There’s talk that *gasp* Sir Alex “Wingery-Wingman-Wing-Lover” Ferguson may be opting for a midfield diamond as a permanent working option, in order to include the effective Shinji Kagawa in an ideal position in the hole with Rooney outside and RvP up front. Writes Guardian scribe Jamie Jackson:
Manchester United take on Braga on Tuesday evening in the Champions League with thoughts of a style revolution swirling around Sir Alex Ferguson’s head. United have maximum points as they entertain the club that finished third last season in the Portuguese Primeira Liga and Ferguson is considering whether to utilise a new-found diamond formation. He said: “If it turns out as a consistent team selection from me, playing a diamond, it is revolutionary because we’re going against our history.”
This is remarkable for a number of reasons, beyond the fact it flies in the face of United’s addiction to effective wide players. First, because it’s very, very rare that you hear Sir Alex speak eloquently about formation and tactics in press conferences. Not through any fault of his own of course; he can only respond to what the salivating, knuckle-dragging press puts in front of him.
But the fact his remarks have already spawned two wholesale op-eds (here’s the other) is an encouraging sign of the times.
Second, it seems to be acknowledgment from Ferguson that what works in the Premier League doesn’t necessarily work in Europe. Roberto Mancini has been lambasted for similar thinking, as when, in seeming panic, he switched to a 3-5-2 in the second half against Borussia Dortmund in a Champions League fixture to turn things around. In the end, they were unable to break down a very narrow side.
The idea here is that Premier League leaders now seem to understand that Europe has moved on from relying on width and pace on the counter. What works in England doesn’t necessarily work midweek on the continent. As with last week in United’s 4-2-3-1 against Stoke, a midfield three behind an advanced striker enhances a more narrow creative interplay between them, and for them to switch positions in short order if need be to confuse the opposition defense.
Most sides in Europe now use some variation of the above in Champions League matches. It’s not clear that the two withdrawn defensive midfielders are quite up to the task of breaking up opposition attacks; Stoke had the run of play for a good chunk of the opening at Old Trafford on the weekend, not bothered much by Carrick and Scholes (although Ferdinand’s form of late hasn’t helped either).
Anyway, an interesting development.