When the news first broke that Louis van Gaal was the favourite for the role of Manchester United manager, stories appeared citing his coaching habits.
There was the fact that he always played 4-3-3, that he gave youth a chance, and – perhaps most importantly for a squad that underperformed so much under David Moyes – that he was not to be messed with.
He appeared – at least from the numerous reports that United fans read daily – to be a manager of habit; a creature of comfort whose comforts almost invariably led to success.
But as Holland build up for this summer’s World Cup, it appears van Gaal is not as rigid in his ways as previously suggested. With talk ongoing that he will ditch his 4-3-3 formation in favour of a 5-3-2 in Brazil, it seems the 62-year-old is not afraid to change when required, even if it means ditching a philosophy that has served him so well over the years.
The change of formation is in part due to the absence of Kevin Strootman – an integral part of van Gaal’s side and one that will be sorely missed as he continues his recovery from injury. And while United fans were expecting the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach to play 4-3-3 if he does ultimately arrive at Old Trafford, he has shown that he will adapt to the players at his disposal.
In truth, the lack of defensive cover currently at Old Trafford suggests 5-3-3 is not a formation United will be adopting come August. But van Gaal’s flexibility is just another reason why he would be perfect for the job he has been linked with for the last fortnight.
In short, one suspects those record number of crosses in a single game will be a thing of the past with van Gaal in the dugout.