It has been a chaotic summer for Manchester United, with the latest chapter of chaos coming in Brighton, as Jose Mourinho’s side slipped to an unexpected 3-2 defeat against Brighton.
Jose Mourinho has spent the summer moaning about a lack of players at his disposal, either due to injuries or being unavailable following their involvement in the World Cup. He also moaned about a lack of new arrivals, with Ed Woodward having missed out on signing a centre-back and a right-winger.
Having watched United’s insipid display against Brighton, and looking at their current squad, Jose Mourinho could be best served to switch to a 3-5-2 formation in order to get the best out of their lopsided squad.
Here are five reasons why Jose Mourinho should make the change…
Provide more cover for United’s poor central defenders
Jose Mourinho’s desire to sign a new centre-back stemmed from the current offering available in his squad. Put simply, they are not good enough.
Eric Bailly has been often described as the best centre-back at the club, and while that is probably true, his performance at Brighton on Sunday highlighted his weaknesses. Chris Smalling is probably the most commanding centre-half, but has clear and obvious limitations on the ball, and has the turning circle of the moon when he wants to pass to his defensive partner.
Elsewhere, there is Phil Jones who is made of glass, and when he is fit, he is so keen to throw his body on the line, that he injures himself again. There is also Victor Lindelof who has struggled to make an impression and lacks a physical presence, while Marcos Rojo simply isn’t good enough.
A shift to a back three would allow for more cover amongst the defenders and help to mask some of the obvious deficiencies in that department.
Make the most of the full-backs
Last season, Manchester United‘s first choice full-backs were a pair of 33-year-old converted wingers in the form of Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young. While Luke Shaw has started the season as the first choice left-back, his defensive qualities are still questionable.
A move to a back three would free up some (not all of them, it is Jose Mourinho in the dugout after all) of their defensive duties and allow them to focus on what all three do best – attack.
Free up Pogba from defensive duties
It wouldn’t be an article about Manchester United these days without a mention of the £89 million man, but a switch to a back three could free Paul Pogba from his defensive shackles.
With Nemanja Matic (or Andreas Pereira) willing to sit deep and protect the defence, Pogba and Fred would be free to join the attack and link the midfield to the attack, one of the main criticisms of United under Jose Mourinho, which is often solved by trying to pump the ball long to Romelu Lukaku.
Solve United’s lack of balance on the wings
Pretty much since the days of Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United haven’t had a natural right winger at the club. Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata are often asked to do a job out on the right, and occasionally Marcus Rashford, but they are only just ‘doing a job’.
While many were turning their noses up at being linked with Chelsea winger Willian, somebody like that would have been perfect to give United’s front three more balance.
Moving to a 3-5-2 system would lessen the need for the likes of Mata to ‘do a job’ on the right by allowing players to play in their more natural positions. It would also avoid having to play Anthony Martial on the left, with the Frenchman having looked like he couldn’t have been less interested if he tried against Brighton on Sunday.
Allow Sanchez to play through the middle
It has been a difficult eight months for Alexis Sanchez since switching Arsenal for Manchester United, with the Chilean so far seeming to be the latest player to suffer under the weight of Man Utd’s number 7 shirt.
However, it is early days for the 29-year-old, who looked pretty decent during pre-season and could really benefit from having the first summer off in nine years after Chile failed to qualify for the World Cup.
Despite being predominantly used as a left winger, his most prolific season was the 2016/17 campaign, when he played as a central striker, scoring 30 goals in 51 appearances.
A switch to a 3-5-2 would allow him to play closer to Romelu Lukaku, while still being able to drop into deeper areas and drift out wide to link up play like he likes to do, while also offering runners in behind the defence.
Potential Manchester United starting lineup
However, one thing that has to change is the attitude of both the players and management, with United fans on the cusp of losing patience with the negative brand of football that they have been forced to put up with under Jose Mourinho.
Failure, they can accept, a lack of effort they can not.