Manchester United beat Wolverhampton Wanderers in their opening Premier League match of the 2023-24 season at Old Trafford. However, Erik ten Hag’s team then lost 0-2 to Tottenham Hotspur in their second match before righting the course after a Nottingham Forest 3-2 result, overturning a 0-2 deficit to earn their second win of the season.
With new signings like Mason Mount, Rasmus Hojlund and Andre Onana this season, United will like to seriously challenge for the league title that has eluded them for a decade now. They have spent a lot if money in the transfer market during the last few seasons. However, they will have to sort out some issues before that.
The Mason Mount Conundrum
Mount, the 24-year-old English midfielder, was signed from Chelsea for an amount of 55 million GBP. Mount has almost 200 matches under his belt for Chelsea and also appeared in United’s matches against Wolves and Tottenham.
However, he started alongside Casemiro in the double pivot in United’s 4-2-3-1, which is not his natural position. As a result, he often ventured forward, leaving Casemiro as the lone defensive midfielder.
Ten Hag had to introduce Scott McTominay in the second half to reinforce his team’s defensive set-up against Wolves.
Erik ten Hag Formation Changes and Solutions
Now, Manchester United playing in a 4-1-4-1 formation could be an option, but a team has to be adept in playing a lot of passes in the final third to keep retaining possession while playing in that formation, so that the lone defensive midfielder does not have to be under pressure too often.
Moreover, Bruno Fernandes needs more space inside the opposition half to keep playing his probing forward passes freely, which will be only possible if he plays as a No. 10.
Manchester United are still not quite proficient in playing short passes frequently in the final third and hence, a 4-2-3-1 suits them better. Playing someone like Christian Eriksen alongside Casemiro will mean that the Brazilian will get some support and United will also have a player capable of playing long passes from deep to launch their counter-attacks. It happened against Nottingham Forest, as United’s passing in the final third showing marked improvement.
Erik Ten Hag trying to get a refund for Mason Mount? 😂😂 pic.twitter.com/6hE4tO8ued
— ⚽️442oons⚽️ (@442oons) August 22, 2023
What will happen if Rasmus Hojlund starts?
Hojlund, the Danish striker that is nursing an injury, did not start in United’s first two matches, as ten Hag is not in favour of rushing him to play. However, if he gets selected to play, that will mean that Rashford will have to start on the left flank, which will mean that Mount cannot start there, too. Mount has played in the wings for Chelsea at times, but quite understandably Rashford will be preferred to play there, as he did so and excelled against Nottingham Forest.
Hence, Mount could only start as one of the two defensive midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 with Hojlund as the No.9. However, as stated before, that formation will effectively become 4-1-4-1 with Mount in the side.
Is it an Eriksen or Mount Question?
In such a scenario, ten Hag will have to choose between Eriksen and Mount before finalizing his starting eleven. It remains to be seen as to which option the Dutch manager goes for in United’s upcoming matches. He might be tempted to give his new signings a fair amount of opportunity before deciding otherwise.