As Louis Van Gaal prepares for his second game in charge of Manchester United, the 26-man squad are once again hopeful of seeing some game time against AS Roma on Saturday night.
After comfortably defeating LA Galaxy 7-0 at the Rose Bowl on Wednesday, United are expected to have a much sterner test against Rudi Garcia’s Roma. Defeating Liverpool 1-0 this week, the Italian side will be no walkover and Van Gaal will have to prepare well in his toughest assignment so far as United manager.
Playing a 3-4-3 formation worked against La Galaxy and many believe this could be the right direction for the Old Trafford outfit. However, with a narrow formation and bombing wing-backs where does this leave Nani, Ashley Young and Adnan Januzaj?
With Van Gaal opting to start Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia on the wings on Wednesday, it shows that whoever plays will need the lungs and the two of them are naturally the best fit.
Nani, Young and Januzaj are attacking wingers and like to stay high up the pitch throughout games. Despite severely lacking the defensive qualities to play in a wing-back role all three will be looking to perform when given the chance this pre-season, but will they get that opportunity?
Both Nani and Young came on in the second half during the 7-0 win, playing in the two striking positions that were occupied by Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck in the first half. Young scored twice, while Nani looked out of place on many occasions. Januzaj has yet to join up with the squad but would have been watching the game wondering where he fits in.
With Van Gaal likely to start with a 3-5-2, Valencia and Shaw are nailed on starters. Providing regular width throughout and cover for the defenders, both looked solid and rarely looked in trouble during their first outing under the new manager. Young and Nani are likely to feature but in the same roles they played on Wednesday. Scoring goals as we know is not their forte and with a combined tally of three goals last season, a future for them up front looks bleak.
Januzaj on the other hand has youth on his side. Van Gaal may choose to nurture the 19 year-old in to an attacking wing-back like he did with Dirk Kuyt and Memphis Depay at Holland, but will he want that? Probably not.
The Belgian international was a target for Paris Saint-Germain in the summer but signed a five-year deal with the Red Devils last season under David Moyes. Likely to see more game time than Nani and Young, Januzaj will have to show his versatility with Juan Mata and Shinji Kagawa occupying the number 10 role if asked to play out wide during the US tour. He was used as a left winger during Moyes’ time and was the only bright spark of a terrible 2013/2014 season.
What we have learnt is Van Gaal has his philosophy and will stick to it. What we don’t know is whether Nani, Januzaj and Young have a long-term future at United.
The 62 year-old manager has already revealed he will use 3-4-3 and 3-5-2 throughout next season so more signings are expected. Arturo Vidal has been linked along with Mats Hummels, Stefan De Vrij and Thomas Vermaelen.
None of the players so far are yet at risk, but the rest of the pre-season campaign will reveal a lot. With fixtures against Roma, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Valencia coming up it’s time for the players to shine or risk facing the exit door – except Januzaj.
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