Louis Van Gaal’s preferred 3-5-2 system must be ditched, at least temporarily, if Manchester United are to progress this season.
Don’t get me wrong; Louis van Gaal is one of the best managers in the world. His tactical awareness and innovations have created many top teams, systems and players, and he has given debuts to modern greats such as Clarence Seedorf, Patrick Kluivert, Thomas Muller, Xavi, and Andres Iniesta.
But this does not mean that his word, and systems, should be taken without question.
Take Manchester United’s 3-5-2 system. United have played with a back three for 12 Premier League games this season, with a win ratio of 42 percent, and an average of 1.2 goals scored per game.
Not terrible, but when you consider they have won 60 percent of the 10 games they’ve played with a back four, and scored two goals a game on average, the difficulties begin to present themselves.
3-5-2 has become increasingly fashionable as a formation in recent months, with managers generally citing its qualities as a formation that lends itself to keeping possession.
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It is a good formation to create play from the back, but the safety of having the centre backs as ‘free men’ means that build-up-play is often slow and ponderous, with the ball simply being played between the defenders.
A far cry from the Manchester United of old, based on power, pace and incisive play.
Can 3-5-2 really get the best out of Manchester United’s considerable attacking talent? Wayne Rooney has being playing in midfield, Angel di Maria upfront, and in a club used to great wingers (think Giggs, Ronaldo, Best, Beckham), the only width is coming from full-backs.
Switch to a 4-4-2, a 4-2-3-1, or a 4-3-3, and suddenly you have a system that is much better designed to emphasises the qualities of Di Maria, Juan Mata, Rooney, and even the forgotten Adnan Januzaj.
Fans have recently been chanting “4-4-2!” from the stands, and maybe it’s time for Van Gaal to listen.