Nearly the past ten years of Manchester United football has been dominated by the use of a 4-4-2 offense. Slight modifications have been changed from game to game as per necessity for Sir Alex Ferguson. However, for the large part of it he holds true to the English games’ traditional style.
This season could possibly see a major change to that philosophy for the foreseeable future. The addition of Shinji Kagawa prompts the use of a primary center attacking midfielder. If that were the only major twist to the club’s starting 11, it would likely not change things all too much.
However, it is the addition of former Arsenal striker Robin van Persie that makes all difference in the world. The Dutch attacker is a striker that prefers playing up front on his own. His style of play being much like that of Fernando Torres during his prime at Liverpool where he was a one man wrecking crew for opposing defenses.
Van Persie also has another part to his attacking skill set, his eye for the set-up pass. You would think that this trait would make him an ideal striker to play with a partner upfront, but that does not hold true. His ability to find and make that pass comes from a desire and tendency to drop into the midfield and assist in building the attack.
Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney has many of the same traits as his new teammate. Employing the two of them leading the line would likely create a few problems. A conventional United 4-4-2 would not be the best way to utilize the combination of Rooney and van Persie as it would shackle the two of them in set positions rather than allowing them the flexibility to move between the midfield and attack.
Rather than doing so, employing a 4-5-1 or 4-1-2-3 (however you like to label it) would give both Rooney and van Persie more freedom to drift forward or back into the midfield. Van Persie would be the lead of the formation with Nani to his left and Antonio Valencia to his right while Rooney and Shinji Kagawa slot in for support as two central attacking midfielders.
The midfield would then be anchored by either a healthy and fit Darren Fletcher or Michael Carrick if a holding midfielder was preferred. You could also go with veteran experience from the deep midfield with either Paul Scholes or Ryan Giggs, depending on the opponents or game situational strategy.
Between Rooney, Kagawa and van Persie it would play out by design as a triangle of creativity that drove the attack forward. The width created from Valencia and Nani would allow the midfield to work and open up space for the outside players to have lanes to cut through the defense.
Likewise, the threat of Rooney and/or van Persie would draw much attention from the defense allowing Kagawa to have the most room to work his magic and create the pass for either of the others to converge on-goal.
Sir Alex Ferguson has all the talent he truly needs to wrestle the title back from Manchester City. We will see first-hand against Everton on Monday just what his new charges are made of. The match is likely to see both the debut of Kagawa and van Persie in what will be a rematch of the 2011-12 English Premier League’s match of the season.