Connect in the back of the net

For the first time since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, there is real optimism amongst Manchester United fans going into the new season.

They have one of the most successful managers in the world at the helm and have signed one of the best players in Paul Pogba.

Mourinho has had plenty of success in the Premier League and abroad with his favoured system, which could best be described as either 4-5-1 or 4-2-3-1.


The 4-2-3-1 seems the most suitable

At United, it should be more clearly the latter given the players he will have at his disposal and the general culture of the club which favours attacking football.

There are more doubts about the players he will use than the system he will employ and it’s certainly hard to see him veering from a four across the back nor would it really benefit the team to play with three centre-backs and wing-backs.

They were quite good at the back last season with Chris Smalling marshalling the defence and they should be solid defensively again with Eric Bailly likely to partner him.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will surely occupy the number 9 role and is well used to being the lone striker so there shouldn’t be any problems there, but it is what happens with the midfield 5 where Mourinho is going to have to use all his tactical nous to get the shape of the team right.

The problem is that most of the players who could play there are very attack-minded and that is at odds with a typical Mourinho side where everyone is expected to put a real shift in for the team.


The out and out holding midfielder

For that reason, he will need to utilise one man as an out and out holding central midfielder.

Morgan Schneiderlin is perhaps best equipped to play the role, but needs to be given less licence to roam this season with Paul Pogba alongside him.

The Frenchman is at his best as a box-to-box midfielder so whoever partners him in central midfield will need to be very disciplined indeed and will have a key role to play.

Wayne Rooney will occupy the number 10 role behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but that does leave United a little short on pace in the central attacking areas so Mourinho would be wise to employ his two wide players in a slightly narrower fashion and allow the likes of Anthony Martial, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and perhaps Marcus Rashford the licence to cut inside and make darts into the box rather than hugging the touchline.


Another alternative

Another option would be to go with a more orthodox 4-3-3 and follow a similar sort of approach to the one Barcelona employ.

The problem with that is that it becomes quite hard to find a place in the team for Wayne Rooney, although Jose Mourinho is no stranger to making ruthless calls and it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that he could axe his captain if he doesn’t start the season well.

The overall balance of the team may be better if they opted for that system.

It would allow Paul Pogba to play as the most forward thinking of three central midfielders and have a greater impact on the game while the likes of Martial and Rashford could be pushed into more natural forward positions, which they would be suited to and their pace should be a good complement to the trickery and technical quality of Ibrahimovic.


The Rashford factor

Mourinho is highly unlikely to go 4-3-3 from the off, but there are circumstances that could push him to playing that way as the season goes on.

Certainly, if Rashford continues his rapid rise then he could forge his way into this side on a regular basis and if United don’t get off to a great start with the Portuguese coach’s preferred formation, the temptation to change it around may be there.


Written by Mark Sochon

Follow Mark on Twitter @tikitakagol

Check out his brilliant blog on all things La Liga, Tiki-Taka-Gol!

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