Formation Debate: United debates on either Five at the back or remain with usual formation for Atletico clash

It promises to be a tactical battle in the Spanish capital when Manchester United meet Atletico Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League.

There is talk in the local press that the home side may opt for five at the back in a bid to gain the upper hand in the first leg, with Jose Maria Gimenez starting, and it has been suggested in some quarters that this is also an option for Ralf Rangnick to consider.

Although we usually play with two centre-backs, Raphael Varane came off the bench late on at Leeds United to assist Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof and, with such strong options in the middle of the defence, it may tempt the interim manager to change things.

Ahead of making your United Predictions, and trying to win a signed shirt, we provide our views on the matter…


Sometimes, you can be spoiled for choice and that is seemingly the case for Ralf Rangnick in the centre-back department, with Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane all in a great place heading into our huge European night in Madrid. Could you really leave one of them out?

Lindelof and Maguire were both excellent in Sunday’s stormy victory at Elland Road, while Varane has been playing his best football as a Red in 2022 – plus, he has faced Atletico more than any other opponent in his illustrious career. That’s why I’m anticipating a change in formation from our interim manager, who had made it clear he isn’t adverse to mixing it up when the scenario demands it.

A back three could provide a solid base to build from and might also help us to control the tempo, which would be crucial in the cauldron of the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium. When you’re away from home in the first leg, a clean sheet is so, so important to your chances of qualification, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Lindelof-Maguire-Varane triumvirate in that starting line-up


We know Ralf Rangnick will have a plan for this vital away leg but whether he’ll decide to change things dramatically by playing five at the back is another matter.

It must be tempting considering the fact that skipper Harry Maguire did well at Leeds after scoring the opener, Victor Lindelof was also excellent at Elland Road and Raphael Varane’s Champions League and La Liga experience will prove useful at the Wanda Metropolitano. However, I think the boss will just make a tough call on which pairing to start with.

Although the away-goals rule has been scrapped, I’d still like to see United get on the front foot and try to pick holes in a defence that traditionally had been the most miserly in Europe before springing some leaks in La Liga this term.

There are clear signs of Ralf being an attacking coach (I must admit I love the way he throws caution to the wind when we’re chasing a goal) and I don’t see this altering too much, even if a draw would surely be considered a good result to take back to Manchester.

It’s going to be a fabulous atmosphere in the Spanish capital and I want to see some of our top creative talents, such as Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes, getting on the ball and helping us dictate play from the midfield