Manchester United had made a reasonable start to 2016 by managing to win a few games, thus keeping the fans satisfied and some critics to lay off their backs for a while. But the loss against Southampton has revived the criticism and uncertainty surrounding the future of Louis van Gaal and his ‘philosophy’.
It has not been the football that the Stretford End has been demanding, following the torrid month of December, which saw a winless streak of nine games for the former champions.
Louis van Gaal indicated that Manchester United are title contenders at the post-match press conference after the win against Liverpool. It seemed bizarre, but considering the randomness of the results this season, they were prospective champions. The Red Devils were only seven points from then league leaders Arsenal after the derby win at Anfield and a good second half of the season would have seen them make a serious title charge.
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End of title hopes?
Any hopes of title aspirations in the minds of the fans were squashed to rest by the loss to Southampton. A goal on debut for Charlie Austin handed Van Gaal’s side a sixth loss this season, putting them 10 points behind current league leaders Leicester City.
The former Champions League-winning manager has still failed to address a major issue in his ‘philosophy’. His tactics have only given the Red Devils 28 goals till now this season and an absence of a strike partner for Wayne Rooney is the root cause of that problem.
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Rooney’s goal scoring numbers, or the lack of it, has been the talking point for several pundits, bloggers and football writers for the past six months. His recent performances and goals against Swansea City, Newcastle and Liverpool had made some of the critics eat their words.
The United supporters were pleased, with memes of Rooney, rising from a casket as the Undertaker or dancing to Eminem’s raps, circulating the social media after his winner against Liverpool.
However, that joy was short-lived as there is still no solution to the underlying problem which was highlighted by the loss to Ronald Koeman’s men.
Rooney and Martial should play upfront
Since the 18-year-old Wayne Rooney arrived at Manchester United from Everton, he had never played the lone striker’s role. Throughout his tenure at Old Trafford, there has always been another player to share the burden of scoring goals, with the likes of Rudd van Nistelrooy, Carlos Tevez, Cristiano Ronaldo and Robin van Persie.
Forming a great pair with these players gave Rooney enough assistance in the striking department to play his game. It’s not just Wayne Rooney’s scoring ability, but his passing and assists that sets him apart from any other striker that is playing in the Premier League. The current Manchester United squad does not have a striker that can shoulder the responsibility along with Rooney.
Anthony Martial was a big signing for the Red Devils and putting him forward along with the 30-year-old is not a bad idea. Van Gaal has played Martial in the left ahead of Darmian at left-back, adding some desperately needed pace to the playing eleven.
Memphis Depay has dropped down the pecking order in the squad and has played as a substitute in the last few matches. James Wilson doesn’t seem to get game time and is now on loan at Brighton. Van Gaal prefers to play Marouane Fellaini alongside Rooney in certain situations which seems daft to any football fan.
The Dutchman needs to consider that the England captain is not the quickest of runners, so a strike companion with immense pace and finishing ability could be the difference between fourth spot and league winners and Martial could be the answer.