07 Aug Playing the MUFC Way
Analysing the perfect formation, the van Gaal way.
Over the past two seasons, United have struggled to find the right formula that yields results. Whether that is due to change in styles of the managers or due to lack of adaptability in the players is always up for debate.
Since Angel Di Maria to PSG is almost a done deal, United need a winger, and as rumour has it, van Gaal has his eyes set on a winger. Also, it looks like we may let De Gea’s contract run its length and he might be at the club for another season.
Judging by van Gaal’s presser after the last game of pre-season, it looks like we will be lining up in the traditional 4-3-3 that van Gaal has deployed in his spells at all the top clubs. And in my opinion, it is the right way to move forward, simply because that is where our strength lies. With the additions of Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin, we’ve made the backbone of the team much stronger in the center of midfield, and in Memphis Depay and Matteo Darmian, we’ve solidified to positions which looked up for grabs.
With the 4-3-3, the think tank at United will have to decide on a few things.
- Schweini or Ander?
For most of us United fans, the signing of Schweinsteiger felt like a dream. I mean the World cup winning captain? It was too good to be true. But with the emergence of Ander Herrera over the last season, United may have found someone, young and fluid capable of performing the central midfield role to the level of someone like Paul Scholes. He’s got the range of pass, is incredibly adept in putting a challenge in, and it’s statistically proven that when he fires one on target, it most certainly will go in. So after years of searching, we’ve found someone that links well with the entire team and does his job optimally. And then came along Schweini, he’s done it all in Germany and is one of the best in central midfield, although he’s getting older and this is a new league, Schweinsteiger being the fighter that he is might find a way to cope. But the point is, and anyone that has read the Louis van Gaal dossier will know, is that only one can play, because he can’t accommodate two midfielders that like to get forward. Now it’s tough to get inside van Gaal’s mind, but as far as I’m concerned, Ander gets the nod. Just because of his link up with Mata on the right or his understanding with Carrick in the centre. Schweinsteiger will have to wait his turn, because there is absolutely no reason for Ander to sit on the bench, and especially after his performance last season.
- Smalling or Jones?
van Gaal’s obsession with a left footed centre half, will probably result in Marcos Rojo starting at LCB, and therefore only one spot will remain for either one of Phil Jones or Chris Smalling. I myself am a huge Phil Jones fan and believe he has what it takes to succeed at the highest level. But over the last year or so, he’s been troubled with injuries, and has been in and out of the team, and has made a few errors at key moments. The game against West Brom away comes to mind. Chris Smalling on the other hand has been a revelation. From being sent off for the stupidest of challenges in the Manchester Derby to captaining the side against Arsenal 6 months later, to say is a huge turnaround is a glaring understatement. Smalling has been coming into his own as a leader at the back. He’s been marshalling the back line very well and has chipped in with the odd goal. So for that alone, ‘Mike’ gets the nod ahead of Jones at the back.
- What happens to Blind and Adnan?
After having discussed who will play in the doubtful positions and who will be rotated with whom, we’ve arrived at an interesting scenario. What is going to happen to our heir-apparent, Adnan Januzaj or the versatile Daley Blind? Both of them, unfortunately haven’t been able to stake their claims for regular football under van Gaal. Adnan’s decision making has been poor at times, and Blind’s lack of agility has cost him; that being said, they both have the potential to be world class players. But, it is important that they get game time. Since Blind is a bit older, it would seem that he might have to wait his turn, for a string of bad performances or injuries if he is to get into the side as a LB,CDM or maybe even an LCB. Daley Blind is one of the most skilful passers in our team, but if he can’t match it with strength and/or pace then he will struggle to cope in the midfield of any Premier league team. Adnan on the other hand, should logically be loaned out to a midtable club, maybe like a Swansea, who play possession based football like us, where he will get regular game time and the chance to come back and stake a claim for first team football. His chances to start for United this season will be low, considering the likes of Young and Mata are ahead of him in the pecking order, and Pedro and Depay are both players signed by van Gaal.
The starting XI:
The goalkeeper: David De Gea.
This man has saved us embarrassment and won us points on several different occasions and is a pivotal cog in our Top 4 finish last year. Without David, we would be some way off and in him, we probably have one out of the top 3 goal keepers in the world. Sure, most United fans are annoyed with him after recent actions and speculation linking him to Real Madrid, but to be fair he has been much more classy than Angel Di Maria and will probably have to be at his best if we are to get anywhere near the likes of Chelsea.
The backline: Matteo Darmian, Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw.
With the 3-5-2 failing miserably, one can be sure that van Gaal will play 4 at the back come Saturday against Spurs. Over the last two seasons, United have lacked quite a few things, and the most prominent being an unsettled back line. Over the last year or so, Rojo and Smalling have developed a decent understanding and have been a force to reckon with. And now in Matteo Darmian and Luke Shaw, we may have just rediscovered a bit of our old swagger. The two fullbacks are top defenders no doubt, but in addition to this, are brilliant going forward. Luke Shaw has been amazing when he played over the last year or so, whenever he’s played, in addition to forming a tidy partnership with Depay and Januzaj on the left flank. Darmian has shown good accuracy in crossing, and one would expect the same to continue into the new season, and will be expected to overlap when the likes of Mata cut inside or assume the inside forwards role.
The midfield: Michael Carrick, Morgan Schneiderlin, Ander Herrera.
This season is an exciting time to be a United fan. We finally have a midfield that can compete with the world and an equally capable bench. Morgan Schneiderlin will be expected to drop in alongside Carrick as and when necessary, and will be expected to initiate moves, and give the likes of Depay and Mata something to work with. Michael Carrick is pivotal to what we do on the pitch. You have Carrick, then you have a player who assures you an 8/10 every game, and that’s a luxury in the Premier league. Carrick and Morgan will be charged with the responsibility of breaking up play and making crucial interceptions in addition to aiding the centre half pairing when the full backs bomb on. Morgan will assume a slightly advanced role and will probably sit a bit deeper in big games. Ander Herrera could very big factor in our success this season; he is a turning into a top class central midfielder and might as well keep Schweini out of the team. If the midfield manages to understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses we could very well see a top class midfield trio help us get to the top.
The attack: Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney, Memphis Depay.
With the likes of Mata and Depay making into the starting eleven, you could very well see United utilize inside forwards and the full backs will probably be the ones dishing out most of the crosses. The inside forwards will be expected to drop into the hole behind Wayne Rooney to create the chances with creative through balls or to cut in and have the occasional shot on goal. Wayne Rooney is looking a little out of place nowadays, after being played in the centre of the park, the transition back to an out and out centre forward is taking a while, but not to worry because when Wazza is in full flight, we have a 20 goal a season striker.
The backup squad.
The likes of Schweinsteiger, Chicharito, Jones, Romero, Young and Andreas Pereira will have to wait their turn if they are to play. The side is blessed with quality in the team, and there will be loads of chances with the club hopefully taking part in four different competitions this season.
This is how I looked at our side.
Things might change based on who sign over the next couple of weeks.
It’s an interesting time at Old Trafford and will certainly be fun to watch how van Gaal sends his devils out to play.
Opinions are welcome.
Anirudh is a 17 year old sports blogger, has had a stint with sportskeeda, who is incredibly passionate about Manchester United and has been supporting them for 6 years. Follow him @anibunny98 on twitter.