A favour from good ol’ Tim Krul saw Louis van Gaal scrape another three points for Manchester United at Newcastle last night to keep their top four surge stumbling on in the right direction. Despite having not actually player well since… erm… we cannot remember, the Red Devils are still in the sought after Champions League qualification zone by a margin of two points and sit just one point back from an automatic slot in the competition for next season.
Man United’s next 6 fixtures in the Premier League. Good luck, Louis. pic.twitter.com/8Benl7dM4F
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 4, 2015
How they’re doing it seems baffling, and surely luck, if that is the ingredient LVG is benefiting from right now, will run out at some stage if the Dutchman doesn’t make changes. Liverpool can be heard stamping towards them, Spurs are not too far behind the Reds and Southampton, although their wheels are wobbling, remain in the hunt. So, what can be done? Here are SIX ideas…
The vast numbers associated with the loan deal for Falcao – £6m fee, £200k+-per-week wages and a potential £43.5m full deal – have made it, politically, a little difficult for Van Gaal to overlook the Colombian. However, the 29-year-old’s return of just four goals is not fitting of a key striker in a top four surge, so perhaps it’s time to give up on Radamel. His serious ACL injury last year seems to have robbed the South American of the explosiveness that once made him one of the most feared strikers in Europe.
Building on the last point, Rooney up top makes sense. Van Gaal recently called for a 20 goal per season striker, which is baffling considering that the club captain and prove net finder has spent much of the last few months in central midfield. ‘Wazza’ has his critics, but over the course of the past few seasons he’s regularly reached double figures in league action, with 2011/12 his most fruitful – 27 in 34 outings.
Last night’s somewhat fortuitous win at Newcastle was only United’s fourth maximum point return on the road this term. And when the rather lucky victories at Southampton and Arsenal are taken into account – the Red Devils were outplayed for the majority of the two ties – it’s quite clear that something is wrong away from the safety of Old Trafford. In just about two weeks’ time LVG will take his men to Anfield to play Liverpool, and another away day slip could severely dent their top four push.
It seems simple, but picking square pegs for square holes makes sense. However, Van Gaal has been ramming these square pegs into circular, triangular, hexagonal and just about any shape going gaps all season as he searches for his best XI. Rooney has often been used in midfield, Angel Di Maria has played up front, Daley Blind and Michael Carrick have been outed at centre-back and way back on the opening day of the season young winger Jesse Lingard played at wing-back!
Van Gaal’s Netherlands team shone at the World Cup last summer with a 3-5-2 system, and it looked initially as if the same formation would become commonplace at Old Trafford. However, diamonds, Christmas trees, flat 4-4-2s and all other manner of set-ups have been used through the season, which has not helped with getting a settled team together. Van Gaal is a proven manager, so maybe he should start trusting his instincts.
The infamous dossier incident following Sam Allardyce’s long-ball tactics criticism of United could easily have been turned into a Rafa Benitez “facts” style meltdown. Van Gaal, however, managed to avoid the wrath of the media, but if he continues to make poor excuses, take a difficult tone in interviews and fail to get the best from his players, things could turn very sour, very quickly.