Manchester United switching to a 4-4-2 to accomodate Falcao, Di Maria...

[Picture] Manchester United switching to a 4-4-2 to accomodate Falcao, Di Maria and Herrera?


The arrival of Louis van Gaal as manager was expected to bring about a revolution at Manchester United and it has certainly proven to be the case so far.

From a complete overhaul of the system, to a host of world class players coming in over the last few months, United have undergone a major surgery and it is clear that the Red Devils are desperate to make a return to the top as soon as possible.

Van Gaal’s 3-5-2 system does not seem a good fit for United

One of the first changes that van Gaal brought about at United was his implementation of the 3-5-2 formation, which proved to be so successful with the Netherlands national team during the World Cup.

However, early signs suggest that such a system will not work for United and the Dutch manager may well have to use a different formation all together, in order to effectively integrate the players who are currently at his disposal.

Therefore, the 4-4-2 shape seems better suited for United than a 3-5-2 and here is an analysis of whether or not such a change of system will bring about a change in fortunes for the Red Devils.


Manchester United thrived in a 4-4-2 formation for decades under Sir Alex Ferguson, but given the degradation in the quality of the players in recent years, the system has proven to be less effective – as former manager David Moyes can testify.

Nevertheless, after having spent so much to recruit the services of the likes of Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao and Ander Herrera among others, United could now well revert back to a 4-4-2 effectively.


United historically have been known for their dangerous attacks emanating from the wings and now, with the arrival of arguably the best winger in the world in Angel Di Maria, as well as the presence of players such as Antonio Valencia, Adnan Januzaj and Ashley Young, the Red Devils could once again prove to be a potent threat from the wide positions.

It is no secret that the dangerous strike force consisting of Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Radamel Falcao will thrive on good delivery from the wings and reverting back to a 4-4-2 system should bring about a more fluent United in terms of attack.

The arrival of Di Maria can make United a potent threat from the wings once again

Apart from effectiveness from the wings, a 4-4-2 shape is also more suited in terms of getting the ball from defence to attack without running too much of a risk of losing possession.

United have looked woefully bereft of ideas in attack during their first three matches in the 3-5-2 formation and have relied on long balls from the back to break down opposition defences.

Juan Mata has been grossly underused in a 3-5-2 formation

While the long ball tactic may work on occasions, the usually physical defences in the Premier League will have no problems whatsoever in dealing with such a form of attack. The 3-5-2 system has also rendered a creative player such as Juan Mata almost non-existent and it is surely criminal to use a system which does not get the best out of such a classy playmaker.

With 4-4-2 though, United will be allowed to play the ball out of defence into attack without having to resort to long ball tactics and also help get the best out of pass masters such as Juan Mata, Michael Carrick and Ander Herrera by giving them more time and freedom on the ball to pick out passes.

The shaky United defence may be better suited to a flat back four

On the defensive aspect, United will still look a bit suspect despite reverting back to a four man backline.  However, the likes of Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling do not look at all comfortable playing in a three man defence and the traditional flat back four will surely be more to their liking.

With Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw and Rafael set to be back in contention as well, United should improve at the back as the season progresses.


While 4-4-2 ooks well suited for United, it is not without its disadvantage – with the most glaring one being their lack of an inspirational box to box player in midfield.

Usually, United always seem to possess a leader at the middle of the park who is not afraid to get their foot stuck in – such as Bryan Robson, Roy Keane, Nicky Butt among others. Recently though, United have been missing a player in that mould.

Admittedly, Carrick and Ander Herrera are top class footballers, but they do not possess the physical stature that is required to control the midfield and in a 4-4-2 system, there is a danger that the Red Devils could get overrun by the top teams.

United currently do not possess an inspirational figure in midfield such as Roy Keane

Arturo Vidal would have been a perfect fit for United and while one might argue that Daley Blind or Marouane Fellaini could also fulfill the role effectively, the United midfield does not seem all that convincing in comparison to the likes of Manchester City or Chelsea.

As a consequence of their lack of a quality defensive midfielder, the United backline also looks in danger of being exposed. The presence of a player in the mould of Keane, Butt or even Vidal would have helped in providing the back four protection – in turn making the lives of defenders so much easier.

However, now with no one currently present in the United squad who can provide such a shield, the already weak looking United defence can be ripped apart by even a decent attack.

The likes of Phil Jones have been distinctly average

The presence of the quality players such as Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand meant that United were able to achieve success over the years despite never really replacing Roy Keane since his departure back in 2005.

But, it is easy to see that the likes of Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Tyler Blackett are nowhere in the same class as Vidic or Ferdinand and the lack of a quality operator in midfield, as well as a shaky set of defenders, could prove to be the Achilles Heel which might prevent United from truly getting back to their best in a 4-4-2 system.


While only a change in formation will not automatically elevate United into title contenders, a 4-4-2 formation looks much more suited than a 3-5-2 and if the players at van Gaal’s disposal play to their maximum potential – a top four finish at the least, will be well within the realms of possibility.



  1. This jounalistic obsession with formations is crass.Let coaches do their jobs and in the case of LVG , he has nothing to prove he’s been there seen all and conquered. Personally l think Antonio Valencia is not up to scratch defensively and his crossing is pathetic can’t wait for Rafael’s return

  2. LVG should play 433 formation,cos is the best for us now.defenders refeal Jones rojo shaw midfielder blind herrera mata Rooney left wing,di maria right wing then facao central

  3. LVG should play 4 3 3 in the likes of Evans, Rojo, Rapheal, Shaw. Midfield Blind, Herrera, Mata. Attakers Di maria(L) Rooney(R) Falcao(C)

  4. Manchester united possible line up for the next game is 4:4:2 rafeal, Jones, rojo, Luke sh at the defence,januzaj,blind,Herrera, di maria at the midfield, remaden & Rooney at the attacking position.

  5. 4 2 2 will be the best, please januzaj should always be included in any formation, before what happened to pogba will repeat its self, he got a lot in him. Just give him time

  6. man u 4 life. LVG is a top class but I think 4 3 3 will best suit man utd. shaw, Rojo, Jones, Rafael for DF, Blind DMf, Herrera CMF, Mata OMF, Di maria left wing, Rooney or Januzaj right wing, falcao or van persie forward.

  7. Man utd is still the best whether we play 1 top and 9 back or no defence and 10 strikers…chelshit and the rest arent our size

  8. lvg is a talented coach, he knows what he is doing. He belived in his 352 formation we all know that and we know that he have baught players that fit in that formation, so let him deside. We should not accomodate all the players in just a half the likes of rooney herrera blind rojo and di maria, what about if the get injurd, who whould u replace them with, with less compition.

  9. 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 Valencia Jones Rojo Shaw at the back, Blind Herrera Mata in the middle, Januzaj right Di Marie left Wayne Van or Falcao on top. That’s if manu wanna play a 4-3-3 system. Utilize the wings plz. Wayne u need to step up, u r our capital n out #10 play like one.

  10. 4-5-1 or 4-4-2 can only solve man utd problem play rafeal jones rojo shaw @d back, played di maria herrera blind mata @midfied, rooney and falcao since van persie hav gat injury

  11. Must man u play 4 3 3, there is a berra chance usin d 442….shaw, rojo, jones, valencia, dimaria @ left wing and rafael @ right wing mid field, blind @ DMF and Mata plays a CMF while falcao and rooney pairs up front. I think Rafael has greater things to achieve in Man U, he has d drive, d pace, d agility and moreover he is still young with a team spirit in him. He can play wings with di maria along side.