out we play the diamond consistently it’d be revolutionary because it goes against our history,” Sir Alex said in October. “But the level of the game in England and Europe is so high that making yourself unpredictable is a strength.” That last point is key. This wasn’t an identity crisis but an enhancement of United’s philosophy. With dynamic attackers like van Persie, Rooney, Welbeck, Kagawa, Young, Nani and Cleverley all easily accommodated in a variety of positions and systems, it's clear that fluid movement, quick passing, spontaneity and unpredictability are attributes Sir Alex craves. The ability to switch from 4-3-3 to a midfield diamond, 4-2-3-1 or a more familiar 4-4-2 is another string to the Reds’ bow in an ever-evolving, more sophisticated football landscape.
Back to front
If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. That seemed to be the mantra for United’s defenders in the first part of 2012/13, as they offset a certain leakiness in our own box by making headlines at the other end. As injuries left the back line stretched, Jonny Evans, Patrice Evra, Rafael and Alex Büttner all weighed in with goals and Evans (who let us not forget waited 118 games before scoring his first United goal) has only Rooney, Hernandez and van Persie above him in the top-scorers list this term. Perhaps the most important, and most impressive, of the defenders’ strikes came from the boot of Rafael. With the Reds behind at Anfield, the little Brazilian conjured a moment of sheer magic, accepting Shinji Kagawa’s chested return and bending a perfectly struck equaliser beyond the clutches of Pepe Reina.
The comeback kings
Beneath this season’s hair-tearing trend of conceding first has lain an overriding positive. Every setback provides a platform to showcase our pièce de résistance – the comeback – and this season has already crammed in a campaign’s worth of against-the-odds triumph. “The