Manchester United have succeeded in two signings so far this window with both Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka being acquired, the latter pending a medical.
The Red Devils were massively touted to make those signings that will ensure an attacking approach from next season, building upon the initial success that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer enjoyed at Old Trafford.
As of such, it is evident that a traditional United lineup which has a strong focus on their wingers and fullbacks driving the forward play is being opted for over here. There are two broad ways in which these two players can be lined-up:
1. 4-3-3 With Both On The Right Side
This formation is the predictable one that makes sense for United given the resources they presently command.
In this one, Aaron Wan-Bissaka succeeds Ashley Young in the crucial right-back spot while Daniel James will fill the role of the right-winger that United have naturally lacked for many years. Here, it will be Anthony Martial who will be filling the left-winger spot.
Wan-Bissaka will bring defensive cover for the back-four and James’ pace will bring the natural threat that United from the glory days are used to. This is the safe approach that will rely on an all-round squad effort in order to succeed.
The drawback is that Wan-Bissaka is suited to a defensive style of play and will have to be keen during his forward runs and crosses as James will not always be able to aid in those.
This will particularly hinder their defense if say Wan-Bissaka is in the final third of the pitch while James has cut into the box to pose a threat. Losing possession at this point would be a counter-attacking nightmare.
2. 4-3-3 With James On The Left Wing
This approach makes use of the natural ability and preference of the Welshman which lies on the left-wing. Here, Wan-Bissaka will remain as the right-back while it will be Diogo Dalot who will be promoted to the right-winger spot.
While radical on paper, this is an approach that Solskjaer has experimented with last season. Even though Dalot was purchased as a right-back, a majority of the occasions he was subbed on last season was to make an attacking impact. The Portuguese starlet has a clear attacking mindset and has the potential to thrive in a forward role, as the success stories from the last campaign indicate.
Meanwhile, James will have the luxury of operating from where he is comfortable and the pacey connection that he and Luke Shaw will be able to create will be a constant threat.
The standout advantage here is that Wan-Bissaka will not be overburdened by forward runs as Dalot will be able to undertake the majority of them. This will leave the Englishman to do what he does best and excel in his defensive duties- areas where he topped the Premier League charts last season.
The disadvantage with lining up like this is that Anthony Martial has no direct route into the first-team. While it is great from a fitness perspective given the sheer options he will have, the dressing room dynamics and the new deal given to Martial is bound to come into play.
One way this can be amended is if Lukaku is sold this window and he seems likely to, Martial can instead challenge Marcus Rashford for the striker’s position which is also within his skill-set. This will mean that United need not invest in another striker this window.
Lastly, in the event the first formation is the go-to approach for United for much of their season, and it certainly looks to be that way, they can use Dalot as an alternative for Luke Shaw when form or injury forces it. The Portuguese youngster is versatile and this would be a neat way in which to develop his skill-set, akin to how Philip Lahm was used at Bayern Munich.