Rangnick: Three-man defence is an option

Sunday 09 January 2022 07:00

Manchester United are able to play with both a three-man and four-man defence and will seek to be flexible with regards to formation going forward, says interim manager Ralf Rangnick.

The German coach switched systems at half-time during our last match, a disappointing 1-0 defeat at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Rangnick was far from impressed with the first-half display, and changed the shape of the team at the break, shifting Luke Shaw back into a more central area as the backline became a back five rather than a back four.

In a wide-ranging interview with club media, the 63-year-old, who has been at the club for just over a month, explained his thoughts about a variety of possible formations.

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“Well, I think most teams have their system in England and they stick to it,” Rangnick began.

“But there are also teams who switch from a back three to a back four, or from a back four to a back three.

“Or - like Bayern Munich, for example, or [RB] Leipzig, who also did it last season with Julien Nagelsmann - even if they play defensively in a back four, they try to rotate within this system, this formation, to a little bit of an asymmetric back three.

“I think with our team, we have those two options. In order to play with a back three, we need to have most of our centre-backs available. I think under Ole [Gunnar Solskjaer] the team did it, for example, in games like Tottenham, Atalanta away, or against Manchester City in the derby.

“I think we can play in the back three, this could be an option for us, but, as I said, it also depends on the players available, on the current shape and form of the players and also, to a certain extent, to the team against which we are playing.”

Shaw has regularly shown his ability to shift inside from left-back and play as a left-centre-back.

United have had several significant successes playing with a three-man central defence in the past, but have generally lined up with a back four under Rangnick, caretaker manager Michael Carrick and Solskjaer.

Rangnick has recently been outlining the need to find the right balance between attack and defence. The number of goals United are conceding has reduced in the last six games - now at an average of 0.6 per game - but it has sometimes proved difficult to score enough at the other end.

In seeking that balance, the German has shown he’ll be flexible with regards to formation. With no midweek fixture, the team has had a good spell on the training ground ahead of Monday's Emirates FA Cup tie with Aston Villa.