Systems, Formations and Philosophies: The future for Manchester United

Three games down, thirty-five to go, and just two points on the board so far. Not what we anticipated at all. However there’s a long way to go and following our record breaking transfer window, United will be aiming to move up the table soon. But what’s the best way forward?

Manchester United fans have been treated to several decades of attacking, free flowing and successful swashbuckling football. From Sir Matt Busby through to Sir Alex Ferguson, our attacking style and mentality have brought success and enjoyment through the Old Trafford turnstiles.

David Moyes then came in with his own style and ideas, and unfortunately for him, it just didn’t work out. Now we have Louis van Gaal at the helm. His record of success throughout his career speaks for itself that he is the right man to steer Manchester United back to the top.

The vessel has had a £150m+ refit, with a lot of the old furniture being tossed overboard, whilst some passengers have been allowed to disembark.

Upon his arrival, Van Gaal spoke of inheriting an ‘unbalanced’ squad. He was right. Years of neglect and strange purchases left a top heavy scenario, whereas the midfield and defence have been left woefully understaffed.

Vidic, Ferdinand and Evra left in the close season leaving van Gaal with little choice to adopt a new formation for the start of the campaign.

Much has been made of our 3-5-2 system. In theory, it’s fantastic. Provides defensive cover and allows the majority of our top players to start in their preferred positions.

However, the fact we have picked up just 2 points from games against Swansea, Sunderland and Burnley, as well as being smashed 4-0 by MK Dons, has left some questioning the long term viability of the 3-5-2 formation.

Starting XI v Burnley:


Injuries have taken their toll on this already topsy turvy squad, with 10 players residing in the treatment room, whilst new signing Marcos Rojo being ineligible due to visa issues.

It’s left us with Ashley Young as a wing back and Tyler Blackett, on loan at Championship side Birmingham City last year, as a centre back.

Next up, United have QPR at home, and the Old Trafford crowd will be expectant.

Transfer Deadline day is usually a non event for United. The exit door is usually held open for our youngsters to be loaned out whereas the entrance to Carrington sees very little activity. Nobody would have dreamed to imagine what would happen this year. The eyes of the world watching as Radamel Falcao became our sixth summer signing, following Daley Blind into the club. Superb aquisition, but even more weight to our already top heavy front line. How on earth will the boss fit them all in?

The first thing should be to move on from the 3-5-2. Journalists have been banging on about how it’s LVGs preferred system…WRONG! It’s was the system he utilised at the World Cup following the injury to Kevin Strootman. But the Dutchman has stated his preferred system is 4-3-3.

It’s a system that United fans should be familiar with. Cast your minds back to 2007/8. The Champions League final had Carrick Scholes and Hargreaves in midfield, with Rooney, Tevez and Ronaldo in a flexible front three.

Could United go back to something like this with Rooney, van Persie and Falcao opening the hatches and firing the canons across the bows of the Premier League?


The problem with the above set up, is that two of the 3 strikers are sacrificed in less than ideal positions. It could work, as it did back in 2007/8, but there are other options. We all know how Rooney has a habit of throwing his toys out of the pram when he doesn’t get what he wants.

Alternatively, van Gaal could adopt a more narrow version of the 4-3-3…more of a 4-3-1-2 if you will. Utilising Di Maria and Herrera’s movement in midfield, whilst Daley Blind can sit and hold whilst United attack, will also allow the full backs to press on, in the typically united fashion.


It allows Falcao and van Persie to be up front, with Rooney in the hole behind where he seems to thrive.

Either of these formations, with Di Maria providing pace and dynamism from midfield, and Blind providing much needed cover for the defence, should fit in with with van Gaal’s much coveted Philosophy. It should bring back the fast, free flowing, attacking and exciting football that has been absent from Old Traffords hallowed turf.

But hang on!

What about Mata? £37.5m and doesn’t even make the starting XI? In either of these two systems….not for me.

In the first system, there is no position for him. He showed last season that he isn’t effective out wide, whereas he’s never played in central midfield.

In the second system, there is a position for him. Sadly it has Rooney’s name on it. Rooney has been made Captain and is more than likely, one of the first names on the team sheet. The only way you could accommodate Mata would be to push Rooney up front and dropping Falcao or van Persie. It’s an option, and it’s something that could work if someone was out of form or injured.

But sadly they are the only scenarios where I could find a place for him, and it’s sad. Mata has joined the club and seems to really appreciate playing for us. However his signing was always a strange one. He struggled to fit in last year when everyone was fit, and I fear it will be the same this time round.

Time will tell to see how United will accommodate their new star purchases.

What’s your thoughts on these systems? Do you have another preference? Feel free to comment below.

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About Ben 128 Articles
27 year old football writer from South Yorkshire. United fan and Season Ticket holder in the Sir Alex Ferguson stand.