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Saturday, October 22, 2005

Ferguson must scrap the miserable Manchester United 4-5-1

Right Fergie, you’ve tried it. It doesn’t work. It looks terrible. Get rid.Like an ill-fitting garment 4-5-1 isn’t fit for outdoor wear. It betrays my generation of Manchester United fans, brought up on a diet of glorious, counter-attacking 4-4-2.

While there is a certainly inevitability to the Chelski colossus, we certainly won’t catch them by drawing games. So Fergie, liberate your best assets, the peerless three R’s, by playing them in position. Ronaldo on the by-line, so he can one-on-one with the full-back, Rooney just off the front man, so he can either pick up the ball if Ronaldo is out-manned, or create space for Ruud, often successfully marked out as a lone front man, but devastating when he has a little space to work with.

Manchester United won the Champions League playing 4-4-2. Subsequent failures were put down to being found out and 4-5-1 was born to counter this and make United less predictable. I blame lazy sports journalists. The real reason for United’s subsequent failure was the simultaneous decline of Dwight Yorke, lest you forget an absolute star, during the treble season and gorgeous Teddy Sheringham. The former was doing cocaine and lots of pretty young women; the latter was slow to start off with and looked like he was on prozac during his final season with us. These two performed the vital function, in a successful 4-4-2 formation, of bridging the gap between mid-field and attack. If you doubt the importance of this position, consider the difference between Rooney-less England against and Rooney-ful England against Poland.

Everyone used to wish England played like Man Utd. Having watched Tuesday night's game, I now wish Man Und played like England (even though I still consider Eriksson to be a tactical clot).



Blogger T said...

Great article Al. In my capacity as an Arsenal fan I commented last month about the diminshing in fear factor and goals ratio that 4-5-1 brings to Man Utd.

In my opinion Fergie got seduced by Mourihno's success with the system and tried to mimic it. In doing so he betrayed the principles and playability which you talk from the heart about.

When they plays Chelsea in two weeks will it be 4-4-1-1 or 4-5-1? If its the former I'll know he is out for the win. If the latter I know he's intent on merely not losing.

10/22/2005 10:17 pm

Blogger Skippy said...

I dislike the 4-5-1 formation. This formation is set out for a solid outlook, by that, it makes it difficult for the opposition to score. However, it also makes it difficult for you to score.

I heard that United have not scored more than one goal per game at home in the premiership.

Liverpool have scored 5 goals in the premiership all season.

Both teams tinker with the starting 11 and formation.

Chelsea on the other hand, can play 4-5-1, because they have worldclass players.

10/23/2005 12:23 am

Blogger RedsMan said...

Maybe it should be mentioned a number of teams should scrap it too. Charlton seem to deploy it ad hoc, Rommedahl can drop with Bent or stay to the wings. Spurs do not and West Ham do not either. Perhaps if the other side have 4-5-1 or striker injuries persist with one main striker fit, it may well be ideal. Otherwise, it's questionable.

When it is looked on, one considers a 3-man central midfield with two wings, or a straight 5-man midfield, most choose the former, 5 men across the midfield straight can be considered too many. So wingers are deployed, yet for successful Chelsea Duff and Robben have proven useful, with skillful J Cole or SWP deputising. So another team must ask itself whether their wingers in a propsoed 4-5-1 are useful enough to the same effect.

I've suggested Liverpool use 4-4-2 and was told the midfield is outnumbered against a 4-5-1. OK, but that doesn't necessarily mean the 5 will out-maneouvre the 4. Liverpool were playing the 4-5-1 to good until it came against Chelsea the 2nd time.

Another factor is a striker guaranteed to score. I've said that Henry needs another striker and not be alone, though on occasion he has shown that he could practically score on his own merit. If you have a player with strong metal fatigue and pace like Henry, Drogba, Rooney (the type that could beat two defenders towards a one-on-one) and at a scrape VNR, they could probably be comfortable as a lone striker. Otherwise, no.

Then there's the other factors. Strength and focus. Mental and physical strength and awareness of what's around you, reading an action before it happens. Some say Terry has standard pace but against pacy opponents reads their move prior to to keep up with them.

Man Utd have lost an edge where they would score at least 2 on average in a game and the distribution has waned somewhat. Ronaldo needs to release earlier than look to fiddle the opponents vision with quick feet and with Giggs now out for some weeks, Utd need another winger to have the balance of both sides. Today they had 4-4-2 and could have beaten Spurs but lacked the distribution the forwards are searching for, so most of their attacks came from the middle, where Spurs were quite dogged, particularly with Davids.

As it stands, 4-4-2 is better. To backtrack to the 4-5-1 v 4-4-2 above, if the wingers in the 4-5-1 are marked by the full-backs, the lone striker with a central defender, the other defender ready to sweep, that leaves the 4-man midfield in the 4-4-2 side to face the remaining 3 in the 4-5-1 team. So as far as I theorise, those who mentioned the 4-man midfield outnumbered by the 5-man midfield are wrong. If the 5-man midfield remain straight, of course there's an advantage. Otherwise, the 4-4-2 has its advantages. But the formation will work subject to the effort paid to it by the players.

Right now, with injuries (I've mentioned this in my CL article), Utd's 4-4-2 has Park Ji-Sung and Ronaldo on the wings with Fletcher and Smith in between, Rooney back from suspension and VNR. Beardsley is doing well covering and O'Shea at left-back, Ferdinand and Silvestre in central defence. How this probable selection for the trip to Lille would fit into a 4-5-1...well it doesn't, unless Rooney goes on the right, Park helps from central. No, it doesn't fit, and rightly today Sir Alex used the better alternative.


10/23/2005 1:00 am

Blogger SKG said...

it doesn't matter what formation you play as long as you have the players who can play in it. in other words managers like ferguson are picking the 4-5-1 system and failing to realise that actually his players would be far more suited to 4-4-2. benitez has done it and countless other managers have done so too, with little success.

i'm looking forward to the utd v chelsea game in a couple of weeks. i'm sure ferguson will adopt 4-4-2. if not, he really is a brave man.

10/23/2005 9:47 am

Blogger Abdul said...

I could not agree more with what Al has written. United need to go back to basics if they are to challenge Chelsea. When things are not going well, the last thing you need is for the team to be trying new formations and fitting square pegs into round holes.

But I would also highlight the fact that United have had a really bad run with injuries which has also contributed to their faltering pursuit of Chelsea. United simply do not have the depth in thier squad to make up for the loss of key players.

10/25/2005 9:49 am

Blogger Berry said...

Everton played 4-4-2 against Chelsea on Sunday. Maybe unexpexcted from a bottom of the table team against the runnaway leaders but the formation was postive, aggressive and it said Everton are out to play football. It got them a good result (although they got help by some dodgey referring).
It’s time for some managers to take note.

10/25/2005 1:07 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

Time for a number of fans to take note. This was the formation I suggested and was told it would be outnumbered by 4-5-1. I've mentioned elsewhere that the formation may well be fine, it's therefore down to the players.


10/25/2005 1:18 pm


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