It’s The Players, Not The System
So many column inches have been taken up by discussion and debate over Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United formation this season. He didn’t invent the three centre-back system though, even if he’d probably tell you he did.
The formation itself isn’t a problem, but when you’ve got three centre-backs who haven’t played in it before the gentle pre-season strolls they experienced this summer, that’s when it becomes an issue.
The focus on United’s defensive setup has to switch from the system itself and more to the players who are playing within it, and the fact that they seem either unwilling or unable to adapt to it. They kept a clean sheet here, but it was against surely the weakest attack in the Premier League, and they weren’t without their mistakes.
Burnley Are Set Up To Stifle, Not Score
Speaking of Burnley – and it’s hard to discuss them without descending into patronisation given the respective financial figures doing the rounds this week – but they simply don’t look to have the firepower required to make a good fist of staying up.
Everything from the midfield backwards was very good here, particularly the former United man David Jones, but persisting with Lukas Jutkiewicz upfront after he hardly set the Championship alight seems to be a one-way ticket back down.
Darren Fletcher Isn’t The Answer In Midfield
Given the options available elsewhere you’d have thought that Daley Blind has been signed to play in the defensive midfield role he was sometimes utilised in by Van Gaal at the World Cup, and his addition there really can’t come soon enough.
It’s great to see Darren Fletcher back playing in the United team after his illness issues, but starting every week as he has done so far this season? Not so much, and Blind will add mobility and energy in a position which is so crucial when you’re playing three at the back.
Armband Or No Armband, Wayne Rooney Needs To Improve
He’s got the standing around, pointing and shouting thing down, but if Wayne Rooney really is a leader of men as both Van Gaal and Roy Hodgson seem to think he is, then he really needs to massively improve his own game.
Off the pace since before the World Cup, Rooney simply hasn’t got going this season, and in fact he’s now been out of form for long enough for it to become a real worry for United supporters.
Does Van Gaal dare drop him in order for his team to become more fluid, perhaps by pushing Juan Mata and Angel Di Maria closer to Robin van Persie?
Forward Thinking Angel Di Maria Will Be A Success
Ah yes, Di Maria, the man more expensive then anything or anyone who had ever come to Burnley before.
The Argentinean showed some nice touches on his Premier League debut, and he got the clichéd ‘Welcome to the Premier League’ treatment at times, but it was his running with the ball which was the most impressive element of his debut.
In taking the ball through the centre and getting his head up, Di Maria was immediately shown to be a cut above anything else United have had in that area for months.
The task now is to add the confidence that will come with better results, if indeed those results ever arrive.
READ: Jonathan Wilson’s Tactical Preview of Spurs-Liverpool