Manchester United need to unleash new formation to maintain Premier League bid – Steven Railston

Change is constant in life, it is inevitable and it’s perhaps time for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to embrace change at Manchester United.

Solskjaer is meticulous in his approach to man-management, he’s previously admitted he views that aspect of his role as ‘an art or a science’ and it’s obvious that he’s created a harmonious environment at Carrington among United’s first-team stars.

That’s something his predecessor Jose Mourinho failed to do – see Paul Pogba and Luke Shaw – and that ultimately proved his undoing.

In the modern-day game, though, possessing world-class tactical nous is required to manage at an elite level and to be responsible for leading a club of United’s stature, and Solskjaer’s credentials to successfully operate in that area have always been scrutinised.

Swipes and criticism aimed at Solskjaer’s tactical know-how are often lazy and unwarranted, as the Norwegian has regularly made astute decisions throughout games which have influenced contests in United’s favour.

However, his recent comments don’t bode well.

“Sometimes we look too much into all the intricacies and it’s passion, it’s desire – who wants to win the ball? Which one of the striker has the desire to get on the end of crosses,” Solskjaer said earlier this month, but contrary to his comments, it’s actually manoeuvring the intricacies in football that can give you the winning edge – elite sport is decided on fine margins.

The 4-2-3-1 formation has defined Solskjaer’s almost three-year reign at United, but last season’s displays combined with recent performances raise doubts over whether that approach is conducive to ending the club’s overdue wait for a Premier League title.

The limitations of Fred, Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay – the latter has been the pick of the bunch this season – playing in the double pivot are well documented and the system has often forced Pogba to play deep, which restricts his impact on games.

Solskjaer’s persistence with the 4-2-3-1 is incredibly risk-averse and, while he understandably wants to offer his defence adequate protection against strong opposition, he needs to remember his promise of bringing back the ‘Manchester United’ way.

The United boss has characterised the club’s DNA as ‘taking the game to the opposition, always believing in yourself’ but United are often instead found failing to seize the initiative in fixtures – Aston Villa looked more dangerous than United at the weekend.

Fred and McTominay played in the double pivot against Villa and they were both relatively poor, failing to control the game and struggling to orchestrate spells of possession for United, so on the face of it Solskjaer has nothing to lose by changing formation.

Do United need to change formation? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

While there are concerns on United’s defensive solidity if playing in a 4-3-3, the formation would place a greater emphasis on attack, which could negate that downside and it would also bring out the best in Pogba while also freeing up the left-wing role.

Attack can sometimes be the strongest form of defence and Solskjaer boasts a wealth of attacking talent at his disposal.

If he doesn’t take advantage of that, and tweak his side tactically this season, the pressure on the boss could increase.

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