For the past few years, it has been known by a majority that Sir Alex Ferguson rarely keeps the same starting 11 in consecutive games. We can’t complain much as it has done nothing but keep the entire squad happy, fresh, and match fit, who usually deliver us the joy of glory come May. But at times it can be a bad thing.
The constant rotation of the squad doesn’t only affect the team’s performances as a whole, but it disrupts the form they’re in and the rhythm between the players. Ferguson kept the same starting line-up in consecutive games during the wins against Wolves and QPR for only the second time this season, the first coming during the free-sailing victories over our North London counterparts Tottenham and Arsenal. Consistency on the team sheet brings out consistent performances from the players and gives them fluidity and a tremendous understanding, which should be important to this season’s side with them showing signs of playing the Spanish style ‘tiki-taka’. The understanding between the players is very important. They need to understand their teammates’ style of play to perform more as a team, so constant changing won’t help. This was shown during the run-in of last season in the devastating partnership of Rooney and Hernandez, who gave a number of defenders nightmares.
Another negative of constant changing is its effects on our back four. Every title-challenging team needs a stable back four more than anything, and we’ve had a total of 15+ different CB combinations and numerous players (Smalling, Rafael, Fabio, Jones, Valencia) playing at right-back so far this season. After the derby defeat to City, we’re-established the solid-as-cement partnership of Vidic and Ferdinand. Look at what happened as cleen sheets started to flow in, also because of the presence of the Serbian terminator. With our captain and the heart of the defense out for the rest of the season, Ferguson seems to have stumbled across another promising CB partnership in Evans and Ferdinand. Hopefully this will stop the tinkering of the back four.
Let me bring in Barcelona to the argument. I hate using Barcelona for a comparison but bare with me. They are currently the greatest side on the planet and have been for the past 3 years. What Guardiola does is he always tries to field the same side, and would do that if injuries didn’t interrupt, to keep the fluidity and rhythm between the players. For example, in the 60 games Barcelona played in in all competitions last season, they had 8 players making 50+ appearances. For United, who played 59 games (excluding the Community Shield), none of the players made 50 appearances, with Nani and Evra having the most appearances next to their names, who featured for the side 48 times.
This is by no means an attack on Sir Alex Ferguson, it’s far from it. The legendary man comes second to none in his man-management and squad rotation skills. There are lots of periods during the season where rotating the squad is necessary, like during the hectic Christmas schedule, but fielding the same starting 11 has more positives. When we find an XI with a perfectly balanced shape in attack and defense, then we should stick to it. For now, it seems like we’ve struck gold with De Gea; Smalling, Evans, Ferdinand, Evra; Valencia, Carrick, Jones, Nani; Rooney, Welbeck.
Follow the author on Twitter: @10AdamMUFC17