Van Gaal Has To Be The Tinkerman Now

Posted: November 20, 2015 in Football, Louis van Gaal, Managers, Manchester United, Opinion, Premier League
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(Ryan Giggs points out that playing De Gea as a striker doesn’t seem to be working)

So van Gaal has enough strikers at Manchester United. Did he actually say that, or am I remembering it differently?

In the August transfer window everybody pointed out that he needed a full back, which he bought, (Matteo Darmian, lest ye forget), a centre back, which he left off his own personal list, although reports say that he tried to get Mats Hummels. A world renowned top class striker, so he bought Anthony Martial. He might not have been world renowned but his price was. He looks, in fairness, as though he is going to be worth it. He was also a little short in midfield, so he went supermarket shopping and bought thirty new midfielders as a job lot.

Now anybody who has read any of my ramblings before will know my feelings about meaningless international friendlies. Nothing gets learnt, players get injured.

At the time of writing this Manchester United will be without their two main strikers, one through injury picked up in a meaningful international and one who is ill. The one who is ill, to be honest, won’t be missed at all, because it has been as though the team has been playing with ten men up to now. At least against Watford they will have eleven.*

Anthony Martial will be missed because, even when van Gaal uses his favourite ploy of bamboozling the opposition by playing his best striker on the wing, he remains a threat.

Also missing, through injury in a meaningless friendly, will be Michael Carrick. So his position will be filled by one of the  thirty new midfielders who have recently arrived.

Midfielders will also have to fill in as strikers for this game and this might not be such a bad thing. Herrera and Mata have both been scoring this season, so they are a source of goals, as is Jesse Lingard. Memphis Depay could be played as a striker and this might even be a good game for him to find a bit of form.

So how about this in a 4-4-1-1 formation:

De Gea, / Darmian, Smalling, Rojo, Blind / Herrera, Schweinsteiger, Schneiderlin, Lingard / Mata / Depay

Granted, when everybody is fit, it wouldn’t be the first choice eleven, although, in my opinion, the only injured players who should get in this team when fit are Martial and Shaw. The rest, Rooney, Carrick and the injured one I haven’t yet mentioned, Fellaini, would be on the bench.

Forget this nonsense of playing Young and/or Valencia, (who is also injured), as wing backs. They are both 30 and can’t get back as quickly as they once could. Even if they get back they can’t tackle and give away countless free kicks as a result. They can also warm the bench.

I can understand van Gaal wanting his players to be able to handle more than one position but he takes it too far by using players who obviously can’t handle the position he sometimes wants them to play.

An example of his philosophy working is when Martial plays out wide. He is good at taking on, and beating defenders. He can then be a threat coming into the box from an angle. To me though, this defeats the object. Martial is much more of a threat when played centrally where he can also run at defenders but, when he beats them from this position, he is in on goal. So, again, a player being able to play more than one position is an advantage, but surely he should be played in his BEST position, barring emergencies.

I would like to think that a striker will be brought in during the January transfer window because, having one of the best defences in the Premier League is so much sweeter when you are scoring at the other end. Martial needs competition, he needs back up and he needs, occasionally, to be left on the bench for his own good.

Let’s just hope that van Gaal has a list for this coming window and that a proven goalscorer is on it.

*(Update –  United picked a team very similar to the one I predicted, but still only had ten players as Ashley Young was selected. They won 2-1)


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