Formations and Tactics for United under Moyes

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Sir Alex Ferguson to David Moyes, the new era has begun, change from [4-4-2] to [4-4-1-1/4-2-3-1]?

Every manager has their own style of football, great managers adapt to the needs, but rarely their preferred formation changes. Ferguson used various formations during his time, but 4-4-2 was the foundation on how he managed his team both on and off the field [transfer market].

Similarly, judging by Moyes’ time at Everton, it is quite apparent that he is a big advocate of 4-4-1-1/4-2-3-1, and that does not imply a manager will use the same formation at every club he manages. But looking at how United lined up in the pre-season matches with one man up front supported by a man behind and with wingers on either side, it is safe to say that 4-4-1-1 will be the likely formation Manchester United might play. But this could dramatically change at times depending on the availability of players and strength of the opposition. In 2007/08 season, Fergie used a 4-3-3 with Rooney-Ronaldo-Tevez and a 4-2-4 in 2008/09 with the addition of Berbatov. It was all about adapting to the changes of modern football and making the best use of the players available to the team.

ImageStarting XI (Credit:


The Everton days will tell you that Moyes is not a great fan of flying wingers, he rather prefers to go with central wingers and also the high defensive line will be a change from our earlier styles. In this way, the system is more open and attack minded than the traditional 4-4-2 of English football. While attacking, the formation works like a 4-2-3-1 but reverts back to 4-5-1 when defending. The main aspect of his play is about maintaining the same intensity throughout the game, and this requires a great level of fitness but knowing how the training methods have been so far, we can be confident that the players could well be ready for the challenge once the season starts.


ImageAttack (Credit:

The man up front is an obvious choice with Robin van Persie and the three players slotting behind him and in front of the central midfield will be the key. Marouane Fellaini and Tim Cahill were the players primarily used in the attacking midfield role at Everton under Moyes. If he looks for a similar kind of player with physical and aerial approach, then Welbeck would be the ideal choice. The selection of the players in those three positions will also depend on how he is going to strategize the play.

Last season, the Toffees played with a dominating left side providing assists and goals, and with the right side used in offering width to the system. If that is to be the case, Valencia will be the most likely candidate to take up the right-wing position with Kagawa playing on the left.

With the quality of players available at Manchester United, the possible scenario will be an interchangeable three. The options will be Kagawa, Welbeck, Zaha, Nani, Valencia and Rooney (if he stays). Swapping wings every now and then can cause problems to any opposition, and the movement of the second striker correspondingly towards the side of play will be vital in creating chances and scoring goals.

The central midfielders of Moyes’ blues used to sit deep, spraying passes to the flanks and short passes around the central area. They are more of playmakers, passing into players who are free and thereby initiating attacks.

The importance of full backs cannot be undermined; Baines has been a key figure of the Everton side for some years now. Full backs help in providing width to the play and also can get in crosses for the front four to play on. The extraordinarily successful pairing of Baines and Pienaar is an example, they are responsible for 41% of the total Everton chances created in 2012/13 season. Fellaini and Cahill were not creative players; they were more of simple passers with the ability to score goals. Everton have always relied on the full backs and the central wingers in creating chances for the team. Evra and Rafael excel when it comes to attacking, so as far as the attacking part is concerned, Moyes might not face much of a problem.


ImageDefence (Credit:

When defending, the players will be asked to narrow down and adapt a 4-5-1 formation, and that is how Everton operated. Whenever they lost the ball, the front four are used to pressure the opponents and the work of winning the ball back is given to the central midfielders. Carrick is a ball winner though not many would advocate this, can help in the midfield along with the hard worker in Cleverley. With the full backs thronging in during attacks, it is essential that the two midfielders sit tight and cover up the defence.

The chances of Welbeck taking up the attacking midfielder role under Moyes is high because of the fact that he tracks back exceptionally well and also has the patience and physicality to defend. Fellaini played that role exceedingly well for Everton last season, tracking back whenever the wingers or midfielders were out of position and also was used as the one taking care of the opposition’s deep-lying playmaker. It was the same with Tim Cahill during his eight years under Moyes.

One thing that will be a cause of concern is the left back position. Evra is great going forward but definitely lacks the pace to fall back when needed. The wingers will be asked to support the full backs while defending, this is where a Valencia or a Welbeck could pip others for the winger position with their ability to defend and maintain same energy level throughout the game. But this wouldn’t be much of a problem for Moyes at United, as he would have a wide variety of quality players on the bench to come in and run out the opposition when needed.


Only a Rooney departure followed by a direct replacement with an out-and-out striker like Ibrahimovic or Lewandowski can make this happen (No way).


Moyes with a 4-3-3 formation sounds bizarre. To play with such a formation, United need Rooney to stay and also sign one of Ronaldo or Bale. Manchester United and the transfer window don’t work that way.

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