It was the World Cup. The world had its eyes on Louis Van Gaal, the successor to Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor. He was going to take the job of one of the world’s most famous club; a European giant with 23 years of success at domestic and European level.
The tactical genius of Van Gaal was evident in the World Cup but has it really shown signs of working in the the Premier League?
The 3-5-2 system that Louis Van Gaal has implemented requires a midfield of players with great tactical awareness. Are Herrera, Carrick, Mata or Rooney, if I dare say so, really world class in that role? Do they constantly find spaces to receive passes in? The 3-5-2 system is basically a possession based system. Technically-adept players like Ozil, Alonso, Xavi, Iniesta, Scholes, Kroos, Silva and Pirlo, make a system like this work. The beauty of Ozil’s game is very evident in his ways of finding spaces. He will shift to the wing if he has to only to find space for a pass, which is why he is one of the best midfielders on the planet.
You often see wayward, reckless passing by United these days which are more often than not, intercepted. When United actually do have the ball in the opposition half, nobody really comes near for a pass and you often see them losing possession. This loss of possession can often lead to susceptible counter attacks, especially if this is the system Van Gaal goes forward with in the future.
Manchester United do keep possession in games, albeit most often than not in their own half, but do they really make use of the possession and actually penetrate defenses? Not really. The game against Southampton is proof to that. With 61% of possession, there was nothing to show for it. United managed seven shots off target and zero shots on target. United seem to keep the ball but can’t really penetrate through the middle and with our wing backs as mediocre as Valencia, there’s no real threat from the wings either. This team has traditionally played with wingers who possessed great flair and trickery and is now struggling to find goals away from home with just 12 goals out of the 34 in the league. Their top goal scorer, Rooney with only 8 goals, hasn’t even reached double figures yet and he’s mostly been playing in midfield so what does that tell you about our strikers?
Louis Van Gaal must either abandon this formation or actually buy world class midfielders that can play the role required for this formation, the latter option being almost impossible.