The Football Philosophy of Sir Alex Ferguson (2012/13)


The classic 4-4-2 has been labelled a neanderthal system of football, even by Sir Alex Ferguson himself, and has not been relied on in its purest form for quite some time. A tale of diamonds, wingless wonders, has not regularly inspired Sir Alex’s team talk instructions. Then again, the manager has made a habit of change of late.

To long-time observers, a Manchester United team which doesn’t rely on out-and-out attacking wingers still seems almost unimaginable.

The ‘basic task’ (as Rinus Michels always put it) of each player in Sir Alex’s 2012 team is to observe this fluid approach. Depending on personnel, we might see a normative wide player (Ashley Young, for example) roaming out wide from a central midfield role, while a centre midfielder (such as Tom Cleverley) might make linear and direct runs forward; we might see Shinji Kagawa in a more advanced role with Wayne Rooney playing further forward; or we might see Danny Welbeck, Rooney and Robin Van Persie interchanging positions in a front three. All this aside, it is just as likely that Manchester United will utilise their tactical fluidity and switch from the diamond 4-3-1-2 to a 4-4-1-1 or something similar

So it has become increasingly clear that the identity of the current Manchester United side is now less reliant upon an implemented system of play, as such. Rather, a loose playing style and a flexible formation that offers different solutions to any number of problems seems to be the team’s definitive characteristic.

The Manchester United team circulates the ball with a distinctive mixed approach to passing. The players are educated to make the correct pass within the correct zones and, likewise, are encouraged to have a mixed approach to the build-up speed: the diamond 4-3-1-2 would usually suggest a slow build-up with short passes giving time for the full-backs to take up their place in the more advanced positions of the field. When the build-up is slower, the wider players are expected to move inwards to create space for the full-backs to take up.

However, as Man Utd champion the mixed and unpredictable approach, when the team plays without wide midfielders, conscious decisions have been made to offer width in other ways. The deep lying forward, front line and central midfielders are expected to roam into the wide areas in the event of a counter-attacking approach. It is this movement of the front three that caused Stoke City’s defence so many problems in their recent 4-2 defeat, as United’s forwards stretched and pulled apart Stoke’s defence (the strikers created an assist each and the share of all four goals).

We always knew Sir Alex Ferguson was a world-class man manager, educator, and motivator, but few give credit to his ability to convey tactical ideas to his team and acknowledge that as football moves forward through the years, so must his coaching methods and approach. Sir Alex is a manager who understands that contemporary football requires a complex evolution of tactical concepts.

Read the entire article on the EPL Index website: The footballing philosophy of the 2012/13 Sir Alex Ferguson | Man Utd Tactics

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  1. Sir Alex continues to confounds the opposition and even his players | TOKNOWTHEGAME.COM - November 13, 2012

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