Louis van Gaal is an innovator, always making adjustments to stay ahead. And in recent reports, the Dutch coach is said to be bringing his 3-4-3 formation with him to Old Trafford next season in a bid to take Manchester United back to the summit of the Premier League.
With van Gaal still at the World Cup with the Netherlands, it’s a good idea to release this information to the staff at United so as they can adequately prepare on the transfer front. A shift in formation will give the club plenty to work with in identifying targets that need to be acquired in the coming months.
With a host of small fires needing to be extinguished at Old Trafford by the new manager, this system will help to address glaring problems.
This article will explore the five things that can be expected from van Gaal’s 3-4-3 formation at Old Trafford.
What van Gaal has always advocated is attractive football, whether it’s the ‘Dutch way’ or his own modern spin on what was produced in the past.
At Bayern Munich, van Gaal was known for expansive attacking football, though it was at the other end of the pitch where he found trouble, eventually leading to his sacking by the Bavarians.
With the Netherlands, he set an early marker with the win over Spain, producing some of the most eye-catching football of the opening round of games.
Expect much of the same at Old Trafford next season. Whatever the system is – and van Gaal will never sit on one option for an entire campaign – attacking football will be guaranteed.
This system may very well be an answer to the Wayne Rooney/Juan Mata problem, with both preferring the No.10 position behind Robin van Persie.
The 3-4-3 may be tinkered with at Old Trafford. It’s likely van Gaal will opt to play Rooney alongside van Persie with Mata just behind, as he has done with the Netherlands at the World Cup; a system that has generally proved successful from an attacking sense.
It makes little sense to sell Rooney this summer after committing to the mammoth five-year contract last season, while Mata and van Persie are far more valuable to the club for one reason or another.
This way, van Gaal is addressing the problem head on and not allowing potentially disgruntled players to derail the club’s season.
Under the Dutchman, this could very well prove to be the best attack in the league.
Three at the back means United can’t get away with the centre-back options they currently have. Chris Smalling and Phil Jones may have bright futures ahead of them, but they simply can’t be relied upon to stay free of injury. The only upside is that at least one of the two will be playing predominantly at centre-back, rather than operating in different roles in a back four.
United have been heavily linked with Thomas Vermaelen, who makes sense as an individual to add experience and leadership, as well as the versatility to play at left-back. But a star central defender is also very much needed, one who can carry the ball out of defence and link up with the midfield and forward line.
Mats Hummels is said to be van Gaal’s preferred option, but the Borussia Dortmund defender continues to speak of his commitment to the German side. It appears, for now at least, that the German international is out of reach for United.
Nevertheless, the club will be in need of adding two bodies for the back line. Jonny Evans, like Jones and Smalling, has a history of injury trouble.
Plenty will be written about United’s formation under van Gaal next season, following both wins and losses: the unorthodox tactical setup lends to plenty of discussion, whatever the outcome of matches.
But it’s largely for the reason that we’re not accustomed to such a setup in the Premier League, certainly not from Manchester United, who have leaned so heavily on wingers and two strikers over the years.
It is, however, likely to prove hugely successful due to the rest of the league’s unfamiliarity with such a system. Van Gaal will be looking to overwhelm opponents, with players carrying out multiple roles in a number of areas on the pitch. The lack of European football has already given United an edge next season in the race for the title, but this formation will prove to be the foundation of success, both minor and major, for United next season.
With United essentially playing with two midfielders and two wing-backs, it will be important for van Gaal to partner Ander Herrera with a player who can offer defensive stability in front of the three-man central defence.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be an out-and-out holding midfielder, but someone who can operate in such a role. If anything, this system dictates that the midfield is comprised of players who can carry out multiple tasks.
The obvious name is Arturo Vidal, who has been linked with a move to United this summer. Another is Paul Pogba, but the Frenchman’s Juventus team-mate would come at a far cheaper cost.
It was always a given that United would add a player of this mould, but it now becomes vital in order to control the game in the middle of the pitch. Vidal would be an ideal signing for van Gaal’s tactics.