers in the 3-5-2, despite them both formally playing on the wings. These changes show that Ole understands the tools he has at United and has a clear understanding of the formations he chooses.
From the past winter and summer transfer windows, United has laid out the criteria for future signings. If United were in for midfielder, they would most likely be either a creative CAM, box to box midfielder, or true CDM. Jack Grealish and Jude Bellingham both fit into this system well.
While Fred and Nemanja Matic have held down the CDM position, a younger option could be suitable for United. However, Scott Mctominay and James Garner might fill that role if Paul Pogba rejoins the side. For wingers and full-backs, United will not want them if they are not quick. Wing speed is crucial for Ole’s system. For strikers, Ole has been keen on proven goal scorers. While quicker players fit better on the sides of Ole’s lines, the more technical shooters fit in well as a center forward.
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Written by CJ Szaz