The domination by Machester United at the beginning of the game against Newcastle was created with overwhelming passing, thanks in part to the diamond midfield formation that Sir Alex Ferguson has pulled from his bag of tricks.
For those used to watching United, the idea of us playing without wingers is strange, downright bizarre even. When we diverted from the traditional 4-4-2 in the past and played a 4-3-3, we wouldn’t really put three strikers on the front line and would instead see a lone striker with two wingers in the front three.
But, as I wrote about last week in my article, with Van Persie and Rooney in the team it’s not ideal to play a 4-3-3 and force one of them onto the wing or into midfield. Even with a 4-2-3-1, Rooney is essentially the third midfielder as the wingers are not well placed to support the defence in the middle of the pitch. Controlling the middle of the park is essential against any team but especially so against the top teams and if Rooney must do that much defensive work he won’t be able to make the same sort of contribution to the attack.
We saw some really amazing football for 15 minutes but then, with a 2-0 lead, United took their foot off the petal somewhat, knowing they had three central midfielders and Rooney at the top of the diamond to disrupt anything Newcastle tried to build through the middle.
The play leading up to the first two goals was fantastic and deserves a second look.
The first goal can be traced all the way back to the 3:03 mark, when a loose pass by Gutierrez rolled to Evra’s feet. 52 passes, four minutes and 22 seconds later our quick passing and resolve led to the corner from which Evans scored. During that time, Newcastle failed to complete even a single pass.
Total passes in period
De Gea 1 | Rafael 6 | Rio 5 | Evans 4 | Evra 7 | Carrick 6 | Cleverley 7 | Kagawa 5 | Rooney 6 | Van Persie 3 | Welbeck 2
If you have the chance, make sure to watch this sequence again as it is a case of complete domination. Every player touches the ball, including David de Gea. There are no rushed passes and everyone is patient in playing around the defensive pressure. From the start of the game until our first goal at the 7:25 mark, Newcastle completed a mere six passes, while we completed 86.
You can be sure Sir Alex has been running the team through the paces of the midfield diamond formation since this summer. As soon as we acquired Robin van Persie, he was no doubt looking at different ways to get the best out of his rejuvenated squad. The sort of understanding we showed on Tyneside was the result of months of preparation and training.
Having the right players is no more important than having a well designed and well executed game plan.
Along with our second half in the 4-0 defeat of Wigan, this game was the best we’ve played this season. I hope we see a lot more of this midfield diamond formation, I think it will work just as well against the most physical teams, such as the Stoke team that is set to visit Old Trafford this weekend, as it did against one of the better side in Newcastle.