You win the game if you score more than your opponents. This simplest rule of football has been showcased in almost every other game this season by Manchester United. Concede in the first 20 minutes and then hit back to score more than your opponents has been the story so far. Where would United have been this season had it not been for the form of Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck? We were forgetting Hernandez, and suddenly, he starts against Braga and scores a brace. This gives Fergie a welcome headache going into the double header against Chelsea. Whom should he leave out?
Or is there a way to accommodate all four of them in one starting XI? There is, if Fergie reverts to the 4-2-3-1 shape. This will be analyzed on the assumption that United continue with their defensive problems unsolved, the emphasis being on attack. Let us examine how.
The Back Four
This has been United’s weakest link so far. Vidic spends more time injured than playing, and Ferdinand isn’t getting any younger (forming black players’ unions and parties as well). Evra has forgotten how to defend and lacks pace. United’s best player in their first choice back four has been Rafael, but his defending seems suspect. United have experimented heavily with their back four, even trying Carrick at center half. No wonder they look shaky there. But expect the defense to get much better and tighter once Phil Jones and Chris Smalling return and Alex Buttner starts giving Evra a run for his worth.
The Double Pivot
Most readers by now would know the role of the double pivot. These two provide the perfect transition between the back four and the attacking trio. One of them does the dirty work of winning the ball back and making tackles, in some cases cutting out menacing through balls with his positional sense. The other provides the transition between defense and attack by receiving passes from defense and making short but effective passes to link up with the attacking four. Duties may be shared among the two as well.
So who is ideally suited for this role in the United setup?
One player who should walk into this is role Paul Scholes for his passing skills, playing the role of a deep lying playmaker, making short, but crucial passes. In the long term, he may not be the solution, but he should suffice for this season at least. Kagawa, Carrick, and Cleverley can be his replacements – either in the long term, or in the form of in-game substitutions. The anchorman role in the double pivot should be Darren Fletcher once he returns, as he does that best. He should make that role his own. As of now, Carrick and Cleverley can try to fill that role. Thus any combination of Scholes, Carrick, Kagawa, Cleverly, and Fletcher looks decent enough for me.
The Attacking Trio and the Striker
As you may guessed by now, these roles are exclusively for Rooney, van Persie, Hernandez and Welbeck. Rooney has been supreme, playing in the hole behind the striker, and Welbeck can drift inside from the left. Van Persie can be deployed on the right with a goal poacher in Chicarito leading the line, with the provision for the latter two to exchange roles as and when they want. Thus we have Welbeck on the left, Rooney in the center and RVP or Chicarito alternating on the right and as the front man.
This mix and match between four world class strikers, constantly interchanging positions will make them impossible to mark – a defender’s nightmare. If they can somehow develop an understanding, this will be the best attack partnership ever. Four roaming strikers, exchanging positions at will, drawing the opposition center halves with them, creating space in the opposition’s defense for each other to exploit. Mouth watering!
The best starting XI for Man Utd with this 4-2-3-1 setup would thus be:
de Gea or Lindegaard, Rafael, Vidic (Smalling), Ferdinand (Jones), Evra (Buttner), Scholes, Carrick, Welbeck, Rooney, Chicarito, van Persie.
Nani, Anderson, Valencia. Giggs and Young can expect substitute roles in the wider positions of the attacking trio. Nani has been making noises of discontent and given his recent performances, it would be best for him to move on. Anderson can meanwhile, expect to fight for a role in the double pivot.
Your thoughts on United’s 4-2-3-1 ???