Opinion: Manchester United must stick with a three-man defence
Photo by Simon Stacpoole via Getty Images

Manchester United have had a difficult start to the season, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer got his tactics spot on against Liverpool.

After being criticised for sticking with a 4-2-3-1 formation, the United manager sprung a tactical surprise and opted for a 3-4-1-2 system at Old Trafford.

The switch worked wonders as United upset the visitors' game plan and stifled their forwards.

Solskjaer preserved with this formation against Partizan Belgrade and it can prove to be a useful tactic for United going forward. 

Building a strong foundation

After promoting Axel Tuanzebe into the first team and signing Harry Maguire from Leicester in the summer, United are now top heavy in defence. 

The Red Devils currently have six centre-backs at the club but Maguire and Victor Lindelof have become Solskjaer's first choice pairing.

United may have only conceded nine league goals so far this season but a 3-4-1-2 formation can provide even more defensive security.

Lindelof, Maguire and Tuanzebe are United's best three centre backs and this combination would be a nightmare for opposing forwards. 

Also they each have great technical ability and this formation encourages them to be adventurous in possession and bring the ball out from defence. 

Most of United's centre backs have experience with this formation and Maguire excelled in a back three with England during the 2018 World Cup. 

Fixing the midfield problem

United's midfield has been their biggest issue so far this season but this new formation could help solve that problem. 

Scott McTominay and Fred have both struggled on the ball and they are unable to dictate games or make many line-breaking passes. 

However, in a 3-4-1-2 formation the third centre back will be responsible for starting the build-up play from deep. 

When Paul Pogba returns from injury he will have more freedom and less defensive responsibilities with a back three behind him. 

The Frenchman has been ineffective in a pivot so far this season, but when he moves into the final third a centre back can step into midfield and replace him. 

United also have a lack of natural wingers at the club so using wing backs is a brilliant alternative. 

They would provide some much-needed width as Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw will be able to get forward and press higher up the pitch.  

Helping the forwards flourish

Marcus Rashford has struggled to lead the line for United so far this season, but he thrived in the new system against Liverpool.

The 21-year-old isn't an out-and-out No 9 just yet, and he has only scored two goals from open play in his last 20 appearances. 

Rashford's best performances have come in a front two because he doesn't have to play with his back to goal, and he is able to run into the channels.  

United's two strikers combined brilliantly against Liverpool as Daniel James split wide, ran into space and crossed for Rashford to score. 

Anthony Martial's return from injury also gives Solskjaer another option upfront.

A partnership of Martial and Rashford would be exciting to watch and dangerous on the counter-attack plus it might just solve United's goalscoring problems. 

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