As the preseason begins and the chances of Sneijder joining the Red Devils looking ever more bleak, it is time to begin predictions for the coming Premier League season.
With the acquisitions of Ashley Young, Phil Jones and David De Gea, and retirements of Edwin van Der Sar and Paul Scholes, many are wondering what the new Manchester United will look like.
Since no one knows what goes on in the masterful head of Sir Alex Ferguson, here are 10 formations that United could use in the coming 2011-12 season.
Possible XI: De Gea, Evra, Vidic, Ferdinand, Fabio, Young, Carrick, Giggs, Valencia, Rooney, Hernandez
The most common formation used by Sir Alex last season, the 4-4-2 is certainly a mainstay. Evra, Vidic, and Ferdinand have certainly established themselves as some of the best defenders in the EPL, if not, the world. Therefore, they certainly garner a place in almost any starting XI United can put out.
Right-back is more up in the air. While newly signed 19-year-old Phil Jones is capable of playing on the flank, the position is really a toss-up between the two Da Silva twins. Both are similar players who are great at going forward, but still need to improve their defensive capabilities. That being said, I think this could be a really big season for the pair of Brazilians.
The midfield has significant depth, and thus can be altered in many ways. For the 4-4-2, I like having Valencia and Young on the wings. Rooney certainly produced better when Valencia is on the pitch, and Young (and his crossing ability,) will be extremely productive for the front two. Carrick and Giggs performed decently well last season, with Giggs embracing more of a playmaker style.
There is little question who should make up the front two pair. Rooney is world class, and Hernandez looks poised to continue to be a defense’s nightmare.
Possible XI: De Gea, Evra, Vidic, Ferdinand, Rafael, Fletcher, Young, Nani, Valencia, Rooney, Hernandez
A more attacking minded formation, the 4-1-3-2 would allow the United midfield to create tons of attacking options. With Young and Valencia providing width, this formation could open up for either Giggs or Nani to focus on the attack.
Nani’s creativity worked extremely well last year, with the Portuguese international racking up 10 goals and 21 assists in all competitions last year. Sir Alex has tried the midfielder in a more central attacking role before, and this may be the formation for Nani to really embrace it.
The holding midfielder is extremely important, as the three offensive-minded midfielders will have a harder time tracking back. Fletcher, if he recovers well from this lengthy battle for fitness, could perform this duty. Jones has also been used in a similar manner at Blackburn.
Possible XI: De Gea, Evra, Vidic, Ferdinand, Fabio, Jones, Young, Carrick, Giggs, Valencia, Rooney
In times when offense is not the key issue, the 4-1-4-1 could pop its head. Though I don’t expect Sir Alex would use this formation to start, there might be instances in the second half of matches where will United look to hold a lead.
By replacing an out-and-out forward such as Chicharito with a holding midfielder such as Jones, United will be able to compact their defense, and more easily close out the opposition.
Possible XI: De Gea, Evra, Vidic, Ferdinand, Rafael, Fletcher, Carrick, Nani, Rooney, Young, Berbatov
Popular in Spanish teams, the 4-2-3-1 offers two deep-lying midfielders and three attacking midfielders, yet only relies on one, solitary striker.
A Fletcher-Carrick pair could work well for the defensive midfield, while simultaneously offering decent long-range passing. The lack of play-making ability will keep Jones out of this lineup.
The attacking midfield will be charged with developing most of the attack. Creative wing players such as Nani and Young will pose threats when cutting in from the wings, while Rooney could take on a central attacking midfielder/withdrawn striker role.
In terms of a solitary striker, Berbatov is a great asset. Although he has seemingly fallen out of favor with the manager, the Bulgarian plays extremely well with his back to goal. Let us not forget he was joint-leading scorer last EPL season, and poses a danger to most defenses.
Possible XI: De Gea, Evra, Vidic, Ferdinand, Fabio, Fletcher, Jones, Carrick, Giggs, Rooney, Hernandez
The 4-3-2-1 offers superb cover in front of the back-line with three more central midfielders. A combination of Fletcher, Carrick and Jones would be hard to penetrate when moving down the center.
The single attacking midfielder will act as the main source of supply for the two forwards. Giggs flourished in the latter part of the season with his passing in the final third, and thus could be the one to deliver passes to the Rooney/Hernandez pair.
However, the 4-3-1-2 severely lacks width, and with a plethora of fantastic wide players, it is unlikely we will see United line up in this formation.
Possible XI: De Gea, Evra, Vidic, Ferdinand, Rafael, Carrick, Jones, Giggs, Young, Rooney, Nani
Extremely common in recent times, many teams are trying to emulate a Barcelona style 4-3-3. Though I highly doubt a great competitor like Sir Alex Ferguson would copy the Barca style, United do have the squad to line up in the similar formation.
The biggest issue comes in the midfield. For the 4-3-3 to work, the three central players must be of world-class quality. Unfortunately for United, a Carrick/Jones/Giggs pairing is leagues behind Xavi/Busquets/Iniesta.
Possible XI: De Gea, Evra, Vidic, Ferdinand, Jones, Rafael, Fletcher, Carrick, Park, Fabio, Berbatov
We’ve seen United do it in the past, so it is a distinct possibility. The 4-5-1 packs the midfield, stifling the opposition.
Jones can fill in at the right-back position, allowing the more offensive-minded Da Silva twins to operate on the wings. Stuffing the central midfield with hardworking players such as Park, Fletcher and Carrick will make the United defense extremely tight.
The 4-5-1 leaves the solitary striker with little support, forcing someone like Berbatov to work their magic alone.
If a big game comes around and United are without Rooney and Hernandez, don’t be surprised to see this formation.
Possible XI: De Gea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Smalling, Park, Fletcher, Carrick, Valencia, Rooney, Giggs, Hernandez
The most attacking-minded formation on the list, this formation would probably only emerge in experimental situations. Nonetheless, it’s fun to speculate, so here we go.
The back three will have to be tight as glue, so Ferdinand and Vidic will probably lean towards adding the seasoned Smalling over newcomer Jones.
Due to the lack of cover in the defense, the four midfielders will have to be hard-working and track back often; an ideal situation for Park.
The attacking midfielders will have to provide crisp, on-target passes to set up most of the attacking opportunities. Giggs demonstrated this ability last year, as has Rooney.
The lone forward will have to be mobile, and continuously make darting runs. Luckily, Hernandez fits the bill.
Possible XI: De Gea, Vidic, Ferdinand, Vidic, Rafael, Jones, Carrick, Rooney, Young, Hernandez, Nani
Popularized my Jose Mourinho in Inter Milan’s treble-winning season, the 4-2-1-3 relies heavily on the Trequartista, much as Sneijder has done for Inter.
With any two out of Jones/Carrick/Fletcher covering the defensive midfield, the playmaker role could be taken over by Rooney, who has demonstrated he has the necessary skills.
Though it would take Rooney out of the attack, it leaves a pace-filled front three with the like of Young, Chicharito and Nani the ability to run at defenses.
Possible XI: De Gea, Fabio, Ferdinand, Vidic, Smalling, Rafael, Fletcher, Carrick, Park, Rooney, Hernandez
The 5-3-2 will pack the defense, forming a pretty solid barrier in front of the net. With the addition of a Fletcher/Carrick/Park midfield, going up the center of the pitch would be nearly impossible.
Unfortunately, packing the defense will charge the wing-backs with the responsibility of providing all of the width and much of the service for the front two. Luckily, the da Silva’s are young and seemingly up to the challenge.
With that being said, I must willingly confess that this formation will unlikely be used.
Leave a comment describing which formation you like best, or any you think I missed!