United, who added six new players to their first-team squad during the summer, are light on forward options following Cristiano Ronaldo&aposs exit in late-November and are in desperate need of adding a fresh goal-threat to their ranks. They decided against moving for Netherlands international Cody Gakpo, who has swapped PSV Eindhoven for Premier League rivals Liverpool, meaning they are planning to recruit a new striker on loan instead.
Gakpo was one of a limited number of attainable targets ahead of this month&aposs window opening, meaning the Reds are being forced to look elsewhere to try and increase their attacking output ahead of the second half of the campaign. They are being heavily linked with several options, including Joao Felix of Atletico Madrid and Memphis Depay, who has previously spent time at Old Trafford, of Barcelona.
Felix has not been as regular a fixture as he would have liked at Atletico so far this season, regularly being tasked with impacting games from the bench, meaning they are reportedly open to the idea of letting him leave on loan. United, as well as Arsenal, have been heavily linked with his signature in recent weeks.
With that said, MEN Sport has taken a close look at three ways United could possibly line-up with Felix if he is to seal a temporary loan move to Old Trafford this month.
Now that United are officially 25 games into the Ten Hag era, it is obvious to everyone that the Dutchman wants his team to operate in a traditional 4-3-3 formation. It is a system that gives United the perfect balance throughout the team, not least in midfield, where summer signings Christian Eriksen and Casemiro have turned what was one of the team&aposs biggest weaknesses into their strongest.
It is a system that sees Casemiro and Eriksen sit slightly deeper than architect-in-chief Bruno Fernandes, while Marcus Rashford and Antony occupy the two wide positions in the front-three. Currently, Anthony Martial is the club&aposs only out-and-out striker, meaning Felix would be his direct competitor.
The Portuguese international, should he seal a move to United, would, you would imagine, dislodge Martial from Ten Hag&aposs first choice starting XI and be handed the task of spearheading the forward line, supported by Rashford and Antony either side of him. Retaining possession, allowing him to bring others into play, and his finishing ability are considered as two of his greatest strengths, meaning he could be tailor-made for the role.
Although it is a striker that United want and are desperately in need of this month, Felix has openly admitted in the past that he sees himself at his best when playing in either the No.10 position or as a second striker, operating just behind the front man. That means that question marks could be raised about the 23-year-old&aposs suitability to operate as an out-and-out striker, even if he has experience playing there.
“My best position is as the second forward,” said Felix, speaking to The Athletic last year. “Playing like a No.10, with a guy in front of me.”
With that said, Felix could, in the event of Fernandes ever being unavailable, drop slightly deeper and fill in for his fellow countryman, playing right at the tip of the Reds&apos trademark midfield-three. United, beyond Fernandes, are not blessed with options in attacking-midfield, meaning Felix could also offer a degree of competition for the Reds&apos No.8.
Such is the shape of United&aposs trademark 4-3-3 system, it also has the ability to become a 4-2-3-1. In such a formation, Fernandes would remain the leading contender to occupy the attacking-midfield berth and to try and weave his magic from his most natural habitat.
Should he take on that role, as expected, Felix would slot in by acting as the lone frontman, spearheading the attack, filling the role United would be primarily signing him for. But in this system, such is the nature of the wingers being slightly deeper, it could suit Jadon Sancho&aposs game that little bit more, opposed to Antony, who loves to play closer to the opposition&aposs penalty area than tracking back and conducting a defensive duty.
Sancho is, even if only slightly, more reserved than Antony and would be a suitable option in a 4-2-3-1 system on the right-wing, although, at present, there is nothing to suggest Ten Hag has any plans to alter his preferred formation or approach. It would, however, be a system that would offer a new dimension and something different to what we have been used to seeing.
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