The Story of Alex Ferguson's Manchester United This Season in 5 Tactics Boards

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterMay 6, 2013

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 22:  Sir Alex Ferguson, manager of Manchester United celebrates victory and winning the Premier League title after the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Aston Villa at Old Trafford on April 22, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

It's been a topsy-turvy season for Manchester United tactically, and it's not often we can say that.

Sir Alex Ferguson has been known to be a little stubborn in moving players around and bending to current trends, but this time treated us to true tactical reactivity.

In a new-style series at B/R, we take a look at the Red Devils' season in five tactics boards.

1. The Addition of Shinji Kagawa

Signing Japanese international Kagawa in the summer for a cool sum of £17 million (via The Daily Mail) prompted fervent speculation: Are Manchester United finally switching to the in-vogue 4-2-3-1 formation?

It made perfect sense on paper, as United needed to catch up on the European scene and Kagawa had thrived in that very system as a No. 10 at Borussia Dortmund.

In the end, we were all pretty convinced it was shaping up to be a 4-2-3-1. After all, why sign a player who prospers playing as a No. 10 and not use him there?

2. Two Nine-and-a-Halves

And of course, once we were all convinced, Sir Alex Ferguson trolls everyone by playing a 4-4-2.

But it's not even close to the footballing formation that has become synonymous with Britain, no, it's a free-flowing, complex system that involves two forwards who aren't really true forwards.

Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie formed a deadly partnership interchanging and dropping in and out of the forward line, and the speed and variety Manchester United began to attack was downright frightening.

After a slow start at Goodison Park, United went on a rampage; They've won 27 games this season and have a chance to make it 29. Dominant.

3. Flummoxing Alan Pardew

Manchester United traveled to St. James' Park on October 7 and won 3-0 in convincing fashion.

Sir Alex took the headlines by fielding a 4-4-2 diamond formation, with Rooney in the No. 10 position, Kagawa in a flat position on the left and Danny Welbeck up top with RvP.

They dominated possession of the ball in the opening 30 minutes and bagged three early strikes; Pardew was left powerless, with his nullifying changes coming very, very late.

This was one of the first signs of real tactical reactivity on the part of Ferguson.

4. Game-planning for Xabi Alonso and Cristiano Ronaldo

 Manchester United's exit in the UEFA Champions League is a sore point for fans, but neutrals were very impressed with the measures Sir Alex took to nullify Real Madrid's main threats.

Stop Alonso, stop Madrid: That's the mantra many subscribe to, and the Red Devils instructed Welbeck to man-mark the Spaniard and stop him from dictating.

Phil Jones was used in the first leg to box Ronaldo out wide and stop him from coming into the game, and many feel it was only injuries and dubious decisions that saw United European campaign come to an end.

5. Rooney's Future?

Throughout the season, Rooney took on sporadic roles in the centre of midfield.

He was already playing as a No. 10 for long periods—particularly on international duty—as his natural thirst for the ball took him deeper, and in the title-winning game against Aston Villa he put in a super showing alongside Michael Carrick.

He was rested for United's clash with Chelsea on Sunday, but came on in a midfield role once more.

This summer will prove uncomfortable for Rooney considering the amount of speculation that will be thrown his way, but the most pertinent question regarding his future is not which club he belongs to, but which position.


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