What now, United?

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May 8, 2013 by Wayne.

So that’s it then, Fergie’s announced his retirement.

Greatest manager ever? Perhaps. United’s always had tactical problems in Europe but god, he’s built some massive, massive teams. No other manager can point to creating as many successful squads as he has.

It’s especially sad that SAF didn’t manage to bow out with another European title to his name. God knows he deserves it.

Next manager – Moyes? Mourinho? KLOPP?

Honestly, Klopp is highly unlikely. He seems to genuinely love Dortmund and I doubt they’d let him leave just as they lose Gotze and look set to lose Lewandowski.

Also, I don’t really want the other two. Mourinho would be unlikely to stay for the long term and I’m doubtful about Moyes’ ability to lead a proper big team that needs to challenge for titles.

Solksjaer’s time may yet come in the future, but he’s still fairly unproven right now. I hear his team’s in a bit of a slump at the moment too.

It’ll be interesting to see who we get and if he decides to stick around for the long term.  Stability’s always been the hallmark of United, after all.

Announcement on the new manager is coming in about 48 hours!

Reflections on the past season?

We did decently. Our wingers were quite awful, to the extent that the only good performances that I can remember from the wings come from Giggs and Welbeck. Hopefully Valencia recaptures his form and Zaha gels into the squad.

We haven’t had a good central midfield in many years now. Carrick’s been fantastic – a strong contender for United player of the season, and Cleverley has been fairly consistent, but they’ve been regularly shown up against good teams. It remains to be seen if the next manager introduces a three man midfield and/or buys extra players to strengthen that position (especially with Scholes re-retiring).

Who should we buy and sell?

Armchair manager opinions here.

Sell: Bebe, Macheda, Anderson, Nani, Ashley Young

Buy: Wanyama, Matic, Bale

Sure, Bale is unlikely. But it’s unlikely we’ll sell Ashley Young too, which is pretty annoying. He’s even more one-dimensional than Valencia, if that’s possible. The difference is that he fades after the first 20-30 minutes of every game I’ve seen him in and isn’t as defensively sound as Valencia. Put quite simply, he’s not a United player and never will be.

If we do, however, get rid of that prat, plus Nani (still inconsistent after god knows how many seasons) and Anderson (even more of a flop), we’d probably have enough to bring in Bale. Do we need him? Not particularly, as long as our wingers step up their game next season. Welbeck will probably get a couple of games on the wings, and he’s been particularly great during the buildup stages regardless of where he’s been placed. Zaha looks promising and will hopefully spark Valencia into better form.

On the other hand, RVP wasn’t necessary, strictly speaking, but he undoubtedly added quality to the side.

Also, I hope we hang on to Hernandez and he gets more playing time. He’s slowly developing his game beyond a simple last-defender poacher, but that’ll never happen if he doesn’t get to play more.

Tacticz

Defence unit
United started out with a very shaky defence, but I don’t think any major changes need to be made. We have Jones and Evans developing well, with Smalling getting some match time here and there too. Ferdinand and Vidic are being managed well too and their experience etc have really helped out during the tail end of the season.

De Gea’s really cemented his place and will get better as time passes. He’s slowly bulking up and getting more confidence handling the box during crosses, corners etc. Unfortunately, Lindegaard might move on, he’s too good to be a backup keeper for long.

Rafael’s also been a highlight of the season. On the opposite flank, Evra’s stepped up his game, presumably thanks to the threat of Buttner. With Fabio coming back from loan, we’ll have more options available too.

I do want to see Jones get more games in the center back position, which I can see him occupy for a long time into the future. He needs some work with his distribution (more on this later) and his positioning – he’s mostly had to rely on his pace when messing up, particularly when filling in as right back.

Apparently Smalling’s one of the fastest players in the squad, would be nice to see him make more use of that.

3 Man Midfield:

We’ve been outplayed in the center at several crucial points this season, which basically led to United being neutered for the match (see: underperforming wingers) and unable to carry out sharp transitions.

If we do transition to a 4-2-3-1, we can’t play a double pivot. None of our current players have the passing quality of Carrick (well, Scholes, but he’s heading off) and sacrificing him doesn’t look like a good solution just yet. On the other hand, Carrick simply can’t play as part of a double pivot. He lacks the pace and needs to float deep and prevent easy incisions through to strikers. That’s just what he does, and he does it well. However, the best double pivots generally rely on both midfielders being able to take turns running forward during transitions.

Cleverley has suffered a dip in form towards the end of the season, but considering this is his first full season of action, he’s done really well. He’s stopped making striker-like dashes forward that abandon Carrick, so that’s some progress at least. May not be our best player but he could potentially fit in a 3-man midfield, depending on its shape.

So what about a Juventus-like 3 man midfield with Matic/Wanyama/Jones and Cleverley on either side of Carrick? And, of course, the ‘standard’ United two wingers and a striker that we’ve commonly resorted to.

Couple of problems there:
Jones isn’t that convincing in midfield, due to his poor forward distribution – kinda similar to the Carrick of old. Click here for a good post about it.

Additionally, this would mean sacrificing a genuine advanced central playmaker and also having a single forward up front. Kagawa’s developing well and will surely work his way into better performances next season. A flat 3 midfield would mean losing his ability on the field, as well as Rooney’s if RVP plays the lone striker.

It’s definitely a conundrum, and I don’t quite have the solution for it.

Maybe Powell will turn out to be key. We’ll see. Whatever we do, though, United will live on. Here’s to a new scary but exciting future.

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