Man United’s Solution To Lingering Midfield Problem Has Been There All Along

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Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer consoles Bruno Fernandes after he missed a penalty in United's 1-0 defeat by Aston Villa
Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer consoles Bruno Fernandes after he missed a penalty in United's 1-0 defeat by Aston Villa

Manchester United has had a tough run in the past couple of weeks thanks to a lack of consistency in their midfield, but their most recent fixture presented a viable option moving forward.

In their comeback victory against Atalanta on Wednesday, October 20, the Red Devils found themselves starting from the bottom of a 2-0 hole that they themselves dug in after a disastrous first-half performance.

However, team captain Harry Maguire, Marcus Rashford and Cristiano Ronaldo provided the heroics in the second half to bring home an almost improbable 3-2 victory.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer opted to bring back his most trusted midfielder pairing in Fred and Scott McTominay to play a formation he dubbed as the 4-2-4 prior to the match.

It is a highly-unusual formation for a team loaded with talented midfielders as it puts all the pressure on two guys, Fred and McTominay, to cover wide parts of the pitch.

But Solskjaer trotted out a more balanced formation in the second half of the match, leading to the comeback sequence.

Midfield magician Bruno Fernandes was positioned just behind the striking core of Ronaldo, Rashford and Greenwood to provide help on both the offensive and defensive ends, playing close to a 4-3-3 formation.

There were times when the Red Devils would have Rashford or Greenwood drop back to Fernandes’ area to show a more conventional 4-2-3-1 formation, popularized in Spain in the 1990s and early 2000s.

With Ronaldo being the center-forward and both Rashford and Greenwood in the wings, Fernandes would have more options to make a play and have better reads of the Atalanta offense.

The minor Fernandes adjustment would turn out to be the major key to victory as he ended the night with two assists.

Rashford’s goal at the 53rd minute came after Fernandes intercepted a back pass in the midfield, hitting a through ball with surgical precision using the outside of his boot to give Rashford space to operate.

His second assist would be a bit more of a miracle after crossing the ball that looked like it was meant for Edinson Cavani but ended up bouncing to the captain Maguire for the equalizer.

Giving Fernandes room to operate should ideally be in Solskjaer’s game plan moving forward as it gives Manchester United more room to breathe as a whole.

Manchester United fans now hope that Solskjaer will give this formation a shot when they welcome Liverpool to Old Trafford on Sunday, October 24.

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