A tactical analysis on how Manchester United may line up after Luke Shaw’s injury at Wembley, following a clash with Dani Carvajal. We will look at how the United boss might prepare his line up without Shaw, and what might really work for Manchester United, with the defender potentially sidelined with a concussion.
The 23-year old English left-back broke a few hearts as he was carried off the field to a standing ovation from the Spanish fans. Spain met England at Wembley on 8th September and the Manchester United full-back was involved in a clash of heads with the Spain and Real Madrid right-back Dani Carvajal. As the English full-back was seen being carried off the pitch, his club manager was also spotted, noting down things; perhaps, quite reasonably.
As far as reports go, Luke Shaw may be available for the Watford clash, but that possibility is highly unlikely. So, if he does not make it onto the team sheet, what other options do Manchester United have?
#1: Going with Basics
Mourinho can still go with his typical 4-3-3 formation with Dalot probably making his debut, or with Young starting again alongside Valencia as the two full-backs.
Pros: A well-balanced squad with a fairly good midfield.
A four-man defence if executed properly can gift Mourinho the type of game (“parking the bus”) he wants and makes his teams play.
Lukaku gets plenty of feeders, including sudden threatening runs from Fred, as we saw in the Spurs game, along with Sanchez and Lingard.
Cons: United have been playing a very high line lately, which exposes De Gea, forcing him to play as a sweeper ‘keeper. Unfortunately, the Spaniard has not excelled in this part of his game, with a pass completion rate of 57.5% last season, compared to 85.3% by his Manchester City counterpart.
The High Line with failure to cover tracks makes the United defence awfully vulnerable, as seen in the loss to Brighton.
#2: Fresh Improvisations
Though the chances of the “Special One” changing his system are unlikely, here is how another man’s tactics might just be the perfect contingency plan for the Red Devils. That man is none other than the recent Italian to leave Stamford Bridge, Antonio Conte. The former Chelsea and Juventus manager might be known for two formations, but here United would profit much more with the 3-5-2 formation, with Sanchez playing as the secondary striker, Lingard playing the No.10 role, with Fred making the forward runs. A player as good as Pogba has to hold the midfield along with Matic, who would play a role similar to Pirlo in Conte’s Juventus. This would give Lukaku the role of a No.9 as well as a feeder to Sanchez.
Pros: A three-man defence would eventually be forced to maintain a low line, assisting De Gea, who is quite extraordinary when playing deep as a stopper.
Lingard will substantially enjoy the No.10 position, a bit of which was seen of him in Russia against Panama. A player who will have a mountain of responsibility will be the Ecuadorian right-back, Antonio Valencia, who will have space to run down the flanks, like in Ferguson’s days – but also to cover his tracks, whenever he is required defensively. The advantage, in this case, is that Valencia gives United an awful lot of pace, where he can look to hurt teams.
Another important aspect of such a formation is its capability to allow the players to press beautifully. The areas around Pogba, Lindelof and Bailly can be defended with proper pressing and surrounding, which is the same with the area to the right of Smalling and Matic, an area covered by Valencia as well, giving the opponent a very narrow passage to score, if at all. And seen as though such a system would not require a high line very often, De Gea would be pretty well covered and well, we know what the Spaniard can do.
Cons: The wingers and full-backs are vested huge responsibilities and errors from them can be costly.
Conte’s Juventus had a good mix of offence and defence whereas his Italy squad had a dominant defensive presence. On the other hand, we also saw Southgate apply the same formation against Spain to press them in the midfield, where the Spaniards primarily play the game. While the full-backs held the midfield comprehensively with Henderson – Alli and Lingard got were allowed enough space to carry the ball forward. Pickford enjoyed staying deep here as well.
However harsh it may sound, United doesn’t really have the quality of defence we saw in Conte’s Italy Days, but the team can still execute a mix of the recent England formation and Conte’s tactics to record a comprehensive victory at Vicarage Road on Saturday.