The Manchester United side that played against Liverpool on Sunday looked so different from the previous ones we’ve seen from the start of this season and the reason is that Ole Gunnar switched to a trio at the back.

Using three centre-backs flanked by Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Ashley Young boosted the team’s defensive stance against a dangerous Liverpool which found it hard to penetrate the defence.

Seeing how well the formation worked, we might be looking at a change in play for Manchester United, and this could be the answer to the problems the team has been facing for a while now.

According to his post-match press conference as seen on the Manchester United website, Ole Gunnar hinted that the formation could be here to stay.

“It can develop into something because we’ve got the players to play with three at the back.

“It allows more width in the team than we’ve had.

“Of course, it’s a risk when you play with three at the back against their [Liverpool] front three, which is a great front three. But it’s a risk we had to take. We did it to create chances for ourselves. I thought the goal was the perfect example of how we wanted the game to pan out.

“We’re better when we attack quickly – no dilly-dallying on the ball.

“Play the ball forward – it doesn’t have to be a counter-attack. I spoke about it before the game: take more risks, be braver. It doesn’t matter if you lose the ball up there because you can win it back.

“In the Champions League final, Liverpool got a penalty after 40 seconds from hooking the ball in behind [off a player’s arm]. It’s about playing the right type of football and playing direct helped us.”

Does a centre-back trio improve Manchester United game?

It obviously does. One doesn’t need to look too long at Manchester United’s game to see that the team got better and even livelier on the counter-attack. The reason is not far-fetched. The Red Devils regularly took advantage of the blistering pace of Daniel James and Marcus Rashford down the channels with the two youngsters combining brilliantly for the team’s opening goal in the 36th minute.

The direct play makes the attacking force even more threatening, taking the game to the opponents’ half without the fear of losing possession and with their mindset on quickly recovering the ball should they lose it.

Another advantage of this formation is that it allowed Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Ashley Young to come out wide and stay there long enough, standing in the path of the opponent and preventing an accurate cross.

As much as a back-five makes the defence better and stronger, it boosts the attacking force as well. The wingers playing wide can always support the midfield and cover-up for lapses should the need ever arise.


Playing the way they did on Sunday against Liverpool will help the team boost confidence. The formation is not one without disadvantages but with the right approach, Manchester United can always use it to their advantage and get the right results from it.