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Tactical Re-creation - Man Utd 07/08


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It is getting to that stage where people might be a bit bored of FM20 and/or waiting for the new edition to be released, so I thought I would write up a few tactic re-creations and experiments I have been using recently. As always, comments and suggestions are welcome :)

First up is a re-creation of one of my all-time favourite sides – Man Utd 07-09.

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Man Utd dominated English football between 2007 and 2009, winning three league titles in a row. They added the Champions League in 2008 and were just two games away from winning an unprecedented 5 trophies in 2009 (League cup, Premier League and World Club Cup winners, FA Cup semi-finalists and CL runners-up). 

This was probably the last great Ferguson side and in lots of ways reflected the changes that were occurring in the Premier League at the time. Ferguson moved away from the 4-4-2 which had brought him so much success in the 90’s and became more flexible, adjusting the formation and players to suit the situation. The squad was also much more multi-cultural than before, with a young Cristiano Ronaldo flourishing, becoming the first Man Utd player to win the Ballon D’Or since George Best.

As I said, in a lot of ways the tactics changed to suit the opposition, so perhaps the first thing to acknowledge is that the perfect re-creation of this side isn’t really possible! However, I am going to try and start with the following side, which in my (completely uninformed) opinion, is about as close as this side had to a first choice when playing at home. The formation was a 442/433 hybrid, with Ronaldo starting on the right wing but drifting inside to support the forwards in attack.

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Defence

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Edwin Van Der Sar was a ‘classic’ goalkeeper whose role was first and foremost to makes saves, not play as an extra defender/midfielder. For this reason, I’ve gone with a simple GK-D.

In defence we have one of the all-time great partnerships - Ferdinand and Vidic. A classic “stopper-cover” partnership is pretty easy to replicate directly in FM, with the ‘cover’ assigned as a BPD to give more creative freedom.

Wes Brown played a hugely underrated role as the more defensive full-back, staying deep to assist in the build-up and provide cover for the free-roaming Ronaldo, only getting forward once the ball was well inside the opponents half. The simple FB-D replicates this quite well in FM. Meanwhile Patrice Evra had much more license to get forward and would often surge into the final third, overlapping Giggs. I went with a CWB to give a bit more freedom, as Evra sometimes drifted inside and didn’t just run/cross exclusively from wide areas. 

Midfield

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Moving into midfield, Man Utd employed a lop-sided midfield 3 consisting of Carrick, Scholes and Giggs.

Many people would say Carrick was a deep-lying playmaker, but I would argue this was only later in his career. In 2008 he was the positional discipline which allowed Scholes and the forwards to flourish, so I feel a simple DM-S is more appropriate.

Scholes was the playmaker of the side, dropping deeper than he did earlier in his career and just running the show. In terms of dictating the tempo, knowing when to play short/long and picking the right pass, I don’t believe England has ever had a better player. In FM I was torn between DLP and RPM but went with RPM to allow a bit more forward movement and contribution in the final third.

Finally, Giggs’ role is perhaps the hardest to re-create. By this stage of his career he was still starting on the left wing, but running less and playing much more centrally when United had the ball. I found a wide midfielder or inverted winger didn’t sit narrow enough (even with PIs added), so went in the end for a wide playmaker. There is a risk having two playmakers next to each other like this, but it seems to work ok.

Attack

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In Rooney, Ronaldo and Tevez, Man Utd were blessed with probably the best front 3 in the world at that time. All three would swap positions throughout the match and were often given complete freedom to do as they saw fit. Needless to say, the results were spectacular.

Ronaldo in 2008 was just starting his transition from winger to centre-forward. He typically started on the right but cut inside to cross or shoot. He also did the least defensive work of the three and just drifted around looking for space when out of possession. In FM, I think he was closest to an IF-A, but with added roaming. Rooney and Tevez were harder to replicate, as in real-life they were both similar players who inter-changed and shared the different attacking duties. I went for a simple DLF/AF combination, but added swap instructions so they rotate throughout the game. This helps encourage the teamwork of real-life, with one dropping deep and the other leading the line.

