Louis Van Gaal’s reign at Manchester United started in a 2-1 defeat but where did Swansea City find the flaws in the 3-5-2 system?
Well first of all, Manchester United’s midfield, writes Joshua Adu-Donkor. They were pretty much woeful in every shape and form at Old Trafford. This made Swansea City’s job easier than it needed to be. United started with Ander Herrera and Darren Fletcher in the middle of the park, a combination that had been successful throughout pre-season winning all six games, but this time round it went the complete opposite.
The Passing was flat and poor throughout the match and United struggled to dictate the game in large periods. In a midfield you have to be commanding, you have to break play up and start attacks to feed the strikers in Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez. This wasn’t the case, and with United’s attacking force were very ineffective and playmayker Juan Mata having one of his quietest games in the red jersey, the whole side lacked ideas. Other than Herrera, the passing was very slow and inaccurate, balls weren’t being threaded through and the build-up play was lethargic – something we are not used to.
Secondly, the formation. LVG sanctioned the 3-5-2 to cater for the red devils fire power up top by bringing on Nani in the second half. Switching to a 4-3-3, Fletcher and Herrera needed to have a bigger presence and they did, controlling the opening exchanges as United got their equaliser through Rooney. But after that, what happened? Herrera seemed to improve as time wore on and Adnan Januzaj was a bright spark on the wing, but with two players performing out of the eleven, that just wasn’t good enough as the away side defended well and threatened on the counter attack.
Protection for the defence from the midfield was at a bare minimum with Van Gaal’s side searching for that second goal – the same error which lead to the first goal when Herrera failed to track back Ki Sung-Yeung. But this was a common factor throughout the game when Swansea had the ball and they seemed to outnumber our midfield with new signing Gylfi Sigurdsson filling in the gaps.
Jonjo Shelvey saw a lot of the ball and given his quality he was able to complete a lot of passes. The scary thought is that Swansea are a mediocre team in the league and with Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal improving it’s a worrying time for United.
Another area that needs improving is the defence and the 90 minutes on Saturday should be enough to prove that. Tyler Blackett made his debut while Phil Jones and Chris Smalling made up the back line. United did well in parts but lack that leading figure which gave them so much success over the past 15 years.
Going 2-1 down late on, Wayne Routledge was surrounded by six United players but still found a way to help the ball back across goal for Sigurdsson to slot home.
Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic have left the club and no defenders have come in apart from Patrice Evra’s replacement Luke Shaw, who is out injured. Reinforcements are needed and talk of Mehdi Benatia and Daley Blind heading to Manchester are increasing with Arturo Vidal also mentioned as a possible box-to-box midfielder.
After the game, the 63 year-old manager suggested his side didn’t play like a team. Manchester United were missing up to seven players and it really showed.
Maybe the steel of Michael Carrick would have helped United’s midfield and Robin van Persie’s ability to score goals but we can’t rely on that. LVG will be hoping to have some of the players back for selection Sunderland next week because the team was naive and lacked experience.
United lacked the game changers they regularly have and it needs to be addressed by Ed Woodward. One thing we can take from the game is that signings look imminent. Whether they are the right signings only time will tell.