The Traditional 4-4-2
Under Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United effectively were able to implement the 4-4-2 formation. Sir Alex was able to use this formation as he had the world’s best midfielders like Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick, Darren Fetcher who could make tackles in front of the United defenders and could feed the wingers. Also, the Ferguson era saw some very talented wingers like David Beckhem, Ryan Giggs, Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, Antonio Valencia wearing the united jersey. These were some exceptionally fast wingers having good control over the ball and who could easily provide the long balls to the strikers in the box.
The Formation of the New Era 4-2-3-1
Post the retirement of Sir Alex, United also lost the wingers and its golden midfielders lost their touch. Coming to the present era of Jose, United have adopted much of the 4-2-3-1 formation of the 3-3-4. Rooney could have faced difficulties in adapting to this new formation due to his age and this could be the reason why he had been left out. Though on the left hand side United has fast wingers like Martial or Rashford but a lack of support from the full back has restricted these players from going out wide.
The presence of Luke Shaw could help United again to adopt to this. Luke can go outwide with his pace and cover that area which, will allow Martial and Rashford to cut inside. Coming to the right, the offensive nature of Valencia to come up front and the ability of Mkhitaryan and Mata to cut inside, perfectly aligns with this kind of formations.
Also the likes of Micheal Carrick, Pogba, Herrera and Fellaini are suited for the defensive midfield role. The ability of Carrick and Pogba to create that long pass and building the attack from the back combined with the tacking ability of Herrera and Fellaini makes ideal pairing for the defensive midfield position.
The Attack Attack Formation 3-3-4
United have seldom used a more offensive formation like 3-3-4 against Manchester City, Leister City, etc. In such cases, United are able to introduce more attacking legs on the field. Using a similar formation against Middlesbrough, United had Martial, Pogba, Herrera, Mata, Mkhitaryan, Rashford and Ibrahimovic all on the field for the attack. The defence was managed by 3 center backs only.
Though this formation was used as United were trailing by a goal in this match and Jose used this formation to turn the result in his favour. But, if United wants to implement this in a more regular way then Carrick could be placed at the bottom of the diamond providing an extra support to the defenders and also his ability to spot the run and excellent long balls could suddenly change the defence into counter attack.
Also, for such cases United needs to work more on their final finishing. The stats say that though United have been third best in creating chances but, their conversion rate is just above 8% and that is third from the bottom. United needs players other from Ibrahimovic who could contribute towards goals