August 18, 2017
Last week, Manchester United thrashed West Ham to the tune of four goals and allowing none. The Red Devils looked brilliant. They were lethal in their attacks, a stalwart in their defending and efficient in the middle of the park. New signing Romelu Lukaku hit the ground running with two goals while Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial each added another. While they get the glory, the real difference maker was the new Serbian international arriving from Chelsea, Nemanja Matic. The center defensive midfielder was inserted in front of the defense and allowed Pogba to dictate the offense with freedom. Matic was truly a revolution and looks to have unlocked the squad.
Missing from the match was the Spanish superstar, Ander Herrera. Coming off an injury, it wasn’t a surprise to see Herrera on the pine while Matic ran the midfield. The key to this new look Manchester United squad is unlocking Pogba, and Matic did that well last week. Herrera was instrumental in most of United’s success last season and has been highly rated by clubs around the world. He’s stated his intent of staying at Old Trafford, thus the question arises: Can Matic and Herrera play effective football together? I believe the answer is, absolutely. Below are a few formations and tactics that can get the best out of the midfield partnership of Herrera and Matic:
A traditional formation will probably be the most likely outcome. With 4 defenders in the back, Matic will play in the middle with Herrera and Pogba aside him, and a rotating trio of attackers in front of them. This is the very simplistic formation and will in all likelihood be used consistently. Tactical shifts within this formation could be pulling Matic back into a more defensive role and allowing Pogba and Herrera to get forward. Herrera has been more of an attacking center mid, however, lately he has played box to box. Allowing him to go box to box and Pogba to assert himself more offensively, Matic will clean up behind the two.
This would be a great experimental side, and will possibly be used against weaker opponents. It would allow Jose Mourinho to explore his depth in the squad. With the traditional four defenders, Matic and Herrera would be inserted as a partnering duo of defensive midfielders. With Matic and Herrera playing a pulled back duo, Pogba would be inserted as a number 10 and focusing solely on getting Manchester United in scoring situations. This formation will probably come to fruition when Mourinho is trying to park the bus. Tactical shifts could include pushing Herrera farther forward and allowing him to go box to box. The positive about this formation is the variations that can be made. Pogba could fall back and form a three-man midfield, or Herrera could take over as the number 10 with Pogba back at center mid.
With most of the league trying the three center defenders supported by two wing backs, Mourinho has given this type of formation plenty of looks. Playing with three central defenders, Jose Mourinho could put Matic in the middle in a more conservative role. Out to his sides would be two wing backs, Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw. In front of Matic, more offensively would be the duo of Herrera and Pogba playing behind an attacking trio. This would be the best formation to get the most out of Matic and Herrera’s potential. With Matic holding down the fort, we would be able to see the Pogba and Herrera attacking force at its peak. This formation is the most effective, as it plays to the strengths of both, the Serbian and Spanish international. Both are highly competitive midfielders and would be devastating in this set up.