Should Manchester United stick with a back three against Atalanta?

After a 5-0 thumping by Liverpool at Old Trafford just over a week ago, Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reacted with a 3-0 win against Tottenham on Saturday.

It was a good reaction for a side that was clearly bereft of confidence, as Solskjaer named the oldest starting lineup of his tenure so far by partnering Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani up front together with a back five behind them.

But now as United look to continue to build some momentum when they travel to Italy to take on Atalanta tonight, Solskjaer has some decisions to make regarding his starting lineup.

The returning Raphael Varane slotted straight into the middle of Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire in central defence, while Solskjaer continued to select Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw but in slightly more advanced wing-back roles.

Scott McTominay and Fred started in midfield with Bruno Fernandes alongside them, with the Scot playing slightly deeper than his teammates.

It was a team that didn’t get any highlight reels in motion, but they turned in a sturdy performance that earned them a vital three points in a must-win situation.

They face a similar situation in the Champions League tonight, where a win puts them five points clear of Atalanta with just two group games remaining meaning they should qualify for the next round.

But with confidence still not at it’s best and Atalanta proving at Old Trafford two weeks ago that they’re good enough to take the game to the Reds, Solskjaer must be careful.

There is the chance he could keep the team unchanged with his three-at-the-back formation, considering how well it worked at the weekend. Victor Lindelof hasn’t travelled due to a slight knock, so Shaw could slot into his left centre-back role with Alex Telles moving into the wing-back role in the only change.

However, with the success that Marcus Rashford had against the Serie A side in the first game between the sides and the fact he has scored in three of his four appearances since returning from injury, he probably deserves a start.

Paul Pogba is also available again after serving a suspension against Spurs, which could allow United to go with a slightly more attacking team but keeping their defensive shape in tact by putting him into a central midfield role ahead of one of the ‘McFred’ duo.

There is also the potential of Solskjaer slightly altering the shape, keeping his defensive mindset in place with the two holding midfielders while going with two attacking midfielders instead of two strikers.

That could allow for summer signing Jadon Sancho to be brought into the side alongside Fernandes and behind Ronaldo in a role familiar to him during his time with Dortmund.

The Bundesliga side used a 3-4-3 variation for large periods of his time with the club there and the 21-year-old was very productive in that role, using his combinations and dribbling well to create chances and score goals.

It would be a chance for Solskjaer to give him a run-out once again and for Sancho to finally make an impression on United fans who have been waiting for him to truly arrive at the club.

Solskjaer has got decisions to make, because the squad he has spent the best part of three years building isn’t best suited to this formation.

But in a period where he is desperate for results to save his job, it may be a necessity. With that said, he now needs to find the balance between results and performances, so a few alterations wouldn’t go amiss.


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