The Chalkboard: Why Manchester United are better balanced with their biggest stars on the bench

As Manchester United earned a much-needed win against Everton this weekend, both Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku were confined to the bench from the start of the game. United produced a strong attacking performance, despite the two biggest and most expensive stars from their forward line watching on from the sidelines.

On the chalkboard

With a front three consisting of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Juan Mata, the Red Devils had a well-balanced attack featuring three players whose differing skillsets all complement one another. 

This was also an attacking trio unburdened of a star man. Due to this, no one player was given excessive attention by opposition defenders, nor was United’s forward play constantly being channeled towards the same individual. The absence of Lukaku and Sanchez made Jose Mourinho’s side both more cohesive in attack and less predictable.

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On top of that, Lukaku and Sanchez’s poor form has seen them come under extreme pressure, meaning that they often overcomplicate things or try to do too much themselves in order to force a positive outcome – this too has a detrimental effect on the team. 

However, United cannot go on forever with two of their costliest assets on the bench. The Portuguese boss must find a way get them firing again. 

Changes to make

First of all, both forwards must get back to the basics of their game and focus on improving their interplay with their teammates rather than individualistic pursuits on the pitch. 

Lukaku, in particular, also needs more support from his teammates and the tactical system they are deployed in. The Belgian No. 9 often cuts an isolated figure when leading the line at Old Trafford. Playing a 4-4-2 formation, with Sanchez alongside Lukaku, offers United an interesting attacking dynamic with lots of attributes and also presents the chance of a fresh start for the pair.