Since taking over at Manchester United, Louis van Gaal has had to deal with a steady flow of injuries. With United in one competition until their involvement in the FA Cup in January, it seems rather bizarre at how many injuries they have picked up during training. Van Gaal has publically said that he and his colleagues are looking to address the issue. Defensive problems have not been aided by players constantly suffering knocks. The likes of Rafael, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Jonny Evans and Marcos Rojo have all been injured at some stage this season. However such injuries have given opportunities to academy graduates Paddy McNair and Tyler Blackett, who have made positive impacts when thrown into the first-team set-up. United have also had to deal with injuries to the likes of Michael Carrick and Radamel Falcao. Once all the injured players return and remain fit, Van Gaal will face many selection headaches, but the dilemmas should pose positive competition for places which will only boost teams performances.
Luke Shaw has had to deal with a lot of scrutiny since joining United this summer. The youngster has had to live up to his £27m price tag. Shaw’s start to his United career was disrupted through injury and that brought about claims about the full-back’s lacked of fitness and commitment to maintaining the desired fitness levels. Now a regular fixture in the United side, Shaw’s performance levels have started to take the upswing. Still only 19, Shaw still has a lot to learn but no one can deny the natural ability he possesses. Against Crystal Palace, Shaw produced arguably his best performance to date in a United shirt. His ability to bomb forward and be an attacking threat was evident but his ability to stay disciplined and solid at the back would have been the most pleasing for Van Gaal. If Shaw stays grounded and motivated then he has the ability to go down as one of the greats for club and country.
With the next scheduled international break not being until next March, Van Gaal will be hoping that his team will start to find some much-needed consistency. Yes, United brought in a lot of players this summer, and yes, a lot of big players and personalities left, but United cannot keep on using the term transition. United have to push on and put together a set of results that will make the rest of the league stand up and take notice. Due to injuries and use of different formations, Van Gaal probably still doesn’t know what his best XI is, however, with the festive period upon us and games coming thick and fast that could well be exactly what United’s current crop needs to get the best out of each other. With upcoming away games against Arsenal and Southampton, ending the clubs poor away form should be high up on the priority list and doing it in either of those big games would be a strong message sent by Van Gaal’s men.
Angel Di Maria made a brilliant start to his United career. His early-season form was mesmerising and he looked a real live wire. However, in recent weeks, Di Maria’s influence has become more and more evident for negative reasons. At the start of the season, it was clear to see that Di Maria was given freedom to roam and pick up the ball up in any area, in recent games, he has mainly featured in a wide position and has struggled to have a real impact in United’s games. Di Maria has also spoken about the disappointment at not being able to move to Paris Saint-Germain in the summer. It will be interesting to see how the United fans react to that statement. Di Maria was at his best when United played in the diamond 4-4-2 formation, with injuries in the central midfield area to the likes of Daley Blind and Carrick, it may mean that Van Gaal changes the formation again. Di Maria is a match-winner and Van Gaal needs to find a settled position which enables his star performer to dazzle at every given opportunity.
Amongst all the big summer signings for United, United lost one of their very own to one of their fiercest rivals. Many United fans were perplexed when they heard that Danny Welbeck was sold to Arsenal for £16m. Welbeck has excelled at Arsenal and continues to blossom on the international stage. The 23-year-old is certainly benefiting from regular first-team football and playing under a manager that instilled belief and confidence in the former United man. The loan signing of Falcao surprised many people and it was a signing which caught many United fans imaginations but his appearances have been limited due to injuries and Van Gaal’s allegiances to fellow country man Robin Van Persie. Unlike Robin van Persie, Welbeck offers pace and the ability to stretch the game. You look at how Rooney and Welbeck combine for England and you add into that partnership the creative ability of the likes of Di Maria and Mata, you could argue that Welbeck is what United are currently missing.
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