Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has taken criticism over his constant tactical tinkering on the chin, after admitting that he's still nowhere near finding out which formation suits his current squad best.
Van Gaal started the season adamant that he'd employ the 3-5-2 system which worked so well for the Netherlands in their famous World Cup destruction of defending champions Spain, but has since switched to both 4-2-3-1 and 4-1-4-1 in the first three months of the campaign.
Last weekend's 1-0 win over Crystal Palace saw Van Gaal opt to use the latter in search of more solidity after losing yet more key defensive personnel through injury and suspension, but the veteran coach has conceded he's overcooked it.
Delicate balance has not yet been struck
“It’s too much, I agree,” Van Gaal told The Mirror after yet another tweak in the 1-0 win over Palace.
“But I’m looking for the balance and, when you see the last four matches, we have had more balance because we haven’t conceded many goals. Nevertheless, we don’t score so much. With the other system we scored a lot of goals."
Seven changes in search of a clean sheet
Van Gaal clearly had a clean sheet in mind when making no fewer than seven positional changes for the Palace clash, which is understandable when you consider that United only kept two clean sheets in their first 10 Premier League games.
Added protection for an inexperienced back four including Daley Blind and Paddy McNair came at a cost though, with United largely struggling to break down a stubborn Palace rearguard despite dominating possession throughout.
Juan Mata's long-range strike got the Red Devils out of jail, but there remains huge question marks over a United side which has largely flattered to deceive so far this season.
Top Four remains top priority
Van Gaal for his part remains adamant his vision is clear and has only been hampered by the worst luck with injuries he's ever endured, with Champions League qualification still the minimum expectation from his first campaign at Old Trafford.
“We have to ensure we are in a position where we can be in contention for the first four positions,” said Van Gaal. “Of course, we need to raise our level. It’s a matter of time, but also of getting over a lot of injuries.
“When you have nine injuries and also a suspended player, then it is always more difficult, because I cannot select a lot of players.
“I’ve never had so many injuries in my career. It’s crazy, but it’s what I have to deal with.
“It’s a big challenge but I knew that in advance. Otherwise I could have chosen another club.”
The international break has come at a good time for United, giving key absentees a chance to heal ahead of a crunch clash with traditional rivals Arsenal on November 22nd.
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