Manchester United’s 2007/08 Tactics Explained

Manchester United’s 2007/08 Tactics Explained
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Sir Alex Ferguson’s title winning side of
2007/08, who also clinched the Champions League against Chelsea on penalties, were one of
the finest teams to have graced the stage of
English and European football in recent times. In the Premier League, Manchester United were
imperious, winning 27 games, drawing six, and only losing five. The team were fired by an absurd season’s
output from Cristiano Ronaldo , who scored 31 goals, including five
from outside the box and four free-kicks; he
also contributed six assists. Carlos Tevez scored 14 and managed six assists,
and Wayne Rooney scored 12, but assisted 10. In fact, this trident scored 70% of United’s
goals and registered 41% of their assists. The bedrock of the side was the back five,
who only conceded 22 goals that season, joint 6 th
lowest in PL history, and managed 21 clean sheets, joint 8 th highest in PL history. Of 38 PL games, Rio Ferdinand started 35,
Wes Brown 34, Patrice Evra 33, and Nemanja Vidic
32. Edwin van der Sar started in goal 29 times. In the league, United could afford to play
mostly with a 4-4-2, often using Ronaldo and Giggs
on the flanks, with Rooney and Tevez up front. The central midfield berths were filled by
Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes , in front of the rock-solid back four. Stylistically, the
foundation of both the League and Champions League successes were the same in defence. United defended with two banks of four, vertically
compact but strung out quite wide across the pitch. Ferguson knew that in Ferdinand especially,
he had a defender who was composed, quick, and adept at reading the game, and who could
plug any gaps that such width created. Both full backs played wide, as did both wide
men in the midfield, and the side only tended to press if the opposition mis-controlled
or drifted wide and barely pressed in the opposition
half at all. Ferguson relied on his individual players’
ability to win the ball, to read passes and intercept,
and the defensive stance was predicated less on defending and more on being ready to
break with extraordinary pace when the ball was won back. Indeed, there are strong echoes
of Ferguson’s 2007/08 vintage in Diego Simeone’s defensive approach, differing mainly in the
width used. Going forwards, especially in the Premier
League, United’s approach was dictated by two
main factors. Firstly, Michael Carrick’s ability to screen
the back four and lay off short passes to Paul Scholes enabled Scholes to dictate
the game from deep, launching raking counter- attacking passes or carrying the ball into
space created by the opposition’s disorganisation after turnovers. And, once Scholes had released the wide men
and front players, Ferguson could effectively sit back and allow the talents of Ronaldo,
Tevez, Rooney, and one of Nani or Giggs, to take
over. In short, United were just too strong for
many of their league opponents, especially when attacked on the break.​
In European competition, Ronaldo scored eight, and Tevez and Rooney four each, but their
march to the title was subtly different from the way the team set up in the league. The
foundation was still the consistent back seven, but the two main midfielders, Carrick and
Scholes, sat deeper. Ferguson showed that accusations that he was
an astute man manager and buyer of players, but a second-rate tactician, were nonsense. Against Roma, for example, United played
effectively a 4-5-1, with Rooney on the left and Park Ji-Sung on the right. Ronaldo, playing as a front man, dropped and
drifted wide, causing havoc. Indeed, in many
European games, the United’s shape was either a 4-3-3 or a 4-5-1, and the trident of Tevez,
Ronaldo, and Rooney played merry hell with teams – each could play wide, up front,
or come deep to forage for the ball, and the
opposition’s blood was twisted trying to work out
who was doing what at which point. Ferguson would also use an asymmetrical 4-4-2,
with Ronaldo pushed much further up and a more workmanlike midfielder, Park or Hargreaves,
playing wide on the other side but tucked in and deeper, as he did in the Champions
League final against Chelsea. Tactically flexible, technically brilliant,
well organised, and built on a core of players who
could be relied on to do whatever the manager asked of them: the 2007/08 Manchester
United swept all before them, and it’s clear how they managed it. They were brilliant.

100 thoughts on “Manchester United’s 2007/08 Tactics Explained

  1. The best part about this team was the rotation they had in players like Anderson, Nani, O'Shea, Fletcher, Saha, Neville, Park, Evans. To be honest, only Nani and Saha (when healthy) could crack the starting 11 during that season. The rest were squad players but Ferguson not only was a tactician, but also a master in relationships and bonds with players to get the best out of them. Imperial managers like Ferguson dont exist anymore.

  2. and then it all went to pot…Ronaldo was sold, replaced by a guy who is now a right back Antonio Valencia, who is a very good player, but not even a patch on Ronaldo. Then Tevez was allowed to go and Owen came in for …i dunno I was tearing my hair out by this point. Stupid kit changes, crap players, lack of investment in new players, bringing back old has beens, David Moyes fiasco, then sacking of van Gaal on the day he won the FA Cup…what a mess. Spending over £700 million on players who couldn't care less. No cohesion, no stability, no clue. Just 17 foreigners and pigeon english tactics. Terrible. The Premier League is also a joke. 350 foreigners…England 1-2 Iceland….any one …any one…

  3. i have one question, when wayne go for left winger and ronaldo play striker, who plays in front of carrick and scholes? between the two cdms and ronaldo?

  4. To add to your comments regarding European games, Park often was deployed in destroyer-esque role in midfield to help Carrick and Scholes in retrieving the ball and using Park's 3 lungs, it allowed United to go on swift counter attacks with Rooney, Ronaldo and Park playing keep ball. Very effective and something that is missing in the United team of today.

