Louis Van Gaal's first game as Manchester United manager against LA Galaxy revealed a variety of indications of how he will tackle this season.
The 2013/14 campaign for United will be remembered as one of their worst, with major surgery needed in order to restore them to the top of the Premier League. Van Gaal's first friendly of United's tour of the US revealed some possible changes he will make to put them back at the top of the league.
As seen with Van Gaal's successful Dutch team at the World Cup, United were set up in a 3-5-2 formation. This consisted of three centre-backs in Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling.
Van Gaal possibly chose this formation as, when used effectively, it often produces a solid defence. David Moyes' side looked defensively frail last season and the Dutchman's use of this formation outlines his view that his team must stay tight and compact.
By employing three centre-backs, this enabled wing-backs Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia to go forward and attack This formation may also suggest that Van Gaal simply doesn't trust his centre-backs, explaining his alleged pursuit of Mats Hummels.
Van Gaal is known for his ability to alter player positions, most notably moving Bastian Schweinstiger from the wing to central midfield - where he has excelled - and David Alaba from centre midfield to left-back were he has risen to become one of the best in the world.
Van Gaal was inevitably going to alter various players' positions at United and the friendly against against L.A Galaxy proved that to be the case. In his 3-5-2, Van Gaal played Valencia essentially as a wing back, using him and Shaw playing just in front of the back three.
Rafael's various injuries last season saw Smalling thrown in at right-back, where he looked very uncomfortable, particularly when providing support going forward. Valencia offers a lot more going forward and could provide good cover for Rafael in the 3-5-2 formation.
Against Galaxy United were often switched to a 4-2-3-1. This saw Shaw, Evans, Jones and Smalling in defence, with Ander Herrera and Darren Fletcher in midfield and Danny Welbeck, Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Valencia ahead of them.
This outlined Van Gaal's tactical variation and his need for 'football brains' who understand his system and formations. Consequently, much like Brendan Rogers, United are likely to line up in a variety of formations this season, most dominantly the 3-5-2 with the 4-2-3-1 and the 4-3-3 possible alternatives.
Mata and Herrera
One of Van Gaal's biggest challenges as United manager is to get the best out of his players. Moyes was unable to do this, most notably with Mata who plays best in the no.10 role.
Mata and Herrera's inter-changing behind the main striker hinted that they will drift in and out of the no.10 role. As both players have a similar style, this friendly showed that they seem to have a mutual understanding.
As a result there is a possibility that Van Gaal could use Herrera and Mata as his playmakers this season with players feeding of their creativity which proved a huge success against Galaxy.
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