Tag Tactics

Tag Tactics

Fergie’s tactical conundrum

August 11, 2009 Tags: Reads 4 comments

Sir Alex Ferguson is set to revert to a traditional 4-4-2 formation after the manager’s flirtation with a highly flexible 4-3-3 during the Cristiano Ronaldo era. In a move that plays to the squad’s strengths, Ferguson is set to deploy two through the middle and two out wide during this year’s campaign. While it’s a system that has become unfashionable in the modern day, the real question is: when it comes to the crunch of a tough away fixture, will Fergie stick to his guns and play two up front?

One of the most significant knock-on effects of the summer player departures – and additions – is to leave a squad heavy in numbers on the wing but without the goal return of Ronaldo. United’s wingers Ji-Sung Park, Antonio Valencia, Nani, Zoran Tošić and Gabriel Obertan scored a grand total of 15 goals last season, compared to Cristiano Ronaldo’s 26.

Moreover, United’s squad – minus Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez – is heavy on strikers who are best deployed through the centre, not in the channels. Dimitar Berbatov will start the season leading the line, after Ferguson admitted that the Bulgarian was used far too deep last season. Similarly Michael Owen no longer works the channels, concentrating on playing off the shoulder of the last defender. Fourth choice striker Federico Macheda looks to be a classic number nine – technically gifted and strong with his back to goal but unlikely to succeed as a wide player in a three man frontline.

The exception to that rule is Wayne Rooney, who spent much of last season to the left of a three man attack. But after a summer of breaking ranks to demand a central role, Ferguson would be more than a little remiss to deploy the Scouser on the wing once more.

Manchester United 4-3-3

“The manager has said he will play me through the middle, so I’m happy about that. That’s what I wanted,” said Rooney prior to the Community Shield. “He may change his mind and whatever he says goes, but I hope he will play me there for most of the season.”

Rooney’s hopes remain to be seen. The manager has rarely used two forwards – especially in Europe – in recent seasons.

While the 4-3-3 system was developed to maximise the impact of Ronaldo, coming in off the right, it also gave the team additional manpower in the centre of the park. The risk in switching to two central players is that it will leave United – without a true defensive midfielder – lightweight and outnumbered against most European teams.

United 4-4-2United countered Chelsea’s narrow diamond in the Community Shield by tucking Park inside and leaving Nani to attack the Londoner’s right back Branislav Ivanović in tandem with Patrice Evra. Indeed, Park may continue to play a pivotal role in midfield, especially away from home or in Europe where the risk of being over-run in midfield is greatest. As such United may only deploy both Nani and Valencia against middle ranking Premier League clubs where the Reds can expect to dominate possession.

Ferguson’s tendency to play one through the middle – deploying Ronaldo alone up-front in both semis and the final of the Champions League last season – has been the default tactic in the biggest games for several seasons. Liverpool away on October 25th will be the first real test of the new formation.

Shield leaves questions unanswered

August 10, 2009 Tags: , Reads 3 comments
If United started the Community Sheild with questions hanging over the squad, then the penalties defeat to Chelsea left many
unanswered. Shorn of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, fans awaited a positive response to the summer’s developments; a
sign that United has a plan for the new era. Instead, the team began the game with none of the close season signings in the
starting XI and without its first choice goalkeeper and central defender.
For all that United started the game well, dominating possession and taking an early lead through the bright Nani. Lining up
in manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s newly reinstated 4-4-2 formation, United used the channel’s well against a narrow Chelsea
team. Yet the team’s early promise gave way to an uncertain performance in the second half after Chelsea’s equaliser. Defeat
would have followed the Londoner’s controversial second bar for a late well taken Wayne Rooney goal.
But if fans were looking for a statement of intent ahead of the new season then the Community Shield provided scant comfort.
In particular manager Sir Alex Ferguson would have hoped for a bright performance from those players who have most to prove –
Dimitar Berbatov, Michael Owen Nani and Ben Foster. The Bulgarian, whom Ferguson stated he intends to build the team around
this season, started the game strongly. Like most of the team, the forward – save for one outrageous piece of skill when
plucking a long ball out of the air – faded out of the match as it wore on. He was substituted in the 75th minute for Michael
Owen’s competitive debut in a United shirt.
Foster’s contribution was more telling on the result but rarely in a positive way. From poor play with his feat, to a weak
flap at the cross that led to Ricardo Carvalho’s equaliser, Foster looked nervous and uncertain. Worst still the
Lemington-born ‘keeper failed to get a strong hand to Frank Lampard’s drive for Chelsea’s second. Foster’s talent is
undoubtedly better than his performance but he can’t afford too many more games on this level. Ferguson was certainly
charitable when blaming Foster’s performance on ring-rustiness.
Nani, however, put in a strong claim for a starting spot before being removed with a dislocated shoulder. The winger, who has
flattered to deceive in two years at Old Trafford, was positive, creative and scored a high class goal before leaving the
fielder after xx minutes. It’s too early to know that this may be the winger’s breakthrough season – we’ve been here before
with Nani – but
Nani
Tactics

If United started the Community Shield with questions hanging over the squad, then the penalties defeat to Chelsea left many unanswered. Shorn of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, fans awaited a positive response to the summer’s developments; a sign that United has a plan for the new era. Instead, the team began the game with none of the close season signings in the starting XI and without its first choice goalkeeper and central defender.

For all that United started the game well, dominating possession and taking an early lead through the bright Nani. Lining up in manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s newly reinstated 4-4-2 formation, United used the channels well against a narrow Chelsea diamond. Yet the team’s early promise gave way to an unconvincing performance after Chelsea’s equaliser. Defeat in normal time would have followed the Londoner’s controversial second bar for a late well taken Wayne Rooney goal.

But if fans were looking for a statement of intent ahead of the new season then the Community Shield provided scant comfort. In particular manager Sir Alex Ferguson would have hoped for a good performance from those players who have most to prove – Dimitar Berbatov, Michael Owen Nani and Ben Foster.

The Bulgarian, whom Ferguson stated he intends to build the team around this season, started the game strongly. Like most of the team, the forward – save for one outrageous piece of skill when plucking a long ball out of the air – faded out of the match as it wore on. He was substituted in the 75th minute for Michael Owen’s competitive debut in a United shirt.

Foster’s contribution was more telling on the result but rarely in a positive way. From poor play with his feat, to a weak flap at the cross that led to Ricardo Carvalho’s equaliser, Foster looked nervous and uncertain. Worst still the Lemington-born ‘keeper failed to get a strong hand to Frank Lampard’s drive for Chelsea’s second. Foster’s talent is undoubtedly better than this performance but he can’t afford too many more games like Sunday’s. Ferguson was certainly charitable when blaming Foster’s performance on ring-rustiness.

Nani, however, put in a strong claim for a starting spot before being removed with a suspected dislocated shoulder. The winger, who has flattered to deceive in two years at Old Trafford, was positive, creative and scored a high class goal before leaving the field following John Terry’s robust challenge. It’s too early to know whether this will be the winger’s breakthrough season – we’ve been here before with Nani – but Ferguson can be hopeful on this evidence.

Tactically United were less fluid but more compact than in recent seasons. While Ferguson would have been disappointed with the two goals conceded, United’s attacking play was good for the most part. Whether Ferguson will continue deploying two forwards – especially in more meaningful matches than this one – is a moot point. If Sunday’s match was a forbear for the season ahead then this United side may be more functional that Ferguson’s previous iterations, by building on strength in defence.

One match does not a season make, of course, but this was an average start against what will be one of United’s principal challengers in the coming campaign.