The appointment of Louis van Gaal as Man Utd’s manager brought lots of joy to the Old Trafford faithful. The 63-year Old’s heroics while in-charge of Netherlands in Brazil at the Fifa World Cup raised their expectations. The unbeaten record during United’s pre-season campaign in the United States galvanized their fans hopes in the former Ajax manager. A king had come to deliver them from the woes of moyesification.
The former Barcelona boss reiterated Ed Woodward’s sentiments that his first task was to deliver Champions League football to the 20-time English champions after being handed a £150m transfer cheque. 22 matches on and the Old Trafford outfit is yet exude their command as serious Premier League’s top-four contenders. Is there anything King Louis can do to fix this?
The Red Devils have been well known for their great comebacks, most notably under Sir Alex Ferguson. United showed resilience and fighting spirit when they fell behind an opponent. The players fought back to lay claim to all the 3-points especially during Fergie Time. That has not been manifested this season. Every time Man Utd falls behind an opponent, the match either ends up in a draw or loss.The only exception is against Leicester City where the Red Devils were the first ones to take the lead and went ahead to lose the match. This underscores the lack of belief in the side. It is high time the former Bayern Munich manager instills a sense of his belief and confident demeanor in his side. The comebacks do not have to come in the 90th minute, but they surely will go a long way in boosting their Champions League bid.
The former Oranje manager has introduced different formations in his side. United have played 3-5-2, 4-1-4-1, 4-3-3 as well as 4-4-2 diamond. These tactical tweaks have made the Red Devils vulnerable to opposition conceding 21 goals in 22 matches. Van Gaal argues that with a 3-5-2 formation, the team creates more chances thereby scoring more goals. Moreover, it gives the team more ‘balance’. However, it is worth noting that whenever he plays with a flat four, the team concedes fewer goals, especially against Crystal Palace, Manchester City and Chelsea. It is therefore imperative for him to decide a formation and drill his team along that particular formation. This will ensure the Red Devils have an identity as well.
Counter Attacks and Set Pieces
Football is about creating chances. United have created 213 chances while their neighbors, City have 310 after 22 matches. Apparently, Manchester United play slow, passing football that is possession obsessed. They average 56% possession per game, yet failed to create clear cut chances. Van Gaal’s men have scored 3 goals from corners this season, compared to Alex Ferguson’s 15 goals in his final season. Their last game’s 3 corners against QPR were wasted by Phil Jones, a rookie at taking corners. United do not seem to be a threat from dead ball situations, having scored 7 set piece goals this season. Furthermore, counter attacks are a rare show for the Manchester side this season, having scored only two goals from counter attacks. This highlights the team’s sloppy possession and lack of pace. Counter attacks and set pieces are very instrumental in unlocking defensive-minded teams.
As the race for Champions League heats up, let’s take a moment and see how the Dutch tactician navigates this murky race.