Van Gaal’s 3-5-2 system worked all too well for the Dutch at the 2014 FIFA world cup where they bagged a bronze medal and only conceded four goals and none in either the semifinals or quarterfinals. The Dutchman is trying to implement the same kind of playing style in Manchester United the big question is; will it work?
In David De Gea Manchester United have an Excellent Shot stopper whose positioning has largely improved, he is also good with making saves with his feet so in one on one situations, he is also good. The problem however is his dealing with crosses. He is often caught in two minds, whether to go out or to stay put. When he does go out, he elects to punch rather than catch more often than not. De Gea is an excellent goalkeeper but he doesn’t command his area leaving spaces for strikers to come in and knock the ball home. That is a big problem when you play with only one man wide especially in the premier league. Most teams in England play wide and like to cross the ball and full backs always move higher up to provide that extra attacking threat which means Manchester United and De Gea would be dealing with more crosses than usual. So if they are to concede less goals, De Gea must command his area a lot more.
In defense Smalling, Jones and Evans would be tasked with keeping strikers at bay. For all of his confidence, Jones needs to learn to take better positions when diagonal balls are played towards the striker, something that happens a lot in the premier league. Jonny Evans has problems holding on to the ball and he has to work on his timing of the Challenge so as to reduce the fouls given and Smalling doesn’t even seem ready to play top four football; lacking in confidence, poor positioning and terrible tracking skills. The centre backs also have to learn how to position themselves to avoid diagonal balls cutting them out and landing to the wingers behind the Manchester United wing backs.
In the Midfield, Manchester United have the biggest challenge yet. Carrick can pass the ball, yes, he can hold the ball, yes but he is 33! He can’t last the entire season and he is not the most intense player in the world. In Anderson and Cleverly, United have willing runners who lack creativity and in Mata and Kagawa, they have creative players who are not willing runners as opposed to the Dutch where Sneijder, De Guzman, De Jong and Wijnaldum as well as Fer were all willing runner. De Jong played as the holding midfielder, breaking up plays and tackling hard, no one in Manchester United can do that and Sneijder and whoever partnered him in midfield was always willing to defend and attack and could pass the ball and if need be shoot.
In attack, Manchester United are basically covered. I mean, they don’t have an Arjen Robben but Rooney and Van Persie are as good a pairing as any other in the world, Van Gaal should have no problems there.
If Van Gaal must successfully implement the 3-5-2 at Manchester United, he has a lot of work to do, on the training ground and in the transfer market.