What We Learned: Burnley 0-0 Manchester United

Angel Di Maria can could make a huge difference this season

Burnley v Manchester United - Premier League : News Photo

Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that, despite missing the last twenty minutes of today’s match with Burnley, the Argentine still looked like the most likely to make a difference in the middle of a team that has yet to stutter into life. Plus, if you hadn’t heard, he cost 60m-odd quid, so he’d better be decent. But Di Maria is certainly in possession of qualities that have been missing from United for longer than this season, and whilst he wasn’t able to inspire a more powerful result, he didn’t look out of place in the Premier League.

The first thing to notice was his delivery, which was, by and large, superb. The vision to land a long ball onto Robin van Persie’s chest in the opening period was sumptuous, and you can’t help but wonder what he might have been able to create had there been more space available. His effort, application and willingness to run at the home side made for a nice change of pace considering United’s utter lack of…..well, pace this season. You wonder if Louis van Gaal will be tempted to prod him out to the flanks given how poor Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia’s crossing was/has been. Either way, it’s clear that Di Maria will not have too much trouble fitting in, and could be a huge influence for United this season. Given the price tag, it’s just as well.

United’s front three are struggling

At present, the front trio of Robin van Persie, Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney is not working. The reasons are vast; the former has only just returned to action after a lengthy World Cup campaign, the middle is struggling to fit into a system behind two strikers and the latter, the captain, no less, is barely flickering so far this season. If they’re kept together, things should undoubtedly get easier for them once they get better service from behind and out wide. But the problem United currently face is that shoehorning all three into the side is making for a forward line lacking in pace. As such, if Van Gaal sticks with playing three of his now-four most talented players up top, then he has to make sure they are given the support and delivery they need. Today, one completed cross between the selected wing-backs tells its own story.

Squad depth could severely hamper United’s ambitions

There’s no denying that Van Gaal’s options for getting the club back on the road to recovery have improved this summer. Adding quality additions like Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo and now Daley Blind have helped immensely in that respect, but if you wanted an indication of the work still to do, then look no further than the identity of Di Maria’s replacement. Anderson is not wanted at Old Trafford, and hasn’t been for some time, but due to injuries and sheer necessity, he was brought out barely four days after having been dominated by a League One side. Not only that, but the fact that United’s wing backs seem to struggle so much with crossing should tell you instantly about the lack of options available to Van Gaal.

Burnley v Manchester United - Premier League : News Photo

Of course, the amount of players currently sidelined is not helping. It never does. But in comparison with the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea, with the former easily able to put out two competitive XIs if they fancied, United are far behind. This summer’s revamp could see the likes of Cleverley, Hernandez and Kagawa leave before the window closes, and has already seen some squad fodder shipped out. But it could take another two to three windows before Van Gaal has his entire squad in a state fit to challenge the country’s finest. For the time being, as much of a cop-out as it might appear to be, injuries and lack of quality could continue to be a factor.

United are too easy to play against at present

So far this season, in the league at least, all three matches have followed a very similar pattern; United end up with the lion’s share in possession as their opponents sit back and wait for an opportunity to swarm forward. At present, the pace and urgency needed to counter-attack in response is not there, so when Van Gaal’s side do win the ball back, they are allow their opponents far too much time to settle and reorganise. This has frequently led to a repeat of last season’s template; pass it up and down the width of the pitch and try to cross it in. Two draws, a defeat and two goals scored suggests that this can’t be the club’s only game plan.

Burnley v Manchester United - Premier League : News Photo

The majority of United fans appreciate that this new side is a work in progress with potential, and that is exactly the best way to approach it. There is an understanding that, to Van Gaal, 3-5-2 is the best way to accommodate the club’s best players, but what happens when United fail to make a breakthrough? Well, the half-time formation switch in the Swansea game aside, they simply keep plugging away, and so far, it’s yielded nothing. Teams aren’t afraid of United because they’re set up in a fashion that is already predictable. The easiest solution to this is to have a back-up plan, something that was needed once Di Maria was taken off with a quarter of the game to go and with the visitors plugging away unsuccessfully. Van Gaal’s pedigree suggests that he will find a way to turn this United side into a well-oiled machine at some point, but until then, a plan B is needed, as his side are currently far too predictable for their own good.