  5. Hargreaves is one of the best defensive mid of the last 15 year in terms of workrate he was brilliant in 06

  6. 1:00 "Kept 21 clean sheets. Joint 8th LOWEST in premier league history"???? It would be joint 8th HIGHEST surely lol

  7. What annoyed me was that Fergie only managed to take united to 2 European wins. A manager of his level deserves far more. Shame really.

  8. Actually, I’m not sure I agree with the Roma analysis. Against Roma, Ronaldo stayed wide right and would cut inside while Alex Smith would dart around the front to create space. Park would come on later but only after United had already basically put Roma to bed.

    United lined up more like a 4-3-3 holding with Carrick sitting back and allowing Scholes and Giggs to press, while Smith played almost a false 9 with Rooney and Ronaldo starting wide and then cutting inside to shoot. United‘s formation was very similar to Pep’s current 4-3-3 just more direct, more narrow, and miles faster

    Great video though! That team was so fun to watch!!

  9. See the fluidity in that front 3? A tactically astute manager could get similar results from Martial, Lukaku, Sanchez/Rashford. But, José.

  10. Ed Woodward and the rest of United board needs to study this clip CONSTANTLY! This is what they need to do to get United back into their best again!

  11. The key (imo) was personality.

    Teams don't click like they used too. The game is turning into American football with stop start kinda thing. Everything's a foul.

    Fergie pit the refs in place. They were kinda scared you know?

    Or am I just baked.

  12. What a team though ronaldo Rooney in his prime scholes tevez giggs Ferdinand in his prime Jesus everyone on that pitch lol I'm not a united fan but growing up they were the team you know whenever I thought off an English team it would always be man united I was like 5 or 6 so lol

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  14. that two midfielder Scholes & Carrick is legendary maybe the most underrated duo ever. media UK thought Carrick was over paid then he shut them all with his goal against Roma & he was the reason United won PL 2012/2013

  15. Darren Fletcher was an unsung hero during the mid to late noughties as his work rate especially in Europe and big games was an invaluable asset for Man United.

  16. Highly disagree with your analysis. Sir Alex Fegueson used more than the little tactics you explained. If you think the little you explained is football, you just taught how Fergie did +/- .

  17. TBH, we had all of these (well, almost) nowadays.
    De Gea (van der Sar)
    Valencia (Brown)
    Bailly (Ferdinand)
    Lindeloef (Vidic)
    Shaw (Evra)
    Matic (Carrick)
    Pogba (Scholes)
    Martial (Tevez)
    Rashford (Rooney)

    minus Ronaldo and Giggs lookalike. I would say Mata could be compared to Giggs but not close enough. We are missing Ronaldo's hole that we are still looking for. Sanchez still not fit for this hole.
    We hope that Sanchez will find his great performance again so we can at least near to this 2007/2008 tactics and formations

  18. Funnily enough Carrick and Scholes who don't get fair mentions were their two best players. Gave Ronaldo everything he needed to be the world's best, and gave Rooney everything to become united finest ever striker.

  19. Vidic never gets the credit he deserves… Ferdinand was better on the ball but I have never seen a defender as good as Vidic and for 3 or 4 seasons he was the best defender in the world by a mile.

    Ferdinand might have had a better career overall but as a United fan who watched them every single week, Vidic is the best defender I've ever seen and he would also put his head where other people wouldn't put their feet.

  20. This is the first premier league season I can remember really watching. I was 5 years old and rememeber watching every united game and getting so excited. I’ve watched the season on DVD about 200 times and used to have a book on it. Hoping we can get back to that level in the near future

  21. That was the pinnacle of Englisb football. 1998-2009 was the period when English teams really made their mark on European football. After 2008 English football went on a 10 year decline. While Spanish football dominated european football in the 2010s.

  22. Carlos Queiroz shaped that season with his own strategies. Respect him, he's the Best tactician Sir Alex has ever worked with.

  23. in 07/08 quieroz proposed a more unpredictable attacking approach in the form of a 433 formation after the first 3 games in which utd picked up one point and so SAF agreed if we aren't going to be successful this year we might as well just go all out early on now and then mourinho got sacked which did leave a pretty much free run at the title but by then the more attacking approach proposed by the coaching team was already being put in place and as a result utd outscored many teams that year due the versatility of ronaldo,rooney and tevez adding to that the youth of nani and anderson as well peak performances of vidic,evra and Ferdinand. Towards the later years of SAF's tenure at utd he adopted a more of a 451 but switching to 442 when utd attacked and had the ball of course.

  24. So many games we won 2-0 that season, braces from Ronaldo. Phenomenal players, brilliant blend of talent, desire and experience in the team. Absolutely loved this team.

  25. I know football has moved on but I feel like this current United side can try and mirror this style, obviously its lacking someone has mercurial as Ronaldo, but we now have flexible players in our attack again

  26. As much as I absolutely worship and love sir Alex, I do believe, the tactics of that era was planned and designed by Carlos Queiroz.

  27. Lol, this team would get eaten alive in todays football. Utd are the new liverpool – living in the past – and utd tv is the new afc tv, constantly moaning and moaping about. This year was the beginning of the end for this fallen club

  28. We beacame champions of england. Champions of europe after that and then became champions of the world. No english club has done all these things in one season.

  29. Why u not mention at all about Hargreaves? United used 4-3-3 formation with Carrick-Hargraves-Scholes as midfielder. Just like in UCL Final. Giggs was injury often in that time

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