Much has been made over Manchester United’s form of late, and especially the form of the club’s record signing Paul Pogba. So what is the best way to get the most out of the £89m man?
Much of the debate has centred around Pogba’s ability to play in a midfield two, with his attacking flair being restricted by Jose Mourinho’s need for defensive solidity. The midfielder has supposedly asked Mourinho to play in a midfield three, meaning one of United’s more creative attacking players would have to miss out.
So what is the best shape for United?
Well I’d if your surname is Pogba, then the answer is 4-3-3. However, my surname isn’t Pogba and I’m not so sure. Playing a three man midfield only leaves space for three attacking players, and with Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku almost guaranteed starters, it means that at least three players will miss out, with Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata all fighting for one spot.
Anthony Martial has been the best player out of those four mentioned, but he has often profited from working down the left, a position now seemingly taken by Alexis Sanchez.
So just how do Man United get all of their pegs into their variety of holes in the best way? Well, there is one formation that could be beneficial. 3-4-3 (or 3-4-1-2).
One of Pogba’s problems is his his lack of defensive awareness when given the responsibility to play in a midfield two. If United could play three-at-the-back, this could alleviate some of those responsibilities.
United have a plethora of options available at the back (six if you include Daley Blind) – they have enough numbers to be able to be able to consistently play with three defenders.
That would allow Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw (or Ashley Young) to bomb forward down the flanks with a little more freedom.
In the middle, Nemanja Matic can still be the midfield enforcer in a two alongside Pogba, but the inclusion of the three defenders behind him should provide the Frenchman with more freedom to express his creative and attacking talents.
The system also allows for three of United’s attacking players to play in their preferred positions without being shunted out of place.
If United were to play 3-4-1-2, I’d personally have Alexis Sanchez play in the hole behind Anthony Martial (or Marcus Rashford) and Romelu Lukaku. Both strikers seem to like to drift wide to the left and right respectively and be able to cut onto their stronger foot. This would also allow Alexis Sanchez to cause havoc running through the middle as well as being able to drift wide too!
So why doesn’t Jose Mourinho adopt this tactic? Well, Jose knows best, and 4-2-3-1 has always been his preferred system of choice, and even though he has dabbled with 4-3-3 and three-at-the back at times this season, he always goes back to what he knows.
However, constantly trying to fit square pegs in round holes can be a futile exercise, and with very little to play for in the Premier League, it could be a good time to experiment with his squad. Let’s be honest, it can’t get much worse than the abject performance than was served up to Spurs.