Manchester United have a new-look squad, so can they now play 4-3-3 rather than the much-maligned 3-5-2?
When Louis van Gaal was first appointed as Manchester United manager, talk was of a free-flowing, attack-minded philosophy, of a 4-3-3 formation and an eye for youth.
But three games into the Dutchman’s tenure at Old Trafford, the club have persevered with the 3-5-2 van Gaal implemented with the Netherlands at the World Cup, while the Galacticos-style spending raises questions as to how many chances the likes of Adnan Januzaj and James Wilson will get this season and beyond.
Van Gaal reportedly adopted the 3-5-2 formation with Holland due to the absence of Kevin Strootman, his key midfielder ruled out through injury and leaving a lack of cover when so many players in a 4-3-3 style are hardwired to bomb forward.
But while United failed to sign Strootman or Arturo Vidal this summer, van Gaal may now have the players to at least attempt the formation with which he made his name.
Playing three centre-backs in every game means United need at least five (possibly six) to cover for injuries and suspensions. But the club only have four senior defenders, one of whom – Marcos Rojo – is yet to play for the club, along with youngster Tyler Blackett.
The likes of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans have all struggled with the formation thus far, and while it will obviously take time to get used to, does it need to be that way? Surely now United have the players to render the more alien formation unnecessary.
When Michael Carrick returns from injury he will no doubt slip effortlessly back into the midfield, but for now there is no reason Angel Di Maria could not play there given his outstanding form in the same position for Real Madrid last season.
Also, while many would push for all three of United’s senior strikers to start, that is not feasible given the need for rotation and the need for players to occupy different positions. For that reason, until Carrick returns and Di Maria can be pushed further forward, Juan Mata should be given a chance to play where he can finally perform consistently for the club.
Here are the 11 players who could ensure United effectively played the 4-3-3 formation many of their fans are seemingly crying out for.
Goalkeeper: David de Gea
Back-four: Rafael, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw
Midfield-three: Daley Blind, Ander Herrera, Angel Di Maria
Front-three: Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney, Radamel Falcao