Van Gaal reveals main Manchester United problem – it’s not the defence

Louis Van Gaal

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal believes that his side have a bigger problem than their fragile defence.

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal believes that his side’s lack of discipline on the ball has cost them at times this season.

The Red Devils currently lie seventh in the Premier League table after six games, having won two, drawn tow and lost two.

Their most notable statistic so far is the amount of goals conceded, 13, a far cry from previous sides built from solid foundations under former boss Sir Alex Ferguson.

The summer departures of Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra have not been adequately replaced and United have had to rely on rookie Tyler Blackett due to the lack of cover at the back.

Van Gaal, however, surprised viewers in his pre-match press conference by suggesting that the defence is not the problem to his side’s current struggles.

Instead, he feels that the ill-discipline which creeps in when his side have the ball is a far bigger worry and it’s one he is looking to rectify.

"We have a lot of creative attacking players in our selection and I like that, but I think also that you have the discipline to come back in a certain shape, because now we have conceded too many goals.” He said, quoted by the Mirror.

"I want to improve so that we don't lose the ball so easily. That's our problem, not our defence. We're losing the ball easily, but that's also the character of our team, because we have a lot of creative players and they need more discipline.”

Van Gaal's perception that United lose the ball too easily can be queried by Opta Stats.

  Possession PercentageTotal PassAccurate PassPass CompletionDispossessedBall RecoveryPlayed
Arsenal 63.50 3,842 3,349 87% 57 387 6
Manchester United 60.00 3,512 3,038 86.5% 52 340 6
Everton 58.50 3,410 2,903 85% 74 322 6
Manchester City 58.33 3,633 3,145 86.5% 93 375 6
Tottenham Hotspur 55.33 3,111 2,617 84% 81 331 6
Liverpool 54.00 3,106 2,636 85% 68 350 6
Chelsea 53.17 3,236 2,767 85.5% 51 329 6

As per the table, last season's top seven have all unexpectedly had their fair share of the ball on average this season, with each team showing roughly the same efficiency in possession.

Surprisingly, however, United have been dispossessed less than all-but one of their league rivals, with Manchester City losing the ball on 41 more occasions than their city rivals.

Additionally, Van Gaal's side have performed admirably when winning the ball back - recording 340 ball recoveries whereas top of the table Chelsea recorded 11 less.

The results show that United are comparable with their fellow league challengers when it comes to efficiency with the ball, though what Van Gaal may feel needs improving is their shape and reaction after conceding possession in dangerous areas.

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