Wes Brown says 4-2-3-1 suits Fernandes better than 4-2-2-2

Ralf Rangnick has switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation for Manchester United’s last two matches, both against Aston Villa.

The German has actually used six formations already at Old Trafford, but largely preferred a 4-2-2-2 system before this latest switch.

Bruno Fernandes scored twice last time out at Villa Park, and Wes Brown has told United’s official website that the new system suits the Portuguese playmaker far more.

Another former United player, Ben Thornley, added that the formation also suits Anthony Elanga more easily, after the Swede was handed a first Premier League start of the season on Saturday.

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When asked if the 4-2-3-1 gets the best out of Fernandes, treble-winner Brown replied: “Yeah I think it does. I just feel he is comfortable there, he likes to get on the ball, he knows he is in those positions when he picks up the ball he can shoot or set somebody up.

“I feel like when he is free and in those positions, he brings a lot more to the game and to the team.”

Thornley added: “I prefer that 4-2-3-1 formation, especially in Anthony Elanga’s case because he is a wide player, he has played through the middle, but I think he does prefer to be wide and I thought that was the perfect game to play him in.

“He nullified Matty Cash, too and if we play a lot more narrow, it does allow their full-backs to push onto ours. Brentford, especially, when they are playing with wing-backs as they do, then I think it is important to block that channel off and I think the 4-2-3-1 seems to be working a lot better than the 4-2-2-2.”

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Rangnick looked to change the formation to implement his pressing style of football but United did not look comfortable with it and there were a fair amount of square pegs in round holes.

The 4-2-3-1 system was the one largely preferred by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, as he largely failed to move United away from the need for two holding midfielders.

United’s performances have improved with the 4-2-3-1, but it remains to be seen if that was a temporary change of strategy to nullify Villa’s threats, or something more lasting.

We will get more of an idea after tomorrow’s game against Brentford, when their wing-back system will provide a different challenge.

The last time United played against a back three, they were played off the park by Wolves and it is up to Rangnick to ensure that doesn’t happen again.

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Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.