Should Manchester United switch to a 3-3-1-3?

Manchester United has lost two of their four Premier League matches so far, having narrowly escaped a defeat one of the remaining two. They face Brighton next, and Erik ten Hag will want his team to get back to winning ways from that match itself.

However, for that to happen, the existing structure probably needs to be shaken up a bit. It is quite clear that their 4-2-3-1 formation is not working quite well. Hence, ten Hag should probably think of making some adjustments to it.

An extra defensive layer needs to be added

Manchester United should probably switch to a 3-3-1-3 formation, which is not entirely dissimilar to the 3-2-2-3 adopted by Manchester City. United need an extra layer of protection in front of their defense to stem the flow of goals being conceded.

With Sofyan Amrabat’s signing, they will have an extra man in the deep midfield. If Casemiro and Christian Eriksen play alongside Amrabat just in front of the back-three, it will give them that extra bit of protection. Neither Eriksen nor Mason Mount is adept enough defensively to play in a double-pivot in a 4-2-3-1.

It will also enable them to guard the flanks better, with an additional holding midfielder being able to stop the flow of attacks through the flanks quite early. United’s wingers are not quite adept defensively and hence, the above tactic could be used to give their defence some extra protection.

It was quite evident that United’s full backs needed support against Arsenal, when Gabriel Martinelli put a lot of pressure through the left flank for the Gunners. Therefore, ten Hag could think of switching to a back-three comprising Lisandro Martinez, Victor Lindelof and Raphaël Varane and have the trio of holding midfielders ahead of them.

Playing long balls from deep

Playing in that formation will also mean that Manchester United will have two out of their three midfielders who are quite adept at playing the long ball forward. At the moment, none of the United center backs look very comfortable playing the long pass forward.

As Manchester United is at their best when they go into counter-attacks, they need a steady supply of long passes from deep inside their own half.

Having Casemiro and Eriksen doing that and letting Amrabat taking care of solely the defensive work, could be really beneficial for them. There have been calls to drop Eriksen from the playing eleven, but United probably needs him because of his ability to play long passes.

Moreover, the 3-3-1-3 will allow Bruno Fernandes play in a free role ahead of the defensive set-up. It means that he will be free to drop back and venture forward almost at will. Fernandes is a very mobile player, and the above change should increase his effectiveness further.

Also, as stated earlier, it will mean that the wingers will not have too many defensive responsibilities. With the supply of long balls to them assured, Marcus Rashford and Antony will have the chance to catch the opposition defense off guard through quick counter-attacks.

It is about time ten Hag decided to do away with the 4-2-3-1 that has not been helping the team’s cause much. It remains to be seen whether he takes a call about that. Now that he seems to have gotten a decent No. 9, it is time for his team to bounce back.

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