We take a look at the key talking points ahead of The U's trip to Cheshire on Saturday...
The tactical battle
Mark Bonner has praised his side’s flexibility and ability to change up their style throughout games – whether that means seeing players like Adam May, who despite impressing in last weekend’s draw with Fleetwood, drop out of the team to make way for Sam Smith – allowing The U’s to start with two-up top as opposed to the lone striker and an advanced midfielder, or the ability for his side to change shape mid game.
The U’s come up against a Crewe side who themselves boast that same ability, as the boss touched on upon in his latest Pre-Match Press Conference. David Artell’s men had originally lined up in a four-four-three formation in the opening weeks of the season, however, a poor start has potentially influenced the 40-year-old to re-think, seeing his side recently line-up with five at the back, with one of the attacking three making way.
Whatever both manages choose to do on the day, it’s certainly set up to be a fascinating tactical battle between the two.
The Railwaymen on the right track
One point and four defeats in their opening five League One games would have left Crewe fans fearing the worst – no doubt worsened by the departures of three key men in the summer. However, things are starting to look up for the Cheshire based club, only losing one of their previous six games in all competitions.
David Artell’s side have undoubtedly become harder to beat, perhaps due to the tactical switch up, as proved to on Tuesday night, despite being under the cosh for large parts of the game and facing 27 shots, earned a respectable point against play-off chasing Plymouth Argyle away from home, the same feat United themselves achieved earlier in the season.
The U’s boss has made it evidentially clear that stats mean nothing – as shown a fortnight ago, where his side won their first game at Fratton Park, having failed in their previous eight attempts – however, his United side have proved to be somewhat of a bogey side for the Cheshire club over the years, only losing once since 1996, with United losing to Crewe on only eight of the 31 occasions both sides have met.
The last time the two sides clash back in 2019 saw then-loanee Sam Smith bag a brace in a 3-2 United win. Crewe would then go onto be promoted because of their superior points-per-game ratio, after the season was abandoned at the start of March 2020.
The ten game mark
United’s game on Saturday ticks off the first real milestone of the season, as Mark Bonner’s side pass the ten-game mark. The U’s boss has mentioned on many occasions this season already, the ten-game mark gives his side the opportunity to really look back and evaluate where they are and having already faced two of the four sides that finished in the League One play-offs last season, as well as made the tricky trips to Accrington, Plymouth and Portsmouth, there’s certainly a lot to ponder on.