How Stones and Rodri’s attacking runs unlocked Man Utd’s 4-2-4-0 formation

Manchester United’s technique away at Manchester Metropolis on Sunday afternoon was apparent — sit deep and counter.

Erik ten Hag arrange in a formation that was successfully 4-2-4-0, with Scott McTominay and Bruno Fernandes as his two most superior central gamers and Marcus Rashford and Alejandro Garnacho attacking from large. There was no try and dominate possession, press, or tackle Manchester Metropolis in an open recreation. United scored early after which the query was whether or not Metropolis may break down a deep block.

Inevitably, they might, and a key a part of their success was the efficiency of Rodri and John Stones, notionally a holding midfielder and a centre-back however successfully, as common, a midfield duo in a 3-2-5 form when Metropolis had possession.

Under, you possibly can see Metropolis’s normal form, which is pretty effectively established by now. Bernardo Silva and Kevin De Bruyne pushed ahead into the channels to type a entrance 5. Rodri and Stones managed the centre. Nathan Ake and Kyle Walker had been large centre-backs who may push ahead. Off display, Ruben Dias is the only everlasting centre-back.

However Rodri and Stones didn’t merely keep in these midfield positions — they brought about United severe issues with their ahead working. Early on, De Bruyne moved in the direction of the left to obtain a go from Bernardo. On the sting of the D, Stones is being marked by McTominay.

Nevertheless, area opens up within the channel, so Stones immediately springs ahead and makes a run behind United’s defence. McTominay has no thought of that motion behind him and De Bruyne finds Stones with reverse go.

Casemiro has to intervene, simply prodding the ball away from Stones earlier than he can shoot.

These sudden actions, from in entrance of United’s superior midfielders to a place past them, repeatedly allowed Metropolis to get into good positions. Usually, the ball got here from Walker on the suitable.

It is a good instance as a result of it exhibits how, regardless of United taking part in with 4 central midfielders, they grew to become stretched and conceded an enormous quantity of area. Kobbie Mainoo is to the left, watching De Bruyne. Casemiro is on high of his right-back, Diogo Dalot, watching Bernardo. Rodri can due to this fact waltz by means of the centre. McTominay factors at his run, however it’s too late. In the long run, Rodri rushes his closing ball and Erling Haaland can’t get on the tip of it, however the hazard is there.

Right here’s the same instance, this time with Stones. Once more, there are 4 Manchester United central midfielders making an attempt to cease such a go, however a easy ahead ball from Walker finds Stones in a harmful place between the traces. There’s no killer ball on right here, so he sweeps out play to the unmarked Jeremy Doku down the left.

The sample grew to become extra excessive within the second half as a result of Rodri and Stones appeared to place themselves extra completely between the traces.

This time, it’s De Bruyne taking part in the go — Stones most likely may have taken this ball on the flip, however performs a return ball.

Right here’s one other ball from Walker — this time fired at a clumsy peak into Rodri, who miscontrols.

However finally, the positivity of Rodri and Stones introduced objectives. Right here, Rodri is free to obtain the ball from Doku after which sweeps the ball out to Foden on the close to facet. Rodri will get an help for this, which could possibly be seen as a bit beneficiant — that is, in any case, a easy sideways go.

Rodri does, nonetheless, genuinely create the objective — and never due to that go. Slightly than holding his place, Rodri makes a run into the channel — the run you often anticipate of De Bruyne — and that takes McTominay away.

Take a look at the place McTominay is in on the sting of the D when Foden touches the ball inside onto his left foot and have a look at his place the place Foden shoots from. If Rodri didn’t make the run, Foden wouldn’t have area to shoot.

The second objective isn’t completely dissimilar. This time, Foden pops up on the left and, as he goes to play a one-two with substitute Julian Alvarez, Mainoo is guaranteeing he’s touch-tight to Stones within the centre. Once more, it’s value reiterating that this can be a Metropolis centre-back who has popped up in a No 10 place and is distracting an opposition holding midfielder.

With out Stones being positioned there, perhaps Mainoo senses what Foden is about to do, strikes throughout and covers the area within the channel. As a substitute, Foden is given area to shoot.

The third objective is somewhat completely different however, at 2-1 up in stoppage time, what number of different holding midfielders would go haring into the ultimate third to close down an opposition holding midfielder?

Rodri’s urgent tempts Casemiro right into a dangerous dinked go to Sofyan Amrabat after which he goes after the Moroccan, too, dispossessing him and taking part in in Haaland, who scores his trademark low left-footed shot into the underside nook.

As soon as, it appeared Guardiola needed 5 gamers to assault after which 5 to protect towards counters — however issues have develop into extra versatile.

Stones stepping ahead into midfield will not be new, neither is Rodri offering a risk within the closing third, however more and more they’re taking over much more attacking duty. Towards United, that proved to be essential in all three objectives.

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