Three midfield combinations Louis van Gaal could use at Man United
Jake Evans takes a look at the various midfield permutations for Louis van Gaal's new-look midfield next season
Louis Van Gaal used a variety of different formations last season but the most common were 5-3-2 and 4-3-3.
His summer signings have greatly strengthened Manchester United’s midfield area, and he is therefore likely to continue with three central midfielders due to a vast array of options in that position.
Here are three possible combinations that work on the assertion new signing Memphis Depay will be used as a forward winger.
Possession is an integral part of the United side under Van Gaal. He likes his teams to dominate the ball in all areas of the pitch and implemented a strategy last season that instructed his players to pass whenever possible. Some critics described the strategy as boring and without purpose but it seemed to work more often than not. Michael Carrick was a key component of that side and United struggled to control matches when he was absent. He is the link between defence and midfield and could again be first-choice if Van Gaal persists with the same game-plan. Ander Herrera has a keen eye for a pass and the ability to keep possession that seems intrinsically installed in all Spanish midfielders. He grew into his United career and forced his way into the side with some technically brilliant displays towards the end of last season. Bastian Schweinsteiger has recently arrived from Bayern Munich. He is another central midfielder who can dictate the tempo of a football match and has regularly been the metronome for the German national team under Joachim Low after converting from right-midfield. Expect these three to line-up alongside each other in matches when United are expected to dominate their opponents, such as clashes at Old Trafford against teams in the bottom half of the table. Wayne Rooney will presumably be the central striker and the two direct wingers would receive regular service from the midfield trio without having to track back as United would always be in possession of the ball.
If Angel Di Maria does stay at United, he will be impossible to ignore. He is more direct than any of their current midfielders and is the most likely to produce a match-winning moment. He should be given the creative freedom in an attacking midfield role behind the central striker. Two defensively-minded central midfielders could sit behind Di Maria in order to relinquish his defensive responsibilities and allow him a free role. Morgan Schneiderlin has arrived from Southampton and could become a key member of the first-team under Van Gaal. Of United’s summer signings, he is the most likely to cement his place in the starting line-up. He has established himself as one of the best defensive midfielders in the Premier League and is renowned for his tough tackling and well-timed interceptions. Daley Blind may well be used in defence next season but he is another midfielder who succeeds in keeping possession. It sounds so simple, but if Schneiderlin can win the ball from the opposition, Blind will be able to feed Di Maria and defence turns to attack in a matter of seconds. This combination would be best used away from home when United are looking to play on the counter and could be useful in the second leg of Champions League ties.
Marouane Fellaini was Van Gaal’s Plan B last season. If the preferred possession strategy wasn’t succeeding, the Belgian would regularly be used in an advanced position, acting as a target man when United switched to a long and direct style of play. He is still primarily a defensive midfielder and is used in a central three whilst on international duty with Belgium. Fellaini could partner Schneiderlin in a partnership that relies on physical strength and power. They would be too strong for the majority of Premier League opponents and could perform twice the role of Chelsea’s Nemanja Matic. Due to such competition for places, Juan Mata could be used as a right winger this season but he has always preferred playing centrally. If Di Maria does leave Old Trafford during the window, Van Gaal must use Mata in the attacking midfield position in order to unlock opposition defences. The Spaniard deserves a show of faith and could play without inhibitions in the role behind Rooney, safe in the knowledge that Fellaini and Schneiderlin are there to protect the United defence.