Its fair to say that Manchester United have not quite hit the ground running in the new Premier League season. Sure, the results have been there for the most part, but United have yet to truly convince.
It seemed that their luck ran out on Saturday as the Red Devils played out to a goalless draw versus Newcastle. Louis van Gaal has his work cut out for him if his side are to be title challengers.
Here are two ways Manchester United can improve for the rest of the season.
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Play Ander Herrera
Out of the four games played so far, none have featured Spanish midfielder Ander Herrera. There clearly something Van Gaal dislikes about Herrera but I for one, cannot fathom what that might be.
United’s current midfield set-up features any two of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin, or Michael Carrick. All three of them are undoubtedly of the highest quality but they are all far too similar.
The trio have slow, more calm ways of operating and none of them offer any sort of dynamism. This makes United’s build up play lethargic, giving the opposition centre backs time to adjust.
It has made life especially difficult for forward Wayne Rooney. By the time the Reds get the ball into his feet, a number of defenders are already converging on him.
By simply inserting Herrera into the fold, Van Gaal could solve this entire problem. Herrera is the only midfielder in United’s ranks that checks to the ball and distributes both efficiently and quickly.
The Spaniard would be able to bring the ball out from deep with more pace and intent. In turn, Manchester United would be considerably less predictable and Rooney would not be isolated from the game.
Move Mata inside
One problem with Manchester United’s play has involved the wide men, Juan Mata and Memphis Depay. Despite widely impressing, both cannot play at the same time.
Why would I make such a suggestion, you may ask? Both of these players are what one would call ‘inverted’ wingers. Memphis is a right footed player playing on the left while Mata is a left footed player playing on the right.
This forces both men to frequently cut inside and has a detrimental effect on their crosses into the box. Mata seldom ever attempts a cross on his weaker foot. Memphis on the other hand, repeatedly attempted to do so, but rarely ever succeeded.
In turn, the Manchester based side have virtually no service into the box. Van Gaal could have Mata and Memphis swap wings. However, both players are at their best when coming inside.
A more suitable option would be moving Mata into a number ten role and slotting an orthodox winger in his place. This would allow for variety in United’s play. On the left, Memphis would be driving inside and on the right, there would be someone capable of providing balls into the box.
The move also benefits Mata as the Spaniard will play at the number ten role, where he is at his optimal best. It was in a central position that Mata scooped two player of the season awards and a Champions League medal at Chelsea. The Spain international offers precision defence splitting passes which create direct chances for his team-mates.