The fallout from Manchester United’s Capital One Cup exit has been rather spectacular, however it seems that pundits and fans alike are reading a little too much in to it.
This isn’t surprising due to the hatred that many exude towards England’s biggest club, but what may have been overlooked in all the furore is the part being played by Louis van Gaal’s much-celebrated 3-5-2 system.
The formation came to prominence following his inspired use of it throughout the Netherlands' successful World Cup campaign.
3-5-2 is in no way a flawed system, however it is only needed in certain situations, in certain games. Van Gaal initially implemented it to counter the tiki-taka style of the Spanish in their opening game. The way they soaked up possession and at specific moments broke out in slick counter-attacks worked so well that Van Gaal saw no reason to change it.
His loyalty to the system almost lead to an embarrassing exit to minnows Costa Rica, who were afforded far too much time on the ball, resulting in them maintaining efficient periods of possession.
The Dutch squad contained the players to romp to an easy victory over the Costa Ricans, in theory, however Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder were left unnecessarily isolated as seven Dutch individuals (the back five and two defensive-midfielders) sat ignorantly behind the ball.
I’d seen this Dutch team ease to qualification, destroying equally matched teams to Costa Rica - ( the likes of Romania, Hungary and Estonia) playing the classic Dutch style of 4-3-3, and yet for some reason they had decided to set up in an overly defensive system against a weak opposition. In reality, this was a surprisingly naïve mistake from an experienced manager.
MK Dons mistake?
Against MK Dons, Manchester United set up identically and this was to their detriment. Like the Costa Ricans, MK were afforded a lot of unpressurised possession, which as anyone who watches League One regularly knows, they will take advantage of by passing you to death (clearly LVG needs to read up on his League One football for future reference).
In a nutshell, 3-5-2 allows the other team to have sustained periods of possession (which wouldn’t occur if a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 were implemented), restricts attacking prowess and hinders the tempo a team can play at. It will certainly be interesting to see how Van Gaal’s tactics develop over the season, and how he will incorporate new signing Angel di Maria.
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