Tuesday 23 January 2018 / 11:06 PM

Louis van Gaal’s selection headache

On Monday morning (1:00am AEST), Manchester United will face QPR.

But which Man Utd will it be?

The same 3-5-2 formation that has struggled along so far this season, failing to pick up a single win from their opening three games?

Or a new team? A stronger team?

Louis van Gaal and Ed Woodward leapt into life at the end of the transfer window, and arguably landed one of the biggest transfers of the window, procuring Radamel Falcao on a one-season loan as well as sorting out deals for Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo.

The question now is: how will van Gaal set his side up and – more importantly – will they fare any better than they have done so far this season?

Will van Gaal see the light behind his disastrous trinity?

I think perhaps the biggest thing that van Gaal needs to change about the system he has implemented so far at Old Trafford is the three centre backs he is currently deploying. Okay, so he was fairly successful with that system at the World Cup in Brazil, but one swallow does not a summer make. Simply put, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans are not – and almost certainly will never be – up to the standard required by a team like United.

Speculation is growing that van Gaal has come the realisation that his back three isn’t working, and the result of this realisation may well be the return to a back four, with Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo in the middle and Luke Shaw at left back with Antonio Valencia at right back.

What about in midfield?

It is midfield that United do not have an awful lot of quality, and it should be fairly easy for van Gaal to pick his two men that will screen his back four. His purchase of Daley Blind indicated that he saw a gap in the squad as far as a combative defensive midfielder was concerned; and it seems likely that Blind will end up alongside Ander Herrera or Michael Carrick in central midfield.

Attacking overdose

The Man United boss commented recently that his squad was unbalanced, and when you look at the players who can fill the last four places in the team, it’s not difficult to see why. United have a plethora of attacking talent, and the difficulty for van Gaal will be in deciding which players should play, and indeed, where they should play.

One assumes that Radamel Falcao will start at centre forward; but if van Gaal chooses to beef up his defence to a back four, this is likely to mean only one out and out striker on the pitch.

Given his closeness to van Gaal, one would think that van Persie would also be a favourite for that spot, but it seems unlikely that van Gaal will switch to 4-4-2 and play two strikers, which means that it could be a straight shoot out between Falcao and van Persie for the centre forward slot.

The No.10 position is not without complications either. Captain Wayne Rooney will be in the box seat to win that shirt, but given that United paid £37 million for Juan Mata less than a year ago, and that Adnan Janujaz signed a new five-season deal last year, there is plenty of competition in those places.

Out wide there is less, and therefore it seems likely that Rooney, Mata or Janujaz will be asked to fill in on one wing, with Angel di Maria taking his deserved place on the other.

Purchases bring complications

No doubt van Gaal is delighted with his new purchases, but it has to be said that they present something of a selection headache. The trouble is, there really is no more time to bed in. Another poor result against QPR on Sunday would heap the pressure on the Dutchman; so whichever formation he ends up with, it’s got to start working quickly.


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About the author

Seb Greenwood

CBS’s longest-serving contributor, Englishman Seb is our leading football correspondent, pulling no punches with his opinions on the Premier League and the international scene.

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