With the commencements of the new Premier League season, Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal has a lot on his plate, perhaps the most important among them is finding a formation that not just fits in all his world class players but also has the right balance and maintains it shape while defending. Last season, the Dutchman tried a plethora of formations and combinations right from a 3-5-2 to a 4-42 diamond and even deployed skipper Wayne Rooney in the holding role but none of it bore fruit as United fail to display the same clinical nature and ruthlessness they were synonymous with during Sir Alex Ferguson’s rein.
After a 230 million outlay in two summers, the Red Devils squad finally wears a settled look but all could go wrong again if they are not deployed in a suitable formation. I feel that the best formation for Man United this season (with their current squad) is a 4-1-2-3 setup.
In goal, as long as David De Gea stays, starting with him is a no brainer as the Spanish goalkeeper was United’s player of the year for the past two seasons and is one of the world’s best in the business. Pairing Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo would serve United best. The Englishman was solid during the second half of last season though he picked up a red card against Man City in November. Rojo was perhaps the best of the summer acquisitions last season although currently he hasn’t played since the Copa America and is short of match practice.
Matteo Darmian starts in the right back slot due to his good showing against Barcelona and PSG in United States. Darmian is young, fast and has great composure while with the ball and is certainly a better bet than winger Antonio Valencia. The left back position should be occupied by Luke Shaw. Shaw, who joined United last season, suffered a series of niggling injuries but going by his showing in the pre-season, he should be starting.
The holding midfielder’s role can be shared by Michael Carrick and Bastain Schweinsteiger. I feel that the German should be mainly used for Champions League and the Cup competitions and Carrick should play in the League. Out of all the matches played by Carrick last season, United lost just one and looked in control throughout those games.
I think that Ander Herrera and Morgan Schneiderlin should play just ahead of the holding midfielder. Herrera came into his own during the second half of the season and was crucial in helping the Red Devils’ win against Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester City during that period. Schneiderlin is perhaps the ideal foil to Herrera as the Frenchman can track back and help the defence and can also provide that much needed solidity to the side. He (Schneiderlin) can also score vital goals as seen during his debut against Club America recently.
Placing Juan Mata on the right wing was a masterstroke by Louis Van Gaal as the Spanish midfielder has looked brilliant ever since. Mata’s brace at Anfield was easily his best performance in a Red shirt till date and come the new season it would be fitting if he starts in that position.
Skipper Wayne Rooney should be assigned the No.9 role. Although he was United’s top scorer last season, it was Rooney’s worst season goal tally since joining the Red Devils from Everton. This was partly due to the fact that he was often deployed in midfield but thanks to the arrivals of Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin, Rooney can now play as a centre forward. This would certainly be his best position and would also give him an opportunity to make maximum contribution to the team.
Memphis Depay should start on the left flank as the marauding Dutchman played in that position last year and ended up as the Eredevisie’s top scorer. His presence would allow United to up the ante in the final third of the game and make surging raids at the opposition defences. The Dutchman can also be handy in dead ball situations and this would give the Man United attack an extra dimension.
All in all, Man United should line up in a 4-1-2-3 formation in the upcoming season. This would help them get the best out of their players and help them challenge for silverware. It also give them the perfect balance between defence and attack and make them a force to reckon with all over Europe again.