Manchester United surrendered meekly to Tottenham Hotspur 0-2 in their Premier League match last Saturday. United now have three points from their two matches, having somehow overcome Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0 in their opening game.
Erik ten Hag’s team has not shown impressive form despite making a number of signings before the start of the season. They played with a 4-2-3-1 in each of their first two games, but Mason Mount has hardly inspired confidence in his two appearances for them.
Ten Hag might think of changing his preferred formation to a 4-3-2-1 formation for the time being to help his team improve their performance.
The Benefits of Changing Formation for Erik ten Hag
Having extra protection in the midfield
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It has become necessary for United to have extra protection in the midfield, given Casemiro has often lacked support there. Hence, Ten Hag could think of playing Bruno Fernandes and Mount along with Casemiro in a three-man midfield.
It will provide the 31-year-old Brazilian with extra support in the midfield and also allow Mount and Fernandes to provide some width through the left and right flanks whenever United have the ball. Eriksen alone is not equipped enough defensively to provide support to Casemiro. Hence, Fernandes needs to shoulder some defensive responsibility and play as a No. 8 alongside
However, Mount has not shown any defensive qualities till now that can inspire confidence. At the same time, Fernandes also needs to take up some additional defensive responsibility, given the current scenario. He will anyway miss the match against Nottingham Forest owing to an injury he picked up against Tottenham.
Therefore, it will be a chance for ten Hag to start with Christian Eriksen. However, Eriksen alone is probably not equipped enough defensively to play as a pure defensive midfielder. So, he will need support from Bruno Fernandes.
Hence, both of them should drop down a little to help Casemiro and also provide the attacking players with long passes. In this regard, Eriksen should prove to be a more useful player than Mount because of his passing range.
Having better ball-retention in the final third
It will be better if United play Facundo Pellistri, who was impressive during his short stay on the pitch against Tottenham, and Jadon Sancho just behind the dangerous Marcus Rashford in their new formation, as Antonio Garnacho has failed to impress as a left winger.
Having Pellistri and Sancho just behind Rashford will ensure better ball retention in the final third and the chances of an early recovery of the ball will become better. Antony and Garnacho were both substituted in the second half against Tottenham and might be benched in United’s next match.
It will also allow Rashford to move to the left flank at times to offer himself the space he usually yearns for. Rashford could then cut in from the left flank occasionally and Pellistri could use his good dribbling skills to move forwards through tight spaces.
Playing in this formation, however, will mean that United might lack some width upfront at times. It will have to be provided by the overlapping fullbacks and Rashford switching to they left flank occasionally. Besides, Mount and Fernandes might also move to the flanks at times to provide the necessary width.