Few players divide both fans, and experts, like Michael Carrick, but the 32-year-old midfielder could be ready to play a pivotal role in a radical tactical change to be introduced by Van Gaal.
In his recent Daily Mail article respected journalist Neil Ashton, details a tactical revolution the Dutch master is about to introduce. Ashton predicts that United are about to switch to a 3-4-3 formation, which has been successfully deployed by Holland in the World Cup and that his recruitment policy has been dictated by this.
The key to 3-4-3
One of the keys to the formation is having wing-backs who have plenty of energy to go up and down the field, an ability to link with the attacking players and the judgement to know when to defend. Luke Shaw, even at his tender age, has shown these qualities and possesses the ability to adjust to this formation.
At right wing-back there is Rafael or Antonio Valencia, or, as reports from Italy suggest, the dynamic Colombian winger/full back, Juan Cuadrado who has, according to reports, been subject to a €40million bid.
The most important aspect of this formation, however, which makes it attacking rather than defensive, is a player in the back three who can bring the ball out from the back and start attacks. Neil Ashton suggests the Arsenal defender, Thomas Vermaelen, will be bought to perform this role.
This theory overlooks the ideal man to fulfil this role, Michael Carrick.
Carrick is very much Van Gaal's type of player; a great passer of the ball who reads the game as well as any and is someone who has an awareness of what is required to play in defence, having done it on a number of occasions. He is at his best when the game is played in front of him.
Carrick does not possess the mobility to play in a two man midfield any more and can be exposed for a lack of pace. Last season this was particularly evident when, returning from injury, he was let down by his midfield partners.
United have already signed the energetic Herrera and if, as widely suggested, they capture the dynamic Arturo Vidal, then the middle two of their middle four would be in place. This would allow Carrick to become the libero, or sweeper, of the team, by starting attacks from the back and watching the game unfold in front of him.
Although originally an Italian concept, the Germans helped to evolve the system in the 1960's and 70's. The greatest exponent of the role was Franz Beckenbauer who, like Carrick, was originally a midfielder who was able step back into central defence to support the two centre halves when defending.
The system stands or falls by the effectiveness of the libero.
United's front three are already at the club, with the prospect of Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney playing behind Robin van Persie in a fluid way. Another key to success is whether Van Gaal can explain what is required to a group of players for whom it will be a radical change.
The key component, however, will be the person who sits at the back, reads the game and steps into midfield to begin attacks. Carrick may be on the verge of being re-invented and one day labelled as 'Van Gaal's new Beckenbauer.'
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