With the international break nearly over, the excitement of the Premier League will be back with us and Manchester United will be looking to get back to winning ways against Everton at Old Trafford at the weekend.
Following the Chelsea defeat I began thinking about what the best Manchester United eleven actually is? You can name Chelsea’s best eleven fairly easily, as with Arsenal and Liverpool. But with United it proves more problematic.
Assuming everyone is fit and assuming Ben Foster does not have any more opportunities to show his ‘skills’ then Edwin van der Sar will be the goalkeeper of choice. Going along the back four it is one that picks itself, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic as the centre-back pairing, Patrice Evra at left-back and John O’Shea at right-back. A solid foundation to build upon, but it is from here things become a tad more difficult.
Firstly we must decide which formation to use, will it be 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3 or a 4-5-1? Then think of the personnel, who are the first choice centre midfield pairing? Michael Carrick and Anderson? Darren Fletcher and Paul Scholes? Add Ryan Giggs and Owen Hargreaves to this equation then you are left with a headache only asprin can cure.
You also have a number of wide players, Nani, Antonio Valencia, Ji-Sung Park et al. Plus there is a the argument about how much Michael Owen should play, as it seems Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov are nailed on starters.
In my opinion against the top class sides a 4-4-2 does not suffice, and this is especially true with Manchester United, as they don’t have centre midfielders that can match Europe’s best. So I would argue for a 4-5-1/4-3-3 depending on possession of the ball.
Then we must add the players to the system and I feel Manchester United have the perfect style of player to adapt to this fairly easily. The system was also used to great effect during ‘the Ronaldo years’. Ronaldo may have gone but I think the person to step into the void left by the Portuguese is Mr Wayne Rooney.
Personally, I would have Fletcher, Carrick and Anderson as the midfield trio. I think they work extremely well together, bring different attributes to the table and can dominate even the strongest midfields in Europe, given the job they did over Chelsea. When a Scholes-Carrick axis was used against Liverpool, it failed, dramatically.
This would leave three places for forward players. The three I would choose would be Nani, Berbatov and Rooney, with Berbatov as the lone striker, Nani on the right and Rooney on the left. I’m braced for the backlash.
Before it comes let me justify this. Rooney is a top class player, no question, but in my opinion he can help the team more cutting in from the left onto his right foot. Evra can provide width and the aforementioned midfield three can provide cover then Rooney moves infield. Think of him in a Messi-esque role. He can cut in, dribble, play the through ball to Dimitar and generally put himself about. The added bonus of his work rate means he can provide support for Evra when needed.
He may operate best behind a front man, but I think he can offer more to the team coming in from the left. This would then allow others to express themselves in a more efficient way and ultimately help the Manchester United side to more success and become more of a cohesive unit.
Let the backlash begin!