Manchester United did not take long to show the benefits of Louis van Gaal’s 3-5-2 formation.
Their 7-0 victory may have been against LA Galaxy in a pre-season friendly, but it was clear how much this group of players could thrive with the formation van Gaal adopted for the Netherlands this summer due to the absence of Kevin Strootman.
The new United boss has since intimated that he will continue with the 3-5-2 formation going forward, but could have other things up his sleeve if circumstances dictate.
And as much as that is fantastic news for club-record signing Juan Mata – who will surely shine behind two frontmen at Old Trafford – it is also excellent news for United’s other playmaker Shinji Kagawa.
Much has been said about how United failed to get the best out of both the Japanese international and later the ex-Chelsea man. But with 3-5-2, either player can do what they do best.
It remains to be seen if United have the defenders – either now or at the end of their summer shopping spree – who can ensure the new formation is used effectively on the biggest of stages. But there is no doubt that further forward the club will reap the benefits.
With two forward positions up for grabs, Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney will be confident of taking them whenever they are fit and available. And while there will only be one available slot behind them, Mata will not play every minute of every match, even without the additional demands of European football.
Suddenly Kagawa will be given chances to play in the position in which he shone for Borussia Dortmund. And while Mata is likely to be first choice (at least to start with), there is no reason why Kagawa cannot change van Gaal’s mind over time.
Fans of both players have been crying out for a change that would see them shine. And while only one can play at a time, Kagawa will suddenly know that he will get opportunities to pull the strings in a way he rarely did under either Sir Alex Ferguson or David Moyes.
Some hinted the Japanese star could be on his way this summer. But if he seizes the chances following van Gaal’s tactical rethink, he and Mata could both be afforded plenty of time to blossom into United greats.