Manchester United see off Tottenham
Manchester United’s clash with Tottenham was of huge importance to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
A 5-0 drubbing at the hands of bitter rivals, Liverpool, coupled with a string of poor results/performances elsewhere looked set to spell the end of the Norwegian’s stint in the Old Trafford dugout.
Following the Liverpool tie, it was reported that Solskjaer had three games to save his job. The first of these was the clash with Spurs on Saturday evening.
Tottenham have not been the most impressive side under Nuno Espirito Santo, but had still managed to notch five wins from nine league ties before Saturday.
So, with this game expected to be an easier test than Liverpool, nothing but a win would have appeased the Man United faithful.
And, when all was said and done in north London, Manchester United were able to come away with a 3-0 victory.
For the game, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer opted to switch up formations, lining his side out in a 3-5-2 with two strikers and Bruno Fernandes the central attacking midfielder.
The system, following an early adaptation period, seemed to work well and made Man United a much more solid unit through the middle.
And, after picking up such a big win against Spurs, one would assume that Ole will opt for this formation on a regular basis going forward.
This, though, is likely to spell good news for some Man United players and bad news for others.
101 have taken a look at the three biggest winners and three biggest losers from United’s change in system below:
Three biggest winners from Manchester United’s formation change
Perhaps the most obvious winner from Man United’s formation change has been Edinson Cavani.
The Uruguayan had a stellar end to 2020/21 and, after penning a year contract extension, it was expected that we would see Cavani kick on this term.
However, Man United signed Cristiano Ronaldo late in the summer window. Given the stature of Ronaldo, it is obviously quite hard for OGS to drop him, see the Everton draw as a great example.
This, in turn, severely limited Cavani’s chances in Man United’s one-striker system. The 34-year-old had started just one game for Man United all season before Saturday.
However, when deployed up top against Spurs, Cavani was at his best. The South American, as usual, ran himself ragged and would make up for the lack of movement from his strike partner, Ronaldo.
The pair would also combine well for Cavani’s goal and, if they can keep producing like they did against Tottenham, we should be seeing a lot more of the veteran pair up front going forward.
CAVANI MAKES IT TWO 🏹
A perfectly timed pass from Ronaldo to set up Edinson Cavani for a sweet finish to double United’s lead
📺 Watch reaction live on Sky Sports Premier League pic.twitter.com/fzxY5LCySe
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) October 30, 2021
Another big winner from the Red Devils’ switch to a 3-5-2 was Scott McTominay. It has been obvious for a while now that central midfield has been United’s weakest area.
However, with a back three/five behind them, ‘McFred’ looked a much more stable pairing.
McTominay in particular was seriously impressive, working hard to win the ball back, carrying the ball from deep and posting a very impressive passing accuracy across 90 minutes.
Scott McTominay’s game by numbers vs. Spurs:
95% pass accuracy
8 attempted tackles
4 successful tackles
3 attempted dribbles
3 successful dribbles
3 attempted long passes
3 successful long passes
3 fouls suffered
Box-to-box brilliance. 🏴 pic.twitter.com/fzJFF0L2UL
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) October 30, 2021
It was also revealed that Scott McTominay won 11 duels against the Lilywhites – the most any Manchester United midfielder has won in a league game all season.
Though he has not always been the most reliable defensive midfielder in a 4-2-3-1, it is clear McTominay is well-suited to a three at the back system and will likely work well playing alongside a sitting defensive midfielder in this system going forward, should United eventually acquire one.
Bruno Fernandes has never really struggled for form over long periods of his Manchester United stint.
However, the Portuguese still looks to have benefited from the change of system.
As already discussed, United have generally looked fairly weak through the middle in a 4-2-3-1. This, in turn, would lead to Fernandes being forced to do more defensive work.
However, with a more solid base behind him, Fernandes can now, as shown vs Spurs, dedicate more of his time to the creative aspect of his game, which is obviously a big boost for the Manchester outfit.
Bruno Fernandes (3) was the only player to create more than one chance in the first half against Tottenham.
And he topped it off with a superb assist for Cristiano. 🅰️ pic.twitter.com/JmLJ09uCNf
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 30, 2021
Three biggest losers from Manchester United’s formation change
Even before the Tottenham game, Jadon Sancho’s Manchester United career looked to be on the fritz.
Signed for £73m from Borussia Dortmund over the summer, it was expected that Sancho would be one of the standout performers at Man United this season.
However, the winger had been struggling for any sort of run in the team and is yet to register a single goal or assist for the Reds.
Now, with United playing a 3-5-2, there is seemingly no room for a winger like Sancho. Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood should still get minutes as they can play up top in the two.
But Sancho is not a striker and it also seems unlikely that he would be used as a right-wing-back.
Of course, if Antonio Conte came in and switched to a 3-4-3, Sancho would likely impress as part of the front-three, much like he had done at BVB. But for the time being, there looks to be no place for Sancho.
Jesse Lingard is in a similar situation to Jadon Sancho. Yes, he can play as the central CAM in this new system.
But that spot will likely be occupied by Bruno Fernandes 95 per cent of the time.
So, with no wide places available for Lingard to fit into, it looks as though the Englishman is set to remain a fringe star for now.
Donny van de Beek
Donny van Beek’s future at Man United already looked to be up in the air after over a year of failing to start on a regular basis.
And now, after Solskjaer switched system and still left VDB on the bench, it has become clear that the Dutchman will never be a regular feature at Old Trafford under the Norwegian.
So, with the winter window fast approaching, it is probably best he start looking for a new club.