Michael Carrick’s first game as the caretaker manager of Manchester United ended in a 2-0 victory over Villarreal which saw Manchester United qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League. In that game, Manchester United lined up initially in a 4-2-3-1 shape but they were quite flexible changing to a 4-4-2 formation while defending and sometimes to a 4-3-3 as well. This shows that Carrick wants United to play in a different manner to how they were playing under Solskjaer. Reports have also emerged that Solskjaer vetoed Carrick and Mckenna’s suggestion to change Manchester United’s style of play.
Man United’s predicted 4-2-3-1 formation against Chelsea
We can expect a similar fluid formation against Chelsea as well. The front three were very fluid against Villarreal especially with Ronaldo and Martial swapping their positions often. The same might repeat against Chelsea with Marcus Rashford replacing Martial in the starting eleven. Also, Van de Beek’s role as the third midfielder was very restrained especially out of possession against Villarreal. We can expect Michael Carrick to instruct Bruno Fernandes to play similarly. This will help United dominate the center of the pitch against Chelsea’ midfield two.
Carrick can take inspiration from how Pep Guardiola’s Man City brilliantly destroyed United’s back three/five formation and try to emulate the same against Chelsea. Pushing Ronaldo, Rashford and Sancho high up against Chelsea’s back three is bound to give them problems. But this would require someone to switch the play often and the only player currently capable of doing that is Bruno Fernandes. And that’s the reason we might see the Portuguese play in a deeper role which will see United’s formation change from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3 quite often.
Carrick certainly has his task cut out going up against the league leaders Chelsea. Thomas Tuchel sets up his side to defend solidly and be clinical in attacks. But United do have the personnel to cause an upset.