To say there was an element of surprise to Manchester United's starting line-up against Chelsea on Sunday afternoon is probably an understatement.

United caretaker boss Michael Carrick — in a bid to combat the Chelsea threat, given Thomas Tuchel's side's rampant form — decided to trial a new-look system, pack his three-man midfield with defensive-minded players and drop Cristiano Ronaldo to the bench.

It was all a bit of gamble to say the very least.

However, considering United emerged with a point in the bag, securing a 1-1 draw, Carrick does deserve some credit.

It stopped the Reds' rot against the Premier League's early pace-setters and provided incoming interim manager Ralf Rangnick with a platform to build on, ahead of his opening game in charge against Arsenal at Old Trafford on Thursday night.

While securing a point away from home against Chelsea is nothing to be sniffed at, United must start carrying a greater threat on the front foot. After all, not many clubs can boast a front-three as terrifying as the one United can field when everyone is fit.

However, how can United's attacking players be expected to the damage in the final third that is expected of them when they have such a defensive-minded crop of players behind them?

With all due respect, the likes of Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay and Fred — the three players who started in midfield on Sunday afternoon — are not going to create chances at the same level as the likes of Bernardo Silva and Kevin De Bruyne would on the blue side of Manchester.

Against Chelsea, United trailed a new tactical approach, with Bruno Fernandes playing as a false nine, flanked either side by Jadon Sancho — who grabbed his second goal in as many games — and Marcus Rashford.

It worked to a degree with Sancho's goal, but provided very limited attacking opportunities. Fernandes struggled to get to grips with his role and produced another disappointing performance, a trend that he seems to be struggling to halt right now.

In truth, Fernandes' involvement from the start was a surprise. He didn't start against Villarreal on Tuesday night and has not shown his best levels for quite some time. His replacement in Spain Donny van de Beek deserved to start on Sunday. He had shown promise against Watford, coming off the bench to score, and led the press against Villarreal, stepping into a higher role to link the midfield and attack in a 4-2-3-1 system.

Against Arsenal, United need to combine their Villarreal and Chelsea plans, as Rangnick prepares to take charge for the first time.

Whereas against Chelsea, United were the ones expected to be under the cosh, the Reds need to reverse that on Thursday night, take the game to Arsenal and impose themselves with their array of tacking talent.

United should set-up with a 4-3-3 system, with Sancho, Ronaldo — a true striker rather than a false nine — and Rashford leading the line. However, for that to work, United need someone to link the midfield with them. Van de Beek should be that man.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's recent exit is meant to offer Van de Beek a United lifeline and the chance to resurrect his Old Trafford career. He barely had a sniff of a chance under the Norwegian and he surely get more opportunities under Rangnick.

United have struggled for attacking fluency at Old Trafford for some time. Turning to Van de Beek to add a more progressive component to their midfield three against Arsenal will give them a greater attacking threat.

Van de Beek would be able to make runs from the midfield towards the penalty area, leaving two of Matic, McTominay and Fred to soak up any danger on the counter-attack and offer protection to the back-four.

His performances against Watford and Villarreal provided both promise and something different for United. After all, you don't become a £40million signing for nothing.

Rangnick, with time, will make his own mind up about how he wants United to play and who will become mainstays in his plans. But turning to Van de Beek to offer United more aggression and thrust in a more coherent 4-3-3 may be a first step that the fans get behind. It could United the boost they need in an attempt to rediscover that winning feeling.

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