Manchester United boss, Jose Mourinho, has tinkered with formations but has settled on one that has brought about the winning run in recent games.
The 4-2-3-1 formation implemented earlier on in the season seems to be forgotten about as the 4-1-4-1 formation has shown to bring stability as well as creativity. Mourinho’s United look more dangerous yet also more difficult to break down in recent games.
One of the former Real Madrid man’s issue when first arriving at the club was how to fit in Ibrahimovic, Rooney, Mata and Mkhitaryan all in the same side. Not to mention the many other players capable of playing the same roles.
Of course the logical and more attacking solution was to play a formation Mourinho has used in his previous clubs, the 4-2-3-1. This allows the wingers to push up higher as well as gives the attacking midfielder full authority to perform as the main man.
However, switching the formation has proven to bring out the best out of most of the players in the squad. Of course some players had to sacrifice, namely Mata being pushed out wide but also Rooney playing on the wings too.
While Mata is still influential, he’s definitely a better player as a number 10. Unfortunately for him it doesn’t allow Pogba space to roam and certainly doesn’t bring out the best of Manchester United’s new record signing.
Rooney out wide hasn’t done as much damage as previously anticipated. The England captain actually tracks back to defend but also looks reinvigorated in that role. If I’m not mistaken, he’s provided Ibrahimovic with more assists than any other player.
Overall though, there’s no doubt this formation has proven a success. There’s still some adapting to do as the 4-1-4-1 means more defending for the wingers as well as central midfielders having to time their runs well.
In the game before West Brom, it was clear that United lacked movement and the key reason for it was that our midfield were static and too worried about having defend or lose their position.
However, the game against West Brom was different completely. It seemed like Pogba and Herrera finally understood their role in the team in this particular formation. Let’s not forget West Brom were in form before United dismantled them with ease.
More importantly though, Herrera and Pogba have to be given credit for their runs that game. Whenever Ibrahimovic dropped, someone ran past him to provide a threat up front. There’s still a little work that needs to be done of course and improved.
One example is that during the game there were a couple times where too many players dropped deep for the ball or too many made runs at the same time so United were either static or all over the place.
This will come with time but the players will need to be allowed to play in this formation consistently in order to full understand it. Early signs are promising though and slowly but surely Mourinho is finding his best XI as well as best formation.