Manchester United have had the worst possible start to the season under new manager Erik ten Hag. They opened the season with losses to Brighton and Brentford, and face Liverpool on Matchday 3.
The fact they have conceded 6 goals in two matches while scoring just once makes the scenario even bleaker for the Red Devils. However, it’s still early and things can be improved for the 20-time English champions.
While there have been talks about how an ownership change can benefit the club by building a new stadium or improving the training facilities, some basic changes on the pitch can get the ball rolling for United.
United have been playing with their customary 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 formation this season with undesirable results. But what if they were to change their system? Here are the three reasons why Manchester United can switch to a 3-5-2 formation for better results.
More protection inside Manchester United’s own half
Playing with three centre-backs would give United more protection inside their own half and could lend more confidence to the likes of Harry Maguire and Lisandro Martinez. United conceded the first two goals against Brentford by meekly losing possession inside their own half. Yes, a couple of howlers by David de Gea led to those goals, but it cannot be denied United often lacked steel in the defensive third and looked shaky while defending.
Adding Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly to the defensive set-up would give United the much needed confidence in defending and it would also mean Fred or Scott McTominay would be able to play with a more relaxed mind in midfield. It would also allow the defensive midfielder, whoever it may be, to venture into attack more frequently. Lindelof’s inclusion would also mean United would be better off while defending aerial balls from set-pieces.
Utilizing the overlapping ability of the full-backs
United have played Diogo Dalot as the right-back in the first two matches and the young Portuguese fullback looked quite comfortable venturing forward. His overlapping and crossing abilities can be put to good use should United decide to play him as the right wingback in a 3-5-2.
The same is true about Tyrell Malacia, who replaced Luke Shaw against Brentford in the second half and looked expeditious in his overlaps down the left flank. Shaw looked off-color in the first two matches and was partially responsible for one of the Brentford goals.
It remains to be seen whether Ten Hag risks playing Malacia against a strong team like Liverpool or opts for the safer option with Shaw. Even if Shaw plays, his overlapping abilities can be put to good use by playing him as the left wing-back.
Dealing with the indifferent form of the wingers
United’s wingers, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, had a couple of forgettable outings against Brighton and Brentford. Both of them struggled to penetrate into the opposition penalty box and Ten Hag should think of benching them against Liverpool.
Anthony Martial, who resumed training this week, should probably feature in the attack alongside Cristiano Ronaldo. It would enable Ronaldo to play quick one-twos with Martial to break open the opposition defense. Martial looked in good form during pre-season friendlies and deserves a chance in the starting 11.
Even if Martial is not fit enough to start, Rashford can play as a centre-forward alongside Ronaldo and can benefit from through balls played by Bruno Fernandes and Christian Eriksen from midfield. United have not been able to make too many attacking moves through the middle of the park in their first two matches and they should start doing so against the Scousers.