Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was heavily criticised for his selection for the drab draw vs Chelsea but there is more than meets the eye.
The legendary Norwegian clearly favours the 4-2-3-1 formation and it is one that, in theory, can perfectly play the tactics he wants.
Solskjaer’s thinking for the Blues was show initiative since United were the home team but still protect his side by essentially playing two destroyers in Scott McTominay and Fred.
No one foresaw Chelsea would play so defensively but Solskjaer’s selection was wrong not because of a lack of quality but arguably more to do with the personnel.
In a 4-2-3-1, a double pivot is often used with the two central-midfielders and two centre-backs forming a block of four while the full-backs provide width high up when the wingers cut inside.
It’s a remarkably attacking formation and one that can be exposed on the counter if the manager or the team aren’t careful.
The problem isn’t in the 4-2-3-1 but the problem is in the fact Solskjaer chose two destroyers rather than just one.
Against PSG McTominay and Fred were fantastic but that was also because the formation suited having two destroyers in order to release those ahead of them on the counter in that back three formation.
In a 4-2-3-1 though it’s not something that works as one of the central midfielders has to sit back and hold his position while the other also sits but has more creative freedom as a deep-lying playmaker in order to break down difficult defensive blocks.
Neither Fred nor McTominay are playmakers and it’s why Solskjaer should’ve chosen one of them and played someone of the ilk of Nemanja Matic or dropped Paul Pogba or Bruno Fernandes deeper.
If Solskjaer had gone with a back three again then choosing the first two together wouldn’t have been a problem and fans would’ve seen a similar performance to the one in Paris.
Against Chelsea, even when Pogba was brought on he played as an attacking-midfielder with Bruno moving out to the right.
In that sense, the true problem wasn’t really addressed until the end when it was too late.
Solskjaer wanted to show he was on the offensive by sticking with a 4-2-3-1 but he chose the personnel who not only were incorrect but were also lacking in quality a little and because he was caught in two minds it showed.
In the end, Manchester United could neither counter-attack fruitfully nor break down Chelsea’s defensive lines despite them being there for the taking.
This summer’s transfer window has been one of the strangest in living memory. So cast your mind back to less stressful days and test your knowledge of past United arrivals and departures in our quiz below.