Manchester United may only be two games into their season, but already it's clear that tactically something has to change. It seems that the 3-5-2 formation Louis van Gaal used with the Netherlands at the World Cup to great effect it just not suited to Manchester United - and the imminent record-breaking transfer of Angel Di Maria may spell the end of this formation.
Di Maria set to arrive
Manchester United could be about to pull off one of the signings of the season: Angel Di Maria for a fee of £59.7 million. The Argentine attacker is currently flying over to Manchester to complete his medical, and the move should be completed before too long.
And while there are many positives to take from this move, it should spell the end of the 3-5-2 formation once and for all. The only positions that are vacant in the United midfield are wing back or central midfield, and neither of these are Di Maria's ideal positions at all. Paying such a high fee, it would be best to play Di Maria in his best position, down the right wing. To do this, Van Gaal must adapt his formation.
New formation with three at the back?
United have enough defenders for this: Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones, Tyler Blackett, Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling can be interchanged. However, if they wish to play Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Angel Di Maria in the same starting lineup (and they should aim for this) then they would have to rule out the use of wing backs.
But, where would £27m man Luke Shaw come into the team? The signing of Di Maria should mean that United switch to four at the back: playing him out of position is definitely not a risk worth taking having broken the bank for him.
Four at the back
This would work: playing Rojo and another defender (say Evans or Blackett) in the centre with Shaw and Jones as full backs would make a strong defence, particularly if they signed Daley Blind to be used a partner to Rojo.
This would mean much more versatility in the formation of the midfield and attack. However, an attacking team like Manchester United would need several bodies in midfield to avoid being overrun.
A 4-4-2 would be ideal for their squad. It would mean moving Juan Mata out to the Left Wing position, but Mata is suited to this role well enough and his preferred Number 10 role may no longer be available with the stock of players Manchester United have in their team. Carrick and Herrera could control things from deep, able to use their long passing abilities to great effect.
With Mata down the left, Di Maria down the right and Rooney and Van Persie up front, Louis Van Gaal could well be on to a winner if he could just abandon his 3-5-2 formation and just play simple football at a high quality.
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