Louis van Gaal must forget 3-5-2 at Manchester United

Louis van Gaal looks on as his United side take on QPR (©GettyImages)

It is a topic that has been brought up nearly every week by fans and experts alike for the past few months: "Is 3-5-2 right for Manchester United or not?"

The answer is the latter and the reasons for that are simple. It may have been a summer of love for Louis van Gaal with the unorthodox system as his Dutch side were able to unexpectedly finish third in the World Cup. But that doesn't mean the same can be achieved with his club side.

For starters it has been mentioned from day one that United's defenders do not seem comfortable playing the three man system. Even now they don't seem to be a 100 percent sure of where they should be positioned while defending, which has resulted in spaces appearing and subsequent punishment from the opposition.

Lack of confidence

Also, in this style of play the three central defenders are expected to be confident on the ball and able to play out from the back, which none of the players available to Van Gaal can do. Countless times we seen one of the centre backs try to pick a pass into midfield and gift the ball to the opposing attacker in a dangerous position.

Another problem is that, while playing this system, the wing-backs are expected to do half the jobs of both full backs and wingers. With United this season the problem has been that, on most occasions, the wing-backs, because of lack of confidence in their defensive capabilities, have been very reluctant to go forward and, as a result, the team has lacked width in their attacking play.

Attacking damage

This system is also hurting United where they are strongest, in attack. Paul Scholes in an interview a few days ago highlighted this very problem. The point being that in many games this season United have had plenty of possession without actually making anything happen.

The formation has played a big part in that. There have been too many sideways passes and a lack of pace has posed few problems, even in games United have won. The attacking players have come under scrutiny in recent weeks with United not showing the goal scoring vigour one expects from such expensive acquisitions, but they are not the only ones to blame.

The service to the front players really is too slow and allows, in most cases, the opposition to put up the shutters with relative ease. Last weekend they toiled for about an hour of the game trying to break down QPR, with little direction or incisiveness.

Positive signs

But once James Wilson came on to make it the orthodox four at the back, United were a different side. Of course all this isn't helped by the fact that Van Gaal, since Angel di Maria's return from injury, has been playing him as a striker instead of his usual position in midfield, in a desperate attempt to inject more pace up front.

All in all, one understands why Van Gaal is adamant on playing the 3-5-2. He has been without proper full backs for most of the season and his centre backs have been lacking both fitness and individual quality, so one could forgive him for trying to add an extra number at the back to shore it up.

But now with the injury list decreasing and about two weeks to go in the winter transfer window, it's time he put the idea of the three at the back system to bed.

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