Hi, have you met 4-3-3?


I genuinely hope this was Louis van Gaal’s first thought when he spoke to St. Ed Woodward about taking over as the Manchester United manager post David Moyes’ departure.

Ever since the rumors began doing the rounds, there has been a lot of talk about LvG’s managerial career, credentials, reliance on youth-setup and fiery personality. All his ethos seem to perfectly fulfill United’s need of the hour. The club cannot afford another season of mediocrity, from a lot of angles. They’re big enough to not be banished from the pantheon of heavyweights in England, maybe even Europe, but their valuation is certainly going to decrease, from the figurative and financial point of view. Someone of Juan Mata’s ilk wouldn’t join them, especially when the parent club are defending Europa champions and a Champions’ League certainty for the next season. Time to get back on the game. Say hello to Mr. Louis, would ya?

Similarly, throughout Moyes’ reign, there was a lot of talk too. Among everything else, formations got the highest traction, and rightly so. The chinks in the armour were so blatantly obvious, it bore a higher resemblance to a fishing net. Almost everyone became a semi-tactician who knew the pros and cons of the 4-4-2, especially with the midfield quality United currently boast of. Mostly addressing cons, but you get the point. Every second article was about the failed system and how a solid central midfielder/winger is imperative right now for them to get back on track. This writer was guilty of indulgence too. As cross after cross was put in from all over the pitch, the credibility of the formation which had seen the club get so much success decreased exponentially.

Hence, the brightest bit about van Gaal’s appointment isn’t his career and experience, it’s the prospect of a different formation and style of football at Manchester United. LvG has almost religiously preached the 4-3-3 wherever he’s gone, from Barcelona to AZ Alkmaar. Defensively tight, but highly attacking football. Calculated verticality is another feature of his systems. Watching Cleverley and Carrick not exchange 249303219 side-passes per match is going to please the senses a lot more than knowing that this man is a managerial legend. How would you like your centre-backs making grounded passes and contributing to build-up play than playing hoofball?

United’s squad is shockingly bleak and I’m sure van Gaal has noticed that. He likes good passers all over the pitch. The defenders are supposed to do a lot more than just lofting the ball and the midfielders need to master off-the-ball movement. You’d be hard pressed to recall the last time United played football without either of those two for more than two matches consecutively. Lest the summer transfer window is an exact opposite of last year, they’ve got to make do with the same squad. Hence, the problems haven’t vanished because the Dutchman is here. Fortunately, they’ll be tackled differently, and with a lot more aggression and panache.

For those who’ve developed a taste for tactically adept systems, this is going to be a delightful period at United. He knows only one way to operate, van Gaal, and that is to impose his philosophy. If you bother to look outside, there’s plenty of talk regarding his temperament and how he’s constantly falling out with players. In plain terms, he known to be quite an a**hole. That said, Louis van Gaal won’t be the first manager at United from the ‘my way or the highway’ school of thought. A certain red-nosed Scot was quite similar. United seem to need that kind. They tried getting a nice man and see what happened. A dressing room which is full of players who realize they’re at one of the most glamorous football clubs in the world, have won an awful lot and earn more than they warrant, needs a ring-master rather than an orchestra-composer.

Any talk on which players would be part of his system or phased out, is useless right now. Speculation doesn’t work for some people and LvG is definitely one of them. One thing’s certain, Robin van Persie is very, very, very, very happy right now: https://vine.co/v/M6Xm3KrD5mq. Unless Netherlands have a shocker at Brazil, he’s going to come into pre-season in exactly that mood. Van Gaal’s preference towards promoting talent from the club’s own academy is well known, so don’t be surprised if you spot Adnan Januzaj doing cartwheels anytime soon. There will be plenty of chances for the likes of Micheal/Will Keane, Andreas Perriera, James Wilson and Tom Lawrence too.

Things look really good and tempting. Compared to when Moyes took over, this time there are some certainties which come with the man. After a quite torrid season under a manager yet to prove his credentials, it’s surely lovely to be feeling strong once again. Manchester United won’t try to make it tough for Newcastle at Old Trafford anymore, they’ll go out to beat City at Etihad. They won’t aspire to play like City either, for the new coach has quite an impressive record of big teams following his blueprints till date. Honestly though, the LvG School of Football alumni makes for quite a fascinating reading.

There’s still a quarter of an year to go, but the anticipation and excitement is palpable. Whether it transpires that way is still some way from conclusion, but there’s nothing to not be psyched about.

We need to meet 4-3-3.


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