Manchester United Diamond Formation
Against Newcastle United, Sir Alex Ferguson did something against the traditions of great United sides. He put out a team with no recognised wingers and played with a diamond in midfield. Michael Carrick played at the base of the diamond, Kagawa and Cleverley as carilleros and Rooney played at the tip. This allowed United to dominate possession and control the tempo of the game. For United fans, the performance against Newcastle United was a welcome relief. After watching their midfield getting dominated and overpowered in almost all of the ‘big’ away games over the past year or so, the performance at Sports Direct Arena (or St. James Park, whichever you prefer) would go a long way in pleasing the Old Trafford faithful who were demanding that United go and buy a central midfielder.
The base of the diamond is probably Carrick’s best position. With two younger and energetic players ahead of him doing all the running, he can do what he does best. Keeping the ball and finding other United players. He is no Paul Scholes; he cant hit 40 yard cross field balls, but then again, not many in world football can do that. For this new look United midfield, his qualities are better suited than Scholes’. Good intelligent positioning, tactical discipline, a good tackle (Easily better than Scholes’) and of course, at times, even his long range passing radar is on target.
“Literally ’shuttlers’, this refers to the two widest players in a diamond midfield, in between a holding midfielder and an attacking playmaker”
Although traditionally Carilleros tend to be energetic players who shuttle up and down to provide the link between and attack and defense, players like Tom Cleverley can also adapt to this role. Making intelligent runs, playing high tempo short passing and connecting well with the tip of the diamond, Cleverley is tailor-made for this role. A lot has been written about what will be Shinji Kagawa’s best role, but the Japanese technician still hasn’t been able to reproduce the form which he showed at Dortmund. And playing this role alongside Cleverley might not be his best role. Antonio Valencia might be another option, he can provide the energy, the width and also protection for the right back. Even the much maligned Anderson’s best attributes seem to fit this position.
Generally when up against a 4-4-2, the player occupying the tip of the diamond is the one with the most amount of time and space. Wayne Rooney was given the freedom to dictate terms in the first 15 minutes against Newcastle; Cabaye and Tiote tried to close down the other midfield and players and the centre-backs were occupied with Van Persie and Welbeck, leaving Rooney free. One may feel that playing Rooney in this position may mean that his predatory skills go waste (he still hasn’t opened his account this season), but as always, there is an option of playing him as a striker with Kagawa as the tip. That seems the most logical option with Anderson/Valencia playing as a carillero.
With a plethora of attacking options available to Sir Alex Ferguson, a diamond in midfield seems the most logical option. Of course, this would mean that the wingers currently at the club would either have to adjust or look for greener pastures somewhere else. Antonio Valencia has the attributes to play as carillero and with a little work on the training field, he can fit very well into the diamond. Ashley Young, as he does for England, can very easily play as a striker or as the tip of the diamond. This leaves us with Nani. The Portuguese winger hasn’t been in great form this season and if one can believe the rumour mill,his days at Old Trafford are numbered.
So for the first time in his 26 years at Old Trafford, we may see Sir Alex put out a team with no wingers. The width has to be provided by the full backs and in Evra and Rafael, who are attacking full backs. Michael Carrick has to cover for them when they go rampaging forward, otherwise teams with width can exploit the gaps left behind. Only time will tell if the diamond will be successful or not; but for the time being, it seems like the only logical solution for United’s midfield problems.