The Dutchman has admitted that his side employed Marouane Fellaini as a striker so they could play long-ball.
The Dutchman opted to play midfielder Marouane Fellaini as a striker in the FA Cup fourth round replay at Old Trafford, and has admitted it was a tactic employed to counter the League Two side’s physicality.
It was a decision that proved rewarding for United as Fellaini headed down a cross for Juan Mata to open the scoring, while he also played a part in setting up Marcos Rojo’s headed second.
"With Fellaini, we have always also an attacking point through the air," Van Gaal said.
"Cambridge have very tall players and we could score also in the air and not only along the floor. That was our gameplan and he confirmed that again.”
What does this mean for Manchester United?
|Total Long Balls||Appearances|
Despite the long-ball tactics working against lower league opposition this time around, it is unlikely to be something the United faithful are keen to see in the long-term.
Previous manager David Moyes was often criticised during his short spell as United boss for asking his side to cross the ball more, and the fans are more likely to want to see a proper forward like Falcao used in future.
However, the statistics shown in the table above suggest long-ball tactics are more of a permanent fixture at Old Trafford than you would think. United are currently second behind Burnley for the most long-balls played this season, sitting alongside relegation battlers Hull City, QPR and West Bromwich Albion in their tally.
To add to that, they also sit second for the total number of chipped passes so far this season, with a staggering 852, although the presence of both Liverpool and Southampton at the top of that table suggests it is a tactic employed by many.
Despite that, the statistics suggest that United are more of a long-ball team that people realise, and perhaps Louis Van Gaal and David Moyes’ tactics aren’t as dissimilar as first thought.