Manchester United need to up their game, and quickly, so why not play their best players in their best positions and revert to four at the back?
Manchester United’s outstanding run of six straight victories came to an end when they drew 1-1 with Aston Villa on December 20, and since then they have dropped an additional seven points to slip to fourth in the Premier League table.
In the midst of their winning run, some tipped United to make an unlikely assault on the title, but having drawn with Villa, Tottenham Hotspur and Stoke City and after losing to Southampton, that seems highly unlikely now.
With Manchester City and Chelsea slipping up themselves in recent weeks, United had the perfect chance to throw the title race wide open. In fact, had they continued their winning run until now they would be just one point behind City and just three points behind leaders Chelsea.
Alas it was not to be, but for all United’s failings in front of goal, the fine performances of the opposition and the simple fact that anyone can beat anyone else in the Premier League, Louis van Gaal’s team selections have played their part.
Persisting with a 3-5-2 formation that continues to leave the defence wide open is a decision few can comprehend, while the decision to drop Radamel Falcao in a match he could have changed from the bench last weekend still baffles.
If van Gaal wants to get back to challenging the top two, and securing a Champions League place with relative ease next season, he must revert to a four-man defence and play his best players in their best positions.
United are still weak in certain areas, with a new right-back and a new experienced centre-back required, while summer signing Luke Shaw should not be relied upon until he is fully fit and able to play week in, week out.
So with all that in mind, below is the side van Gaal would be wise to play in the upcoming matches, with only Juan Mata’s omission a potential issue.
Other than that, it makes sense to play Falcao and Robin van Persie up front together and Wayne Rooney in behind. The three were beginning to develop an effective understanding just as they were disbanded, Falcao dropped altogether and Rooney switched to midfield.
Daley Blind has shown he can be a fine option at left-back, with energy aplenty and an excellent delivery; while Ander Herrera deserves more than a place on the bench and Angel Di Maria must be played where he can utilise his pace for quick breakaways.
Below is the side van Gaal would be wise to pick (subject to fitness and availability) until he makes additions to his squad:
Proposed United starting XI: De Gea, Rafael, Jones, Rojo, Blind, Carrick, Herrera, Di Maria, Rooney, van Persie, Falcao