Mentality

I don’t believe the effects of team mentality are particularly well explained in FM, but nevertheless it is clearly a crucial aspect in any tactic. I went with ‘Positive’ as a starting point, mainly because Man Utd were clearly a side (particularly at home) who set out to dominate games. I briefly trialed ‘Attacking’ but felt this was probably too much as it seemed to lead to lots of unnecessary dribbling. ‘Positive’ seems to give a better balance, leaving room to add further tweaks with player instructions.

Player Instructions

The ‘stopper’ centre-back is instructed to pass short to mimic Vidic in real-life, who would mostly pass to Ferdinand or Carrick. The DM (Carrick) is also given ‘pass shorter’ and ‘hold position’ to keep him as the more defensive anchor in midfield. Up front, the insider and deep-lying forwards are told to ‘roam from position’ and the DLF/AF are instructed to swap position. This was intended to re-create the fluidity of the Ronaldo-Rooney-Tevez front line, although a true re-creation of their movements probably isn’t possible in FM. Finally, both centre-forwards are told to ‘close down more’ in order to increase their work rate and implement a split-block (albeit with only two players).

CD-X – Pass shorter,

DM-S – Hold position, pass shorter

IF-A – Roam from position

DLF-S – Close down more, roam from position, swap position with AF

AF-A – Close down more, swap position with DLF

Team Instructions

The final decisions to be made were the team instructions. Having initially tried lots of different varieties, I think I have finally learnt (the hard way) one of the key tips for FM tactic-building. DO NOT USE TOO MANY TEAM INSTRUCTIONS! I found the more I added, the more my team seemed to ignore them. In the end, I scrapped the lot and started afresh with just 4 instructions and guess what, results improved immensely.

Overlap left – IMO this had to be included in order to mimic Evra’s attacking runs.

Play out of defence – perhaps slightly controversial as United were not a ‘tiki-taka’ side, but they didn’t play long balls out of defence very often either, so I felt this was appropriate.

Higher line of defence – added in order to increase compactness and put more pressure on the opposition

Use offside trap – added to counter-act the negative effects of a high defensive line. Some people suggest this isn’t appropriate when using a covering defender but so far I have found it to work just fine J

I also add Counter-press and Be more expressive in some games if we are struggling, particularly home games against weaker opposition who, in this version of the ME, are remarkably adept at playing keep-ball……

There is also the option of increasing to ‘Attacking’ mentality for short periods, which also seems to help against very defensive sides.

So, where does that leave us? A set of roles and duties which I believe match quite closely with the Man Utd 08 side.

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 Next up – the results!

Edited by Manutd1999
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So…. The results

I am currently managing Benfica, trying to bring through their ‘golden generation’ of Dantas, Alvaro, Tavares, Florentino et al. I’ve also added Sandro Tonali, Tiago Almada, Matias Arezo and Renyer, so the future is looking bright J It is a shame that FM20 will be the last chance to try this, as most of the real-life team have been sold over the last two years.

Line-Up

Here is how we line up:

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AC Milan inexplicably allowed Donnurumma to leave on a free transfer, so he is my clear No 1. Andre Almeida is a solid if unspectacular right-back whilst Grimaldo has a much stronger all-round game (dribbling, crossing, passing etc). Overall, very similar to Wes Brown and Evra for United.

Unfortunately I had to sell Ruben Dias once Man Utd came calling (80 million + extras) but instead signed Franco Acerbi, who is the classic ‘stopper’ (aggression, heading, tackling etc but a bit slow). However, alongside him I lack a natural covering defender. Ferro has the ball-playing attributes but is too slow, so at present Pedro Alvaro gets the nod. In time he will develop I’m sure, but he is not quite the ‘Ferdinand’ I need yet.

