Louis van Gaal vs. Mike Bassett: Why Man United fans want 4-4-2

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"Ladies and gentleman, England will be playing four, four, f*****g two."

That famous quote from fictional Three Lions boss Mike Bassett has become part of modern football folklore, used to parody a formation which is largely viewed as too inflexible to deal with the demands of a modern game played at break-neck speed.

4-4-2 was put back on the agenda by Manchester United fans last weekend, who were forced to watch a half of football at Loftus Road that was so dreadful it made the idea of a Bassett-led revolution look genuinely appealing. 

Loftus Road mutiny

Audible chants of "4-4-2" came from the away end during United's clash with Queens Park Rangers in the early going, from supporters dismayed by Van Gaal's insistence on sticking with a three-man defence and using key players in unfamiliar positions.

Angel di Maria is a prime example, moved up front despite doing his best work for Argentina Real Madrid over the last 12 months almost exclusively in a deeper-midfield role 

Van Gaal could honestly do worse than to make time to watch Mike Bassett: England manager, who used his own maverick playmaker Kevin 'Tonka' Tonkinson in the correct position. I'm only half-joking, too.

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3-5-2 vs. 4-4-2

The main source of frustration at United stems from the style of football being served up by Van Gaal, who only turned things round against QPR after using the very British tactic of bringing the big man on and going more direct in the second half.

Mike Bassett 2

Once-lambasted Marouane Fellaini came to the rescue in a move Bassett would have been proud of, which begs the question why is Van Gaal is so desperate to stick by a system which quite frankly isn't getting the best from a star-studded squad? 

What about Falcao?

Van Gaal's also hardly been glowing in his praise for strike star Radamel Falcao, who worked tirelessly at Loftus Road but just couldn't find a way past Hoops goalkeeper Rob Green.

Falcao's only got three Premier League goals all season, but that lean spell looks like a feast compared to the famine endured by Bassett's favourite striker, the troubled Rufus Smalls.

Smalls endured a near two-year goal drought but Bassett stuck by him, a decision justified when the former Question of Sport captain claimed a Golden Boot at the World Cup in Brazil.

That makes Falcao's struggled with injury and form look like absolutely small fry. Van Gaal has the fans on his back despite being on course to just about achieve the minimum expectation of his first season in charge at Old Trafford, Champions League qualification.

Alarm bells should be ringing at the Theatre of Dreams, because if the quality of football doesn't improve Bassett, 4-4-2 and his band of beloved characters could become a regular punchline in United's frankly tiresome, laboured campaign. 

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Premier League
Manchester United

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