Solskjaer’s new look 3-4-1-2 formation & tactics which won the game against Spurs


Manchester United beat Tottenham 3-0 in a efficient display of solid defending and clinical attacking. Both the teams came into this game on the back of terrible form and both the managers were under pressure to deliver. Solskjaer chose a back three formation for this game which was a surprise considering that United have always played a back 4 this season. But because of the defensive troubles United have been having this season, Solskjaer opted to solidify the defense with 3 at the back. And this change of formation and tactics worked to perfection as De Gea had almost nothing to do all afternoon.

Manchester United new look formation against Tottenham

With the return of Varane from injury, Solskjaer opted for 3 at the back defense which turned into a 5 man defense when they were defending without the ball. In midfield, Fernandes partnered with the usual double pivot pairing of Fred and McTominay. Up ahead Cristiano Ronaldo was partnered with the hard working Edinson Cavani. Overall, this was a 3-4-1-2 formation similar to how Tuchel’s Chelsea line up nowadays. The only difference being, Chelsea have two number 10s behind a sole striker where as United played two strikers ahead of Fernandes.

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Manchester United heatmap again Spurs (Attack from right to left)
Manchester United heatmap again Spurs (Attack from right to left)


The key difference in today’s game and the game against Liverpool for United was the lack of pressing. We covered United’s terrible pressing strategy against Liverpool and in this game Ole clearly set up his team to sit back and to defend compactly. This worked perfectly well for United as Spurs looked clueless in attack and United looked dangerous when they did get the ball and attacked on the counter. This lack of pressing meant that Spurs did have possession in United’s half but because of the amount of bodies ahead of them, they were unable to construct attacks.

Bruno Fernandes’ role was also very different to the role he played against Liverpool. He rarely got into the opposition box and chose to stay closer to the double pivot of Fred & McTominay. This allowed United to have more numbers in midfield against the Spurs midfield. He also tracked back efficiently covering a lot of ground especially on the right wing serving as a protection for AWB when the full-back got forward.

Fernandes Heatmap

In attack, Cristiano Ronaldo typically moved to the left hand side and took more of an active role in building attacks. Both Shaw and AWB were given the freedom to attack when United had the ball and they provided the width for United’s attacks.

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All in all, this was an excellent performance by United and they executed Ole’s game plan to perfection. They sat back and defended compactly and when they got the chance, they committed players forward to attack, especially the fullbacks. But it also has to be said that Spurs were dreadful in comparison. They did have a decent amount of possession but they looked clueless in attack up against United’s numbers. The only attacking outlet was Son making runs in behind United’s defence but none of the Spurs midfielders were courageous of playing that ball behind United’s defence when they attempted it they generally failed. Last week, Solskjaer was the manager under the heaviest pressure in the Premier League but it is clear now that Spurs are going nowhere under Nuno and his job is on the line.

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