In midfield, Florentino is the perfect holding player, with excellent positioning, anticipation etc. Adel Taraabt is a player re-born for me, acting as the perfect playmaker with excellent vision and passing. I managed to get Gigi Wijnaldum from Liverpool and he has all the attributes to play on the left (dribbling, passing, ‘cuts inside’ PPM), although he is not a true “winger converted to CM” like Giggs.

Up front, Marco Asensio is this team’s Ronaldo. Signed on loan from Madrid, he is simply a class above other players in Liga Nos. He seems slightly over-powered in this game vs real-life. He can dribble, shoot, pass – basically everything. Alongside him I have two other new signings – Morelos (20 million from Rangers) and Higuain (another free transfer). Both have the work rate and good all-round games to mimic Rooney/Tevez as best as possible.

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Results

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In summary, it has been an ok start to the season. We have won 8, drawn 2, lost 1 in the league. Unfortunately Porto’s excellent form puts them 3 points ahead in the table at this stage. We have safely progressed in the cup competitions and have qualified from the Champions League group stage with a game to spare.

As the results show, we are defensively solid and concede very few (similar to Man Utd 2008). Going forward, we create lots of chances and would probably have scored more if my forwards (or any forward in FM20 for that matter) could finish 1v1…..   

In terms of player ratings and stats, Asensio is clearly our top performer (8 goals and 6 assists from 16 games). It’s slightly surprising that Taraabt only has one assist, but in some ways this is a lot like Scholes IRL. He often makes the “assist to the assist” and has some of the highest ‘key passes’ stats in the league, but probably doesn’t get the credit he deserves in terms of pure numbers.

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In general, I feel the tactic is performing well. If we can keep this recent unbeaten run going and make a few tweaks to help break-down more defensive sides then I feel we will be successful.

In-Game Analysis

I have picked out some screenshots from the game vs Aves to illustrate how the tactic is working on a good day.

Here is how we line up when in transition. As you can see, the basic shape is close to what I wanted to achieve. Almeida holds his position to form a back 3. Asensio has dropped deep to offer another option, whilst Wijnaldum drifts inside. This allows Grimaldo to push up and offer an option for an overlap on the left.

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As we move into the final third, Grimaldo dribbles towards the box. Almeida pushes a bit further forward to support on the right. Florentino covers, whereas Taraabt and Wijnaldum sit on the edge of the box and the forwards form a 3-man forward line.

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Here is a plot of the passes and heat map from Taraabt in that one game. I think this replicates Scholes quite well. A nice mix of long and short passes with lots of time spent just outside the oppositions box, directing the play.

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Finally, here are two examples of our goals. The first comes via one of our most potent attacking threats, overlaps from Grimaldo then a cross or cut-back into the 6-yard box. The second is Taraabt doing his best Scholes impression, sitting on the edge of the box and slamming it into the corner when given the opportunity to shoot.

gif to add...

Things to Improve

One thing is also clear from our results so far, the tactic isn’t perfect. Particularly against defensive sides, of which there are a lot in Liga Nos, we struggle to create clear chances. Our play seems a little bit too rushed at times and we can’t seem to dominate possession.

With that in mind, I have a few tweaks which I will be trialing the next few games:

  • The left midfield role isn’t working as well as I had hoped. Wijnaldum gets relatively low match ratings and doesn’t seem to have much influence on the game. I am going to try a WM on attack duty and see if it helps give us more penetration
  • Change Almeida from a FB-D to FB-S. We simply don't need the additional defensive cover against sides who refuse to attack.
  • Reduce the tempo a notch to try and reduce the number of turnovers.

 

 

 

Edited by Manutd1999
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Interested to see the results. A few things I would do different personally but I think this is one of those sides that's very tricky to replicate, especially in the confines of a single tactic. There's probably 3 reasonably distinct variations SAF employed throughout 07/08 at least.

