Man Utd are better with a back three but diamond midfield vs Arsenal could unlock Pogba, Van de Beek, Fred and Bruno
HE HAS been rightly criticised at points this season, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer deserves praise after Manchester United dismantled Red Bull Leipzig.
They have now beaten PSG away and Leipzig at home – last year’s Champions league finalists and semi-finalists – in what many described as the ‘Group of Death’.
Ole has used various formations at different points so far this campaign, and on this occasion they beat the current Bundesliga front-runners – who did not lose a single away game in Europe last year – using a midfield diamond with four at the back.
In previous columns I have stated United are better while playing with a back three, and I stand by that claim.
It allows them to stay solid while also posing a threat from wide.
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But what Ole has found with this diamond formation is how to get the best from the likes of Paul Pogba, Fred, Donny van de Beek, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood while also not leaving his defence exposed.
At all times United would have four behind the ball. Nemanja Matic at the base of the diamond, the two centre-backs Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof, and right back Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
And the front players deployed a two-press system. The first press would be high to stop Leipzig playing out from the back – which is where Greenwood’s opener stemmed from.
And if that is broken, the front five then worked hard to get behind the ball and suffocate the space. The intensity of this press and work rate was not there earlier in the season.
Importantly, Ole now has a group of players that are comfortable playing in different positions when needed.
But for the first time in a long time with this diamond 4-1-2-1-2, every player seemed to playing in his preferred position and preferred role, including Paul Pogba.
The issue with Pogba in a 4-2-3-1 is that he is forced to dictate from deep, and when is a No10 he spends far too much time with his back to goal.
In this diamond formation, playing almost as an 8 to the left of midfield, he can drive on the ball at pace, is constantly facing the right way and always looks dangerous.
And up against Arsenal, I would stick with this diamond formation, in particular to use the two centre forwards to split their centre backs who have been proven to lack pace.
With Greenwood or Marcus Rashford drifting wide before cutting back inside at speed with the ball, it will cause the Gunners all sorts of problems.
I can see Mikel Arteta setting up to hit United on the counter at Old Trafford, but if Ole’s men deploy this two-press with accuracy and intensity, they will force Arsenal into errors.
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