Bearing in mind that Romelu Lukaku and Victor Lindelof have already joined the club, in a recent press conference Jose Mourinho has, perhaps unwillingly, given us some insight in terms of what his plans are for the coming season.
Just like the previous summer transfer window, Mou has been astonishingly honest about the club’s shopping plans. He went as far as to even mention the names of some of his targets. Morata, Matic, Sanchez…the man is not hiding anything. And why should he?
On the one hand it can be bad as other teams will have more time to plan their battles against England’s biggest club, but on the other the fans are enjoying this new approach by their still relatively new manager which allows them to guess the formations and the tactical tweaks that their beloved boss will make.
Whether he likes it or not, Mourinho will need to steal a trick or two from his more successful colleagues. Antonio Conte has won the Premier League in his debut season with a three-defender system, while Wenger’s Arsenal enjoyed a rebirth by the end of last campaign when they did the same. Perhaps for Wenger’s side it wasn’t enough to win them a top 4 spot, but they were still ahead of United on the Premier League table.
The point of having three center backs instead of two is not about being more defensive. Under contrary, the aim is usually to be allowed another player further up the field in what is the team’s lacking area (according to the coach). Take Pochettino’s Tottenham for example. Poch switched to a 3-4-2-1 by utilizing Eric Dier as a defender and in turn he was allowed to deploy Dele Alli in a more attacking role up front. The result was a spectacular one considering that Alli recorded 22 goals and 13 assists in all competitions as the extra man in the attacking midfield area.
Mourinho wants more goals. United were one of the worst teams scoring-wise and much of the creating responsibility will be given to Paul Pogba, who should be United’s Dele Alli next season as he will be given the NO.10 role. In order for the transition to go along smoothly, United will need to sign a midfielder capable of acting as a defensive minded box-to-box man who will preferably be left footed as he’ll likely be playing on the left side.
Recent media reports have suggested that Nemanja Matic will be that player as he fits all the requirements. At 194cm, he’s just as tall as Maroune Fellaini, but also as technical and as able to read the game as Michael Carrick.
A Jose Mourinho classic and his preferred formation from last season as well. What will be the change this time around? – Well, apart from the acquisition of a striker, a defender and a midfielder, Jose will feel that Woodward’s job is only 75% done if the club somehow doesn’t secure the services of Croatian winger Ivan Perisic. United fans needn’t worry though, as recent reports claim that serious advancements have been made and the transfer should be announced before Inter head off to China on tour.
In a 4-2-3-1, Perisic will act as a defensive winger and a wide targetman. He is practically made for pressing the ball both high and low and he’s as close as it gets to the ideal counter attacking player. When United enjoy possession, he will attempt to run inside without the ball and accept key passes from the midfielders’ efforts and he’ll also be a danger from crosses coming from the right. Should he be deployed in a way that fits his style, there is little chance that Perisic won’t score at least 15 goals and that’s why Mourinho is urging his board to spend more than €50 million on him.
However they start and whatever they’ve planned, it seems United are destined to return to this tactic a few times by the season’s end. New captain Michael Carrick acting as a number 6 gives the team some sort of stability which no other squad player can provide. Defensively, United usually do better when they enjoy higher possession of the ball as this system allows them to advance through the zones more safely. Naturally, as the extra attacking midfielder is gone, United will need to rely on the individual effort of players such as Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial(if he stays), Henrikh Mkhitaryan or Jesse Lingard.
Solving the attacking segment enigma of this formation has proven to be very difficult for many world class managers and Mourinho has not made himself to be the exeption. The slow transition gives their opponents the needed time to regroup and organize usually into two extremely dense lines which leaves United’s attack with little options but to pass sideways and end their attack with a cross. Here, the robustness and heading ability of Romelu Lukaku will come in handy for Mourinho. The €85 million striker has scored 6 headers in his previous season with Everton and should they need a similar impact from the bench in this segment, both Perisic and Fellaini will provide great advantage for United in the opponent’s box.
Give us your thoughts on how United will look like in 2017/18 campaign!