Edited by NotSoSpecialOne
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26 minutes ago, NotSoSpecialOne said:

Interested to see the results. A few things I would do different personally but I think this is one of those sides that's very tricky to replicate, especially in the confines of a single tactic. There's probably 3 reasonably distinct variations SAF employed throughout 07/08 at least.

Yes, I saw it live in Dragão when Ronaldo scored that iconic goal against us. SAF had Rooney playing as a right midfielder defending against the advances of Aly Cissokho. A flat 4141 if I recall correctly. Anderson was crucial in the middle.

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Part 2 is up :thup:

Quote

There's probably 3 reasonably distinct variations SAF employed throughout 07/08 at least.

Quote

SAF had Rooney playing as a right midfielder defending against the advances of Aly Cissokho. A flat 4141 if I recall correctly. Anderson was crucial in the middle.

Completely agree with both of these points. My interpretation is basically how they played at home in games they expected to dominate. Away, particularl in Europe, they used a different system. Ji-Sung Park and Anderson were crucial in these games but rarely featured in others. But re-creating that is for another day.......

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Em 12/10/2020 em 05:08, NotSoSpecialOne disse:

Interested to see the results. A few things I would do different personally but I think this is one of those sides that's very tricky to replicate, especially in the confines of a single tactic. There's probably 3 reasonably distinct variations SAF employed throughout 07/08 at least.

Yes, the Champions League Final had ronaldo as a LW to exploit Essien.

Cheers,
Bitner 

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On 11/10/2020 at 23:52, Manutd1999 said:

Play out of defence – perhaps slightly controversial as United were not a ‘tiki-taka’ side, but they didn’t play long balls out of defence very often either, so I felt this was appropriate.

You don't need to play tiki-taka to be a team that plays out of defence.

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Whilst you mention this is a 442/433 hybrid, I personally think it should really be a 442 formation.

GK: GK-De

DR: FB-Su

DCR: BPD-Co

DCL: CD-St

DL: FB-At

MR: IW-At

MCR: BBM-Su add Traits like Tries Long Range Passes for the Scholes role.

MCL: DLP-De

ML: W/IW-Su (maybe WM-Su for Giggs, can't remember what phase of going from flying winger to slower CM this was)

STCR: DLF-At

STCL: CF-Su 

That would be my starting point, would have to see it in action to decide how to refine/tweak, maybe stay wider and run wider on DL, sit narrower on ML.  Maybe even Stay Wider on STCL as I remember Rooney almost being LW hugging touchline unless he was actually playing LW! 

You mention in yours analysis about the difficulty in this ME with opponents keeping it deep.  With two lines of 4 it should be more compact due to no DM, plus he's higher to help support the two forwards.  I'd maybe even go to two support duty forwards so they both can affect the DMs.

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For the league side, I would line up with something like this.

GK De: Even though Van de Saar was a very good sweeper keeper at points in career, this is probably most suitable for him at United. Maybe SK-De but I've never used one of those so I don't know how toned down that role is compared to say a SK-Su.

RB: For Brown I'd opt for FB-De. Could be sold on a Support role here too but it'll other wise still move into the vacated space on the flank.

RCB: BPD-Co: Suits Rio.

LCB: CD-St: Suits Vidic to a tea.

LB: FB-A (run wider, stay wider) when paired with the "Giggs" role. WB-Su with the "Nani" role. 

MR: IW-A for Ronaldo. If only because you can't get an IF-A this deep. The inverted winger is the next best thing.

RCM: At this point, Carrick was a 'water carrier' , there to anchor the midfield, later he'd take on more "playmaking" duties. A poor man's Makélélé, in essence. But you can only get an Anchorman in the DM slot, so a no frills CM-De here.

LCM: DLP-Su for Scholes. He wasn't a runner like he used to be, with SAF utilising him for his great passing range primarily instead. CM-Su, if you don't want the ball magnet. Either way, player should have traits like Tries Long Range PassesTries Killer Balls often and maybe (but possibly overkill) Likes to Switch Ball to Other Flank. If the player has none of these traits, the role in question should have their passing set to more direct.

