I’ve written this before, but Nigel Adkins and Chris Wilder have at least one thing in common: they both change formation within a game, sometimes several times.
The difference is that whereas Adkins seemed to do it on a whim in the vain hope of dropping on something that worked, Wilder sees what’s happening on the pitch and reacts to it to the benefit of his team.
He did it against Peterborough when George Moncur was getting too much space in front of our defence by taking off Daniel Lafferty and putting on Stefan Scougall to play as an extra man in central midfield.
Last Saturday saw numerous changes of formation to counteract what MK Dons were doing. It took Wilder around fifteen minutes to notice that MK Dons were passing the ball around well in midfield, so he did something about it, bringing Chris Basham forward out of defence.
Scougall was picked to play just behind Billy Sharp but soon found himself on the left of midfield to provide more threat. It was from here that he did so well at the far post to set up Sharp’s goal. Then, when Lavery replaced Scougall with 15 minutes left the change was made with a purpose, using Lavery’s pace to harass tired defenders and give Sharp a break from doing that. Now John Fleck moved wide left, where he tracked the dangerous George Baldock.
So the formation went from 5-3-2 with wing backs to 4-4-1-1 to 4-5-1 to 4-4-2, all in 90 minutes. The players adapted to the changes seamlessly, moving positions without fuss and doing what they were supposed to do without obvious instruction. The outcome was a win that proved United can do it through hard work and organisation as well as with the flowing football we saw against Port Vale and Bradford City.