Manchester United: Three reasons why the 4-3-3 formation needs to be scrapped

Manchester United must ditch the outdated and stagnant 4-3-3 formation, to get the best out of their attacking talent.


REUTERS/David Klein

Jose Mourinho has been in the game for over seventeen years now and his approach to the game has gradually become parodied as one of extreme conservatism.

To a not insignificant extent, there are indications through his career that this caricature is not a million miles away from the truth: in the re-signing of ex-players, the usual faces in the dugout and the same tactics on the field.

Questions have been raised as to whether the latter is what is currently holding his Manchester United side back. Has Mourinho’s 4-3-3 formation become outdated? Is it a system that restricts Manchester United’s attacking talent. 

Here are three reasons why the formation needs to go:

  1. 1 It is stagnant and outdated


    Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Couldridge

    The 4-3-3 system has always proved successful wherever Mourinho has gone and, in fact, it was a system he introduced to English football with his incredible Chelsea side during the years 2004-2006. 

    The main strength of the formation is its addition of a third man in midfield, adding both defensive protection and also freeing up the other midfielders to get forward. 

    At Manchester United, however, this has failed to be the case. The implementation of the system was meant to free up Paul Pogba from his defensive duties so that he could recapture his form shown at Juventus, something that has not been achieved so far. 

    Instead, the two extra central midfielders continue to drop deep and pick up the ball, causing stagnation in the side's build-up play. 

    The slow and predictable style of football has been hard for United fans to endure and many would welcome a tactical reshuffle on the field. 

  2. 2 Attack, Attack, Attack! has become a thing of the past


    Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers

    The stagnant buildup play from the defence and midfield has inevitably had a negative knock-on effect to the front three in the team who are continuously left isolated up the field. 

    Romelu Lukaku is the perfect example of this. During United matches, the lone striker is always having to drop deep to pick up the ball as his service is almost non-existent. 

    The same can also be applied to both wide players, normally Alexis Sanchez and Juan Mata, who drift inside to collect the ball and subsequently start to impinge on the central midfielders in the middle of the park. 

    The lack of width and free-flowing movement on the field leaves United looking very weak when going forward with the ball and are of no direct threat to their opposition's goal. 

    It must be noted that, of the four goals United have scored this season, two have come from the penalty spot. 

  3. 3 It would offer a chance for the 3-5-2


    REUTERS/David Klein

    The scrapping of the 4-3-3 formation would mean Manchester United would need to implement another system. Mourinho could bring back the 3-5-2 system, a system that utilises all of their strengths. 

    Last season, United put in two of their performances of the campaign using this set-up: against Everton and Arsenal away.

    The three at the back allowed both Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly space on the ball and the wing backs provided efficient enough width on the field to create space for the midfielders and attackers. 

    The system allows United to build up play from the back, letting the attackers to stay forward as opposed to dropping deep. As a result, Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku and Jesse Lingard ran riot in both the games, being granted licence to press and roam around the final third. 

    In what has been a slow start to the season for the Red Devils, they may need to experiment with a new system of football as the current approach is not meeting the club's expectations.

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