Monday, September 22, 2014 1:43 pm
The arrival of Louis van Gaal to Old Trafford was supposed to return Manchester United from a dismal campaign endured under David Moyes to a semblance of what the club enjoyed during the Sir Alex Ferguson era.
A month into the new season and the outlook could not be any worse however, with the Red Devils enduring its worst ever start to a Premier League season following a shocking 5-3 loss at newly promoted Leicester City.
Despite record signing Angel di Maria, Radamel Falcao, Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind, Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney starting, as well as holding a two-goal lead at two stages of the match on Sunday, United still was unable to prevent a first loss to Leicester in 16 years.
It was also the first time ever that the Red Devils had lost a match it led 2-0 and with five points from five matches, leaves van Gaal with a worse record than Moyes had after his first five matches in his ill-fated spell as manager last season.
So what can Manchester United do to turn things around? More so with four of its next seven league matches against Everton, league leaders Chelsea, city rivals Manchester City and arch-rivals Arsenal.
Sack Louis van Gaal?
By the time the Red Devils parted company with Moyes last season, it was too late to finish in the top four or even in a qualifying spot for the Europa League so maybe changing the manager early enough in the season can sort things out?
The danger of relieving van Gaal from the job now however is the possible bringing an imbalance to the team which could come with a managerial change. Hence, van Gaal – who has won 15 major titles in his managerial career, needs a bit more time to prove himself at Old Trafford.
In the time he has to turn United’s fortunes up, van Gaal could consider tweaking his formation in such a way that would not leave his team exposed at the back like it was at Leicester on Sunday.
While the 3-5-2 worked well enough for him at the last FIFA World Cup with the Netherlands, the Premier League comprises opponents that exploit such team structure with swift counterattacks and pacy wing play.
Then there is the issue of having the right set of players for the formation, which was one of van Gaal’s complaint at the start of the season; an issue he moved to address with the signing of Rojo and Blind.
Against Leicester however, the three-man central defence was left too exposed by the midfield which had more of skill than steel, allowing Leicester to outmuscle the like of Juan Mata and break forward to score.
The presence of a fit Darren Fletcher or in-form Marouane Fellaini alongside Ander Herrera in midfield could have helped curtail that threat for United and provide a wall which could guarantee Di Maria and Rooney could do their work of creating goal scoring chances without being worried about the midfield and defence being caught out.
Van could therefore consider sacrificing one of his star midfielders (Mata precisely) nd change formation to one which would have a deep lying midfielder alongside a box-to-box midfielder to mostly support a four-man defence as well as a star-studded forward line.
With time, the Dutch man could ease the 3-5-2 back to use as continued deployment of the formation could leave the Red Devils trailing too far behind to mount a serious title challenge by the turn of the year; as was the case last season.