ML: WM-Su (with maybe sits narrower) for Giggs. W-Su for Nani (gets further forward here). 

STCR: DLF-A for Tevez. Roams from Positionmaybe More Urgent Pressing and finally Swaps Position with STCL.

STCL: CF-Su for Rooney. Stays Widermaybe More Urgent Pressing and finally Swaps Position with STCR. More urgent pressing on the forwards here is just a spitball on getting these roles to work harder akin to Tevez and Rooney and probably not necessary.

There's probably a dozen different things you could do to try and replicate Rooney, Tevez and Ronaldo. Getting that working is the real challenge.

Against tougher opposition, the double pivot of Carrick and Scholes would often sit even deeper, so I would opt for pushing the CMs into the DM strata so you end up with an Anchorman on the right side and still DLP-Su on the left. RB would be bumped up to Support if being used on Defend duty normally.

Team Instructions

Mentality: Balanced or Positive as the baseline. Then switch down to Cautious or up to Attacking as needed.

In Possession: Play out of defenseWhipped CrossesOverlap Left depending on the role set up (I don't think its necessary with a FB-A and WM-Su personally). Maybe Run At Defense. Everything else default to the mentality setting.

In transition: Regroup, maybe. United would look to defend in something akin to a low or mid block and let the opposition make a mistake before pouncing (outside of Tevez/Rooney). So regroup should help with that to my mind.

Out of possession: Higher D-Line, Standard LoE (Situational Standard D-Line, Lower than Standard LoE) for vertical compactness. United would often defend with width, but defensive width to wide may be excessive here. Offside Trap. Pressing should either be default or even a notch lower. Aggressive presses weren't particularly common place at this time and United were no exception to that.

 

I think I've waffled on long enough so I'll not touch on the European lineup for now. :kriss:

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My interpretation would be:

GK (d)

RB: FB (s)

Centre backs: CB (d) 

LB: FB (a)/WB (s)

RCM: CM (d)

LCM: DLP (s)

LM: WM (s) - sit narrow, cut inside, roaming

AMR: IF (a)/RD (a) - narrow, roaming

RCF: DLF (a) - roaming

LCF: CF (s) - roaming

 

A few notes:

  • For the centre-backs, there's no need for a stopper/cover combo - a Ferdinand-type player will cover by default, and a Vidic-type defender will act as a stopper by default
  • The centre mids would change depending on personnel. Hargreaves and Fletcher were more like BWMs or CM (s) and Anderson a BBM. Fergie would chop and change the midfield pairing game to game
  • If Nani or Park were on the wing, they'd be a winger or defensive winger (probably both on support)
  • You could make a case for both forwards being on a support duty as neither really stayed high up the pitch, but I suspect it would make the formation a bit toothless in FM
  • As others have said, in some bigger games United would play a 4-3-3 with Ronaldo or Rooney usually being the centre-forward and the other wide with either Nani or Park taking the third attacking slot. Tevez played less often in the 4-3-3 (from memory). In the 4-3-3 it would be one holder (usually always Carrick) and two runners (often two of Hargreaves, Anderson, Fletcher).
  • That being said, 4-4-2 was used in a fair number of 'big' games, including the CL final and both semis against Barcelona
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4 horas atrás, howard moon disse:

My interpretation would be:

GK (d)

RB: FB (s)

Centre backs: CB (d) 

LB: FB (a)/WB (s)

RCM: CM (d)

LCM: DLP (s)

LM: WM (s) - sit narrow, cut inside, roaming

AMR: IF (a)/RD (a) - narrow, roaming

RCF: DLF (a) - roaming

LCF: CF (s) - roaming

 

A few notes:

  • For the centre-backs, there's no need for a stopper/cover combo - a Ferdinand-type player will cover by default, and a Vidic-type defender will act as a stopper by default
  • The centre mids would change depending on personnel. Hargreaves and Fletcher were more like BWMs or CM (s) and Anderson a BBM. Fergie would chop and change the midfield pairing game to game
  • If Nani or Park were on the wing, they'd be a winger or defensive winger (probably both on support)
  • You could make a case for both forwards being on a support duty as neither really stayed high up the pitch, but I suspect it would make the formation a bit toothless in FM
  • As others have said, in some bigger games United would play a 4-3-3 with Ronaldo or Rooney usually being the centre-forward and the other wide with either Nani or Park taking the third attacking slot. Tevez played less often in the 4-3-3 (from memory). In the 4-3-3 it would be one holder (usually always Carrick) and two runners (often two of Hargreaves, Anderson, Fletcher).
  • That being said, 4-4-2 was used in a fair number of 'big' games, including the CL final and both semis against Barcelona

This looks more familiar to me, because Scholes ALWAYS played center-left, never center right, because he and Ronaldo at the same side would mean suicide.

That said, against Barcelona we looked like a 4-2-3-1 with Park as AMC sometimes... i guess 07/08 was hard to replicate because it had a lot of formations used to explot/stifle the opposition, not only the 4-4-2 to propose the game.

Against Lyon per example we went in a 4-2-3-1 with Anderson as AMC, to get a little bit more solid donw the mid.

Cheers,
Bitner 

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Hate to say, but Manchester United at the time was one of the best sides I've seen.

Enjoyed your post, I don't know if it's more/less accurate but I would be tempted to drop the DLF to attacking midfield to play as a shadow striker and play Tevez as a CF.

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Some interesting replies here - it seems like we are all in broad agreement :thup:

Quote

Scholes ALWAYS played center-left

Agreed, I had overlooked this but it works much better with 'Carrick' covering on the right and 'Scholes' on the left. Some of the other main differences:

Scholes - DLP vs RPM

This probably doesn't make too much difference, but I still think RPM better replicates his forward movement and general link play. DLP is a bit passive sometimes.

Ronaldo - IF vs IW

An interesting one, in reality he was probably an IF playing the IW position ;) I do find that, even in the AMR slot, the IF does drop back into a flat midfield 4when defending, so I have stuck with my original choice at the moment.

Tevez/Rooney

I like the idea of playing them both as support strikers but it is probably too passive in FM (although maybe it could work with an attacking mentality...?). Even the CF-S/DLF-A combo can cause problems against packed defences. Having a AF-A or PF-A seems to occupy the centre-backs better and creates more space. 

This is my current version of the tactic. I don't believe Man Utd ever played 'fairly narrow' under Ferguson, but it seems to help us control the game better so I am trialling it as a compromise for now. This also gives the WM-S a better position.

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It's still working ok, although I am currently going through one of those mid-season slumps that make it very hard to belive that FM isn't scripted in some form. Exhibit A - the opposition DM (long shot attribute = 9) scores a 30 yard screamer to equalise in the 90th minute with their only shot of the game, the other goal coming from a header from a free-kick...

image.png.b0986894172b7b5c4c8b49f4792d7f1b.pngThis game finished 2-2........

Hopefully things will pick up a bit as we enter the season finale. Preventing the IF (Asensio for me) from taking too many long shots is my next area of focus (as you can see above, this wastes a lot of our chances)

 

Edited by Manutd1999
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8 hours ago, Manutd1999 said:

 

Scholes - DLP vs RPM

This probably doesn't make too much difference, but I still think RPM better replicates his forward movement and general link play. DLP is a bit passive sometimes.

Depends on the player you have there - I tested with Pogba for example and his PPMs help facilitate that. Totally get where you're coming from though.

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10 horas atrás, Manutd1999 disse:

This is my current version of the tactic. I don't believe Man Utd ever played 'fairly narrow' under Ferguson

 

Well, he rocked a 4-1-2-1-2 Narrow in 12/13, so i'm not sure about that... And Fairly Narrow helps Evra's Overlaps, so i think it's fairly accurate tbh.

Cheers,
Bitner 
 

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