9 Comments

  1. What we learned…. We are awful. Fletcher Anderson Valencia young all on the field at the same time. They wouldn’t be good enough to play a Utd legends team.

    • 100% agree! I maintain that you can have a maximum of 2 of these players on the field at any given time,provided the rest of the team are on form.
      We regularly pick 4 or 5 of these sub-standard players and look extremely ordinary.

      As for the 3-5-2,it’s primary purpose is to get Mata,Roo and RVP all into the side.The problem is,rather than a sublime attacking trident,the result is all 3 getting in one another’s way and shockingly low shots on target.We need to be rid of Young and Valencia,both of who can’t cross/beat a man and utilize DiMaria and Januzaj in attacking wide positions either side of Rooney OR RVP.

  2. What we learned… Van Gaal is still persisting with his 3-5-2 formation like a stubborn old f**k even though it does’t work in the EPL or with the players we currently have.

    We need a world class, experienced centre back ASAP (that isn’t Jonny Evans) to sit next to Jones and Rojo, especially if we continue with this 3-5-2 rubbish.

    If we stay 3-5-2 Di Maria needs to play behind the strikers to inject some pace and fluidity into the attack which Mata does not do.

    We still need a tough tackling midfielder who can break up attacks but distribute the ball well too. We haven’t had this sort of player since Keane. Vidal would be nice but if we’ve signed Herrera and Blind for big money what is the point in spending £35m on Vidal just for one of them to sit on the bench.

    Valencia and Young are at the same time the worst wingers and also worst fullbacks currently in the EPL now that Nani has left. We need a new winger or RB that can actually put a decent cross into the box for once….

    Fair assessment,

  3. United clearly have various problems but surely the one of lack of pace can be addressed instantly. Demand that the ball is moved quicker and that the wide players run at and take on the defenders. Young and Valencia are both, cautious, predictable and unimaginative. For the first half at least (some second half improvement) they hugged the touchline near the middle, unwilling or unable to take on defenders, content to lay the ball backwards forcing Evans and Blackett to look for plan B, the longish ball forward. In the middle was poor old Fletch, trying to do a job and a half. Then we have the forwards, struggling to find space and to link up as there was little help coming from midfield.

    One wonders what Di Maria thought of it all. If Moyes wanted to build a team around Rooney, then van Gaal needs to build his team around Di Maria, playing to his and other players’ strengths and avoid much more of this forcing square pegs into round holes.

  4. i think united just need to more simple signings and dats all….i mean we should just sign de jong and a better winger thank valencia….maybe caudrado dat can share than position with januzaj and valencia should b converted to right wing back……flectcher should always be sub in nt starting……so our fomation will av some simple flexibility.for instance,we av jones,rojo and blind,then de jong,herrera,di maria and januzaj mata rooney falco/van persi cos we need better and strong stricker just like aguero or costa

  5. united do not know what to do when they have the ball.

    i have not seen a lightning quick counter attacks worthy of note
    since the start of the season.

    they need to practice some build up play starting from the
    defenders. when defenders pass the ball to the midfielders,
    the midfielders pass it back to them so the sideways
    passing begins ending up with evan’s misplaced passes and
    blackett long balls. this is alright if they do this 10% of the time
    but to do this more than half of your possession is awful.
    di maria’s presence could change this.

    but as of now, same shit all over again.

  6. What we learned is that the team has not learned shit. They are making the same mistakes over and over again. We learned that Rooney has become irrelevant in this system.

  7. We heard it all before,it will take time.that is well maybe or certainly the caseyet again but some flexability along the way to the end product and a more gradual approach to the new noughts and crosses leatherbound book of rules is needed or United will crap out again this season.Can it really be that hard to get the ball up the park and in the net?
    Com on without com on within When LVG the mighty eskimo gets here everybodys gonna wanna doze.

    • We learned than Van Gal was a bore
      and wondered what he wanted us for
      to make us into a perfect team
      so that we could keep our esteme
      then we did not learn no more.

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