Date: 7th April 2011 at 11:46pm
Written by:

2-3-2-3 formation

Could the "W-W" formation be the key to future United success?

Antonio Valencia is receiving a lot of praise for his forty-minute spell as an emergency right back against Chelsea on Wednesday night.

The Ecuadorean was perhaps not the expected choice to fill in for the injured Rafael, with Park Ji-sung’s famed energy levels and tenacity probably making him a more obvious candidate at the time.

However, Sir Alex Ferguson had decided to let a winger do a full back’s job only four days earlier against West Ham, when Ryan Giggs played at left back for the second half in place of Patrice Evra. The tactical switch worked very well on that occasion, and the results were just as satisfying at Stamford Bridge too.

If United’s back four has looked experimental at times lately then that is entirely understandable. Due to injury and suspension, defensive resources have been stretched. John O’Shea and Wes Brown both have vast experience at right back but were unavailable on Wednesday night; it was telling, too, that the beleaguered Jonny Evans, who has spent some time at full back, was overlooked from the bench when the need arose to replace Rafael.

Evans, of course, was sent off against Bolton in March, his last appearance for the first team, and his dismissal resulted in a defensive reshuffle then, with Michael Carrick moving to central defence for the last portion of the match.

While necessity has been the mother of invention, then, in terms of the recent successful deployment of Giggs and now Valencia at full back, it’s also worth remembering the recent FA Cup tie against Arsenal that saw Rafael and Fabio line up as wingers. The personnel United have used in wide areas has been particularly interesting for several weeks now. In fact, it reminds me of an article that Jonathan Wilson, the Guardian’s resident tactical expert, wrote for the newspaper’s website last October.

Wilson’s topic was Barcelona’s full backs and how far they push up the pitch. His theory was that, with the forward pressing of Dani Alves, in particular, being both a primary source of attacking width and also an effective way of countering teams that sit deep, the Spanish side’s formation was morphing into a curious throwback to a system supposedly consigned to history. With Vittorio Pozzo in charge, Italy’s two World Cup wins in 1934 and 1938 were achieved with what was known as the W-W formation, essentially a 2-3-2-3. With the two wide defenders playing higher up the pitch than where modern full backs would traditionally operate, alongside a deep-lying midfielder they would form a floating trio in front of the centre backs. The deep-lying midfielder was the hub of the team, dropping almost into defence to receive the ball as the full backs pushed on.

This might all sound a bit theoretical. It makes more sense when players’ names are added to the equation. In Barcelona’s case, as Wilson explained, the deep-lying midfielder who practically becomes another centre-half is Sergio Busquets. For United, the equivalent player would be Michael Carrick. Given his vastly improved performance on Wednesday night – his best for two seasons at least – it is particularly exciting to consider the possibility of a prolonged return to form for the United midfielder alongside the potential shown by two of our wingers at full back recently.

Giggs and Valencia are clearly not long-term options in wide defensive positions, but Patrice Evra was bought with a reputation as a left-sided defender who could also play on the wing and nobody would doubt Rafael’s willingness to go forward either. If United’s regular full backs were encouraged to attack even more than they already do then Michael Carrick, with some experience in defence himself, would be the ideal covering midfielder in, potentially, our very own W-W.

You can follow William Abbs on Twitter @WilliamAbbs and Redflagflyinghigh @RFFH

[bet_365 type=’generic’ size=’468’af_code=’365_061447′]


8 responses to “Could The 2-3-2-3 Formation Work For United?”

  1. Hayd says:

    Brilliant read mate. Personally a massive fan of the way we’ve been able to adapt tactically and think that with Fabio as well it offers us this kind of option.

  2. MancWes says:

    What? You are clearly an idiot if you think we could play this formation. Too much time on Championship Manager I think!

  3. William says:

    Thanks very much. Fabio would certainly be another possibility. Full back has been the most interesting position in world football from a tactical perspective for a while, in my opinion, thanks to the prevalence of one-man attacks.

  4. William says:

    Ha, my first point was clearly addressed to Haydo. As for CM, I haven’t played it since 2001 – that’s the honest truth!

  5. Justin Mottershead says:

    I think this formation could work well with Rooney actually operating in the ‘inside forward’ role rather than up top.

    That way you could also have either Chicharito or Berbatov as the main striker with Nani and Valencia playing off them.

  6. William says:

    I’d agree with you there. Rooney’s a number 10 (literally) rather than a number 9. Fletcher or Park would perhaps be the best ones to play next to him, for a bit of solidity. Another way to do it might be put to use Rooney and Nani/Anderson/Valencia off Chicharito/Berbatov and pick two from Fletcher/Carrick/Park/Scholes/New Signing behind that three.

  7. William says:

    Not Carrick, actually, he’s already got a slot.

  8. Lee says:

    Does it really matter what formation ManU play (4-4-2, 3-5-2, 2-3-2-3, 4-5-1). I think they have played all this formation in the first 3 games of the season. All the players it seems can interchange positions at will. I am especially delighted with Welbeck, Cleverley, Anderson, Jones and also Rooney and Young at this early part of the season. They seem to be everywhere on the pitch at times. Their energy levels are terrific. So, as long as United have 11 players on the pitch, they will win 90% of the games this season. However, the lack of experience legs maybe a disadvantage for United, especially missing out on Sneijder. This may haunt them in the Champions League. It seems like United have no problems reaching the final of the Champions League. However, they have lost the 2 recent finals to the same team unfortunately to the same team. Barcelona. This implifies that the gap between the top two teams in the world are huge, whereby you could see that Barcelona overpowered United in the Wembley final. If they reach the final again, against Barcelona. I feel that it maybe the same fate or worst. With Barcelona strengtening their side even more (Fabregas, Alexis Sanchez), as if they need to. ManCity will be huge treat as well to the Premiership crown,if they can continue with the way they play now, and may even beat United, when it comes to their meetings in the premierleague matches.