Manchester United have started their pre-season tour in positive fashion, with two wins from two games, and a lot has been said about the formations that new boss Louis van Gaal has adopted.
All the players are fighting to impress him and what formation he adopts will be influential, especially on Brazilian full-back Rafael.
Speculation that Van Gaal was going to adopt a 3-5-2 formation at Old Trafford heightened when that was the way United lined up in their first pre-season game against Galaxy.
Van Gaal stated that he had set that formation after trying it several times in training and that the standard four at the back formation that United are used to could still be used if they failed to adapt.
This formation had Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Jonny Evans as the three centre-backs with Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw as wing-backs. The system seemed to work as United demolished La Galaxy 7-0, although it was only a friendly.
The system seems like it could work to United's advantage for many reasons, one being the opportunity to adopt two up-front which is favourable to accommodate Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, but it could also give Rafael a better position to utilise his skills.
The young Brazilian has always been very exciting going forward with great pace and energy, always supporting the winger and trying to get into advanced positions. It is defensively where he often lets himself and his team mates down, with costly errors unlikely to be tolerated by the new man in charge.
However, operating as a wing-back would give him a position that better fits his abilities, with the emphasis on getting forward and supporting the central players.
The presence of three centre-backs allows for greater cover at the back as should they be exposed down the right with Rafael caught in an advanced position, the centre-backs could move across with Shaw dropping in at left full-back to make a back four again.
The switch to this formation would also give strength in depth as Valencia is more than capable of filling this position. Often deployed as a makeshift right-back, Valencia has the fitness and the energy to surge up and down the flank for the whole game. As well as being an attacking threat, he can also help defensively.
This is a big move from United's tried and tested style of fast wingers putting balls into the box, but if it offers more security at the back and can accommodate the multiple 'number 10s' at their disposal as well as two strikers. You can see why Van Gaal is testing it out as it allowed the Dutch national team to demolish Spain at the World Cup.
Can they adapt?
Goals will come, whether the players can adapt is the real question.
For players like Rafael, whose position in the squad is in question let alone the first team, it gives them a chance to start from square one along with everyone else.
A chance to prove that they can contribute and, if first impressions are to be believed, Van Gaal will not pick players purely on reputation. Young or old, first-team or back-up player, Van Gaal will fill his team with those that can adapt and play to his tactical instructions. Positions are there for the taking, time will tell who succeeds.
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