Tactical Analysis: How Manchester United Will Lineup Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Action Images / Keith Williams

A familiar face will take charge at Old Trafford yet again, with Ole Gunnar Solskjær being named the caretaker manager of the Red Devils until the end of this season.

The Norwegian boss is infamous for his disastrous spell with Cardiff City in the top flight, but he will certainly take up the challenge of managing his former side, and try and make something remarkable out of it.

Let us have a look at how he can alter the squad to suit a style that is reminiscent of the attacking football he played under Sir Alex Ferguson.


In terms of shape, the 4-3-3 that Jose Mourinho tried at Manchester United may be used sparingly, if at all. Instead, the former striker is likely to bring to the club the fluid 4-2-3-1 formation that he used to brilliant results back at Molde.

This shape houses some key tactics and styles that are crucial to Solskjaer’s managerial side. Simply put, his is a team that viciously attacks, presses high, and forces opponents into making mistakes.

In a 4-2-3-1, the full-backs will have a crucial role to play and will function quite high up, constantly pressing and limiting the opposing side, forcing their play to a more central role. This will be fulfilled quite easily by United’s existing options, with the pairing of Diogo Dalot and Luke Shaw appearing all too perfect for this function.


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As for the centre-backs, a poor defense will be inherited by the gaffer, who is likely to opt for the more aggressive combination of Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof at the heart of United’s defense.

Further, a more fluid style will place adaptive emphasis on the two midfielders. There is no doubt that the pivotal role will be given to Paul Pogba, who was under the tutelage of the club legend during his tenure in charge of the side’s reserves. It is nearly set in stone that the team will be built around Pogba – a fact that Ole commented on earlier this season, almost tempting fate.

Paul Pogba speaks with Ander Herrera.

Reuters / Jason Cairnduff

In this formation, Pogba will get immense attacking freedom, even being allowed to infiltrate the no.10 role when the side goes full-attacking. To counterbalance this aggressive yet creative ploy, the Frenchman is likely to be paired with a high-pressing based midfielder like Ander Herrera. At the same time, Fred is unlikely to be left as a brooding expensive signing on the bench, and when required, the Brazilian may also be deployed here.

Higher up front, a crucial trident will aid the striker, who is likely to be Romelu Lukaku. The Lukaku problem is one that Solskjær will be challenged with, since the likes of Marcus Rashford, who has a tendency to be a pacey and fluid striker, is more suited to his style of play. However, it is unlikely that the Belgian will be sidelined either.

At the same time, youngsters may rejoice under the club legend, and the likes of Mason Greenwood, Angel Gomes, and Tahith Chong could enjoy quite a few outings in the senior team. Greenwood, in particular, could be an easy option for the caretaker manager in the event that none of his present striker options put in a convincing showing.


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Now, we return to the curious case of the men behind the striker. This is where United have a plethora of talent to choose from. For starters, Anthony Martial is almost certain to man the left attacking winger’s spot, given his pace and centralizing tendency.

As of such, Sanchez, if he’s used at all, will be deployed in the no.10 role, with Juan Mata being the other option to rely on given the Chilean’s atrocities so far. The Spaniard’s creativity and experience may be a crucial cog in the degree to which this setup will achieve attacking success, especially factoring in a freely-roaming Pogba.

Manchester United's Juan Mata applauds fans after the match.

Reuters/Andrew Boyers

On the right side, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard will provide a curious combination to choose from, both fulfilling the sort of players that dotted a typical Molde front-line.

As for tactics, the defensive woe afflicting United will have to be solved by employing high-pressing and counter-pressing. The club will begin relying on its width to force the opposition into making mistakes which the midfield can capitalize upon. Further, the attacking midfielders and striker will constantly look to stretch the opposition, yet again inviting mistakes, and allowing creative passing options.

While the role is a caretaker position, the club legend is tasked with reigniting some hope amongst eager supporters who have already begun fearing the worst. Will the pangs of ‘attack, attack’ be aptly responded to by a team managed by the iconic super-sub, or is United in yet another whirlpool of trouble?