How Man Utd can line up without Antony or Jadon Sancho

It’s already been a tumultuous season on and off the pitch for Manchester United and it’s only September.

Away defeats against Tottenham and Arsenal have come alongside unconvincing home victories over Wolverhampton Wanderers and Nottingham Forest, all of which have ultimately left those at Old Trafford feeling a little flat. This feeling has only been exacerbated by what has been happening off the pitch.

Brazilian attacker Antony was recently suspended by the club as he faces allegations of assault against his ex-girlfriend, while Jadon Sancho took to social media to refute comments made by manager Erik ten Hag about his training performances.

The wingers are not expected to be involved for Manchester United any time soon, so how could United line up without them?

Alejandro GarnachoAlejandro Garnacho

Garnacho almost managed a winner against Arsenal but it was disallowed / James Gill – Danehouse/GettyImages

Despite being mainly limited to cameo appearances during his time in the senior squad at Old Trafford, Alejandro Garnacho has consistently impressed. It was the 19-year-old’s late winner against Fulham last season that really announced him to the world and he has consistently proved a menace from the substitutes bench for the Red Devils.

In fact, if it wasn’t for a couple of centimetres against Arsenal, the Argentine may well have scored a famous winner at the Emirates too.

The issue for Ten Hag is Garnacho prefers to play on the left wing, using his pace to stretch opposition defenders and his technical quality to run at opposition right-backs, normally cutting in on his favoured right foot.

This is, however, also where Marcus Rashford likes to operate. For Garnacho to feature in the absence of Sancho and Antony, either he or Rashford would need to shift to the right-hand side, a role that perhaps doesn’t suit either player particularly well.

It’s unlikely Ten Hag would be willing to sacrifice Rashford’s quality from the left meaning Garnacho may have to take residence on the opposite flank. While it would serve as an opportunity for the youngster to get a consistent run of games, it may not allow him to best showcase his qualities.

Possible lineups

Garnacho (RW) – Hojlund (ST) – Rashford (LW)

Rashford (RW) – Hojlund (ST) – Garnacho (LW)


Bruno FernandesBruno Fernandes

The United captain prefers to play in central areas / Stu Forster/GettyImages

We often see central attacking midfielders being shunted into wide areas in modern football. Just recently in England’s clash with Ukraine, Gareth Southgate did the same with James Maddison to no avail.

It doesn’t often work too well, especially when the midfielder in question isn’t blessed with pace, but it could provide a short-term solution to Ten Hag’s problems.

United have difficult games against Brighton and Bayern Munich on the horizon and Bruno Fernandes operating in a wider role could give the Red Devils some much-needed defensive stability. The Portuguese is far more likely to track back, cover runs and plug gaps defensively than Antony, something which could come in handy against some devilish attacks.

Possible lineups

Rashford (LW) – Hojlund (ST) – Fernandes (RW)

Christian EriksenChristian Eriksen

United could opt for a winger-less formation / Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/GettyImages

One possible but perhaps unorthodox solution for Ten Hag is to simply play a narrow 4-4-2 diamond with no wingers. Rashford could partner Rasmus Hojlund up top with Fernandes operating as a number ten, Casemiro as a six and two eights playing box-to-box roles.

The likes of Christian Eriksen and Scott McTominay could feature in the eight role, while Sofyan Amrabat and Mason Mount could line up there too when fully fit.

A narrower formation with more bodies in central areas could also make United more difficult to play through. Opposition midfields have cut through the Red Devils far too easily this season, so packing out the centre of the pitch could help United’s defensive shape.

Possible lineups

Casemiro (DM) – Eriksen (CM) – McTominay (CM) – Fernandes (AM)

Casemiro (DM) – Eriksen (CM) – Amrabat (CM) – Fernandes (AM)

Casemiro (DM) – Amrabat (CM) – Mount (CM) – Fernandes (AM)


On this edition of The Promised Land, part of the 90min podcast network, Scott Saunders andRob Blanchette discuss Man Utd’s options on the right wing and whether Facundo Pellistri is good enough to replace Antony!

If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!

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