Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær has recently changed his team formation to a back three since their 0-5 hammering against rivals Liverpool. The Red Devils played in a 3-5-2 formation after their loss against the Reds. They managed to win the first match against Spurs, then played out a draw against Atalanta in the Champions League, and lost their last match against city rivals Manchester City. Ole’s men didn’t play with the same centre-back partnership in all three games due to injury concerns to Raphael Varane, but this change in the formation has given some freedom to the forward players.
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær made his first tactical switch in the game against Spurs. He lined up Harry Maguire, Raphael Varane, and Victor Lindelof in the back three. Raphael Varane was in the middle, and captain Harry Maguire played towards the left side. The defensive pair kept a clean sheet in this match. Harry Maguire made ten recoveries and seven interceptions against Spurs. Raphael Varane made six recoveries and nine interceptions. Their third centre-back partner, Victor Lindelof, made eight recoveries and four interceptions.
Victor Lindelof missed the Champions League game against Atalanta and was replaced by Eric Bailly in the playing XI. The Red Devils were unlucky, as Raphael Varane was replaced towards the end of the first half due to injury. The above chart shows the defensive duels contested by Manchester United players against Atalanta. Manchester United players contested 50 defensive duels with a 62% success rate. Eric Bailly contested the most number of defensive duels for his side. The centre-back contested eight defensive duels and lost only one duel in the match. His defensive partners, Harry Maguire and Varane, won two loose ball duels each. They were unable to keep a clean sheet and conceded a goal in both halves.
Lindelof returned in the game against Manchester City, which Raphael Varane missed out on due to injury. The match didn’t go as expected, and the Red Devils suffered a 0-2 loss at home. Eric Bailly scored an own goal, and was replaced at the start of the second half due to some poor display on the pitch. Harry Maguire made nine recoveries and four interceptions in that match. Lindelof was more involved in the match, making 13 recoveries along with seven interceptions. Bailly’s match was cut short, but he made two recoveries along with four interceptions in that match.
The change in the formation surprised Spurs in the first match, and Manchester United earned a victory. In the second game, they conceded two against an attacking Atalanta side. The Red Devils were poor against Manchester City and conceded two goals. Ole’s men looked comfortable when Maguire, Varane and Lindelof played in the back three. Maguire has already scored a goal this season in the Champions League, and Varane has one assist to his name. Lindelof has shown a lot of improvement with his long-range passes and provided two assists. Ole will hope that his defenders don’t get injured often and he could continue with the same back three that will help his team to keep more clean sheets and give his forward players some freedom to attack.