Tactical Analysis: Is the Diamond the way forward?

Published 09/16/2014, 1:59 PM EDT


The victory at Old Trafford on Sunday was one of the most joyous moments for fans who sit in the stands in Old Trafford every year to watch the Manchester United that we all know and can’t resist. The word that I would use to describe the win is ‘relief’. This win cannot be understated, it is only QPR but it installed the faith of fans who had watched United gather their worst points total in the Premier League era. The first few matches felt like Moyes never left, the same in-cohesive, defensive minded United that finished 7th last year. It would take much more than a League Cup battering by MK Dons and 2 points in the first three games for fans to doubt Louis Van Gaal, his record speaks for itself.
Van Gaal used a 4-4-2 diamond shape switching from the 3-5-2 he used in the first three games. He was forced to because of the unavailability of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling. It looked balanced, defensively stable and he was able to fit in his best players into the system. United dictated possession and attacked QPR at will. Di Maria was absolutely brilliant, he provided United with the cutting edge that they were crying out for.
Why did Van Gaal persist with the three at the back when he knows that these English players were never taught to play this way? Phil Jones, Johnny Evans look extremely uncomfortable playing this system. The weird thing in all this is that Van Gaal actually never played 3-5-2 in his career before this World Cup. It was 4-3-3 at Ajax, Barcelona, AZ and Bayern Munich. The only reason he played the 3-5-2 in the World Cup was because of the absence of Kevin Strootman. So why this sudden obsession with an unfamiliar system? A system that initially did suit the squad due to lack of depth but doesn’t anymore.

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The diamond is the way forward for United, it fits in the best players in their preferred positions. The only conundrum in this formation is Juan Mata, I don’t see a place for him in the side if Van Gaal wants to play the attacking trio of Van Persie, Rooney and Falcao. However, I think that it should be Rooney, Mata and Falcao. Van Persie is a world class striker but he looks lost on the pitch and slows down the tempo every time he receives the ball.
In my humble opinion, the 3-5-2 is a long term project that Van Gaal should work on for maybe next season or the season after that. United need a short term fix, they can’t afford to be out of the Champions League for another season but don’t be surprised if you see three at the back in the next game.

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Nihal Das

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