For awhile, my memory of Manchester United's 2-1 win over CFR Cluj Tuesday night was a little hazy.
Perhaps this was because it was a game without many clear-cut chances... or, let me be brutal, it was a dreadfully boring match that almost made me switch to the Nordsjaelland vs. Chelsea clash half way through (OK, not really, but it was still pretty dire stuff).
(That's not to say I didn't love it. As an unabashed fan, being bored during a United game usually means that they're doing something right!).
The one, lasting image I do have, is that of a majestic Wayne Rooney seemingly playing every position on the park—making every pass, making every tackle.
One moment he was in attack, the next in defence, the next on the flanks. It was like eleven Wayne Rooneys playing the Transylvanian team off the park.
When I watched the game a second time, I realised my recollections were not too far off.
The Champions League encounter was the first time United have truly dominated possession this season, in no small part due to the fact that Sir Alex Ferguson sent out three central players (Anderson, Tom Cleverley and Darren Fletcher) to add to the deep-lying Rooney.
There was very little action on either flank—a natural consequence of playing four central midfielders and two strikers. But the midfield still belonged to United.
But it is these kind of games that win trophies. The Red Devils can't keep playing free-form, counter-attacking football and expect to roll to glory.
Sir Alex must have continued faith in the 4-3-3, at least until players like Michael Carrick return to form.
United aren't likely to score more than three a game with the formation, but if given the option, I'm sure the Scotsman would take a 1-0 win over a 3-2 any day of the week.
But now to the point of the article—the best formation and XI for the near future.
When Antonio Valencia returns from injury, he will take the place of Javier Hernandez in one of the three flexible forward roles, most likely pushing further up the pitch.
It is impossible to convey just how effective Paul Scholes has been when he has featured too—when he plays well, United play well, it's as simple as that.
I've gone for the Ginger wizard in the middle of the park over Anderson, though the Brazilian is sure to play an important role in United's title chase somewhere down the line.
Though I'm a big fan of youngster Scott Wootton, the young central defender is not yet ready to claim the place of either Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans at the back. One day soon, though.
Alex Buttner on the other hand, is an absolute must to depose the barnacle Patrice Evra from the starting XI.
The Frenchman has been the weak link for too long, and has to be relegated to a bit-part role.
I also like David de Gea over Anders Lindegaard in goal, and Javier Hernandez over Danny Welbeck in attack.
So there you have it, the best United team to take to St. James' Park this weekend, and for later October clashes too.
It may not produce pretty football, but putting three points on the board is, and always has been the most important concern heading into a busy Winter period.
Who would feature in your best United XI for the near future?
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