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Manchester United must improve immediately

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Louis van Gaal is surely feeling the heat under his seat following another disappointing Manchester United performance.

United luckily avoided defeat at West Ham on Sunday thanks to an injury-time goal from Daley Blind. The Holland midfielder neatly struck a loose ball to the near post, out of the despairing reach of Adrian.

Earlier, the home side took the lead they totally deserved through a superb strike from Cheikhou Kouyate in the 49th minute. The Senegalese midfielder, who was forced to play centre-half in this match, did three keepy-ups in the United's penalty area, spinned on 180 degrees and fired a right-foot volley into the goal.

Before and after the opening goal, West Ham had at least four other great chances to score through good set-pieces and fluent counter-attacks. But United's keeper David de Gea, as usual, denied all with his trademark saves, leaving Sam Allardyce and the home fans scratching their heads.

Not good enough 

Allardyce's side have built their reputation as a well-organised team and are tough to beat. Yet, when a team of great ambition and investment like Manchester United needed a late goal and a super performance from their goalkeeper to get a point against a mid-table team, it is time to ask their manager some questions.

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The biggest one: Do United really have a plan? Against West Ham, Van Gaal's side once again started with 4-4-2 formation, with Di Maria placed at the top of the diamond, behind two strikers Radamel Falcao and Robin van Persie. Captain Wayne Rooney played in the midfield, alongside Adnan Januzaj and Daley Blind.

This system, once again, did not work. With West Ham pressing hard throughout, Di Maria and Rooney were left well isolated, and United's illustrious strike force totally failed to link up as a result. It was not until the 41st minute until they had their first shot on target, but Di Maria's attempt went straight into Adrian's hands.

United's lack of ideas in attack wasn't helped by the fact that their strikers, Falcao and Van Persie, offered little in terms of movement and thus did not create enough space. There was no linking between them too; when they finally found each other, in a rarely great move in second half, Falcao saw his shot going wide when there was only Adrian to beat.

Plan B

Then Van Gaal moved to his only "Plan B": Maroune Fellaini came on, and United switched to long-ball tactics. The players were ordered to bumper the ball into West Ham's penalty area as often as possible, searching for Fellaini's head.

This kind of tactics used to be unthinkable for United under Sir Alex Ferguson. It was not United's way...actually, when David Moyes tried that last season, he was mercilessly slammed by the fans and pundits.

Yet the tactics proved right for United this time. Fellaini could not score or assist, but his presence in the box caused a lot of trouble for the home defenders. Blind's goal came after Jenkinson failed to cleared the ball under some pressure from the Belgian giant.

But is it ok for United to invest more than £150 million and then resort to last season's panic buy? Is it ok for them play 30 more long balls than a long-known long-ball team like West Ham? Is it ok for Van Gaal to go into the final third of the season still relying on De Gea, luck, and some late rescue acts to keep a place in the top four?

Remember that Arsenal, Tottenham and even Liverpool are all blowing hot air behind them. If Van Gaal fails to make some immediate and genuine improvement, even a top six finish will be a mountainous task.

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Topics:
Football
Premier League
Manchester United
Louis van Gaal

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