Football

Louis Van Gaal should play wing-backs at Manchester United

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When a new manager arrives at a club the focus is normally on his transfer targets, but Manchester United fans should be hoping Louis Van Gaal's first act as manager is to install his favoured wing-back system.

The wing-back has become almost extinct in recent years with very few top teams playing anything other than a back four.

Brendan Rodgers flirted with them at times last season, while Roberto Mancini unsuccessfully adopted them on occasions with Manchester City, but the majority of Europe's elite would never been seen playing a 3-5-2 or a 5-3-2 formation.

This summer's World Cup may have changed that though, with Van Gaal's Holland excelling with wing-backs, and United fans should hope he persists with the system when he takes the reigns at Old Trafford.

Defensively solid

The use of wing-backs will allow Manchester United to be solid in defence - an area which will surely be concerning fans after the departures of stalwarts Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.

When operating with wing-backs a team can quickly switch to having five at the back when not in possession, and United may well need to defend in numbers.

Van Gaal's central defensive options are currently limited, with Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans the only experienced pro's in his squad.

Though none of them have looked capable of replacing club legends like Ferdinand and Vidic, as a trio they should be strong enough to withstand most Premier League attacks.

Perfect Fit

Should a team wish to play with wing-backs it's important the players trusted to patrol the flanks are suited to the position.

You would be foolish to insist on a certain formation knowing you do not have the players to suit it, but fortunately for Van Gaal he has ready-made wing-backs at his disposal.

Summer signing Luke Shaw has an abundance of energy and would relish the opportunity to get up and down United's left for 90 minutes.

However, despite his hefty price tag Shaw is far from assured of a place in the starting eleven, and Patrice Evra could certainly fill the role.

Admittedly Evra is getting older, but his pace and stamina are impressive for a 33-year-old and given his experience at the top level he'd be a perfectly good option should Shaw need time to settle in at Old Trafford.

On the opposite flank both Rafael and Antonio Valencia look like they were made for the position.

Rafael is a right-back who loves to get forward but can be suspect defensively, while Valencia is a winger often selected for his defensive responsibility even if he isn't the most exciting to watch.

When United are in possession they'd have license to push forward and offer width in attacking positions, but both have the ability to drop in and complete a five-man defence when necessary.

Another man who could fit the role perfectly is Daryl Janmaat. The Dutchman has been used in the position by Van Gaal at the World Cup and there has been talk of a summer move to Old Trafford.

Midfield three

The use of wing-backs enables a manager to play a three-man central midfield, with one of those three given license to attack, a role that would be ideal for Juan Mata.

As the attacking part of a trio, Mata would be free to float across the pitch looking to get on the ball as often as possible and that can only be a good thing for United fans wanting to see more goals.

The Spain international has an eye for the killer ball, and by playing him in a central role you increase your chances of getting him in position to split defences with a single pass.

Alongside a play-maker, a 3-5-2 requires two midfielders capable of doing the less glamouress parts of the game - winning the ball off the opposition, playing simple passes to retain possession and covering every blade of grass on the pitch.

In Michael Carrick and new boy Ander Herrera, United certainly have players who are comfortable in possession and could maximise Mata's time on the ball.

With Carrick's experience as a holding midfielder in the Premier League and Herrera's Spanish technique they could create an impressive partnership, though Belgian powerhouse Marouane Fellaini would be keen to force his way into the team and offer a bit of bite to the middle of the park.

Goals, goals, goals

If United are to regain their position at the top of English football they'll need Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney to be firing on all cylinders, and this formation allows them both to fulfill their preferred roles.

Van Persie is more than capable of playing in a 3-5-2, as his two-goal during Holland's emphatic 5-1 win over Spain proved.

Being given the opportunity to play through the middle is also something Wayne Rooney will relish having struggled in a wide role for England this summer.

By putting the two together as a partnership you're able to get the best out of them both.

Van Persie will be able to play in and around the box finishing off the numerous chances created by his teammates, while Rooney will be allowed to drop deeper or float out wide when it suits him as opposed to being restricted to a set position.

Though Van Gaal is likely to continue to add to his squad, he already has all the necessary tools to make Manchester United a force to be feared, providing he keeps faith in the tactics that have served him so well for Holland.

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Topics:
Manchester United
Robin Van Persie
Wayne Rooney
Premier League
Football

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