A few months ago, back in the beginning of the season, I was incredibly hopeful over the bright season that Manchester United had ahead of them. Sure, the defence had holes and lacked a leader, but if anything could make up for that, it was the fact that United now possessed perhaps one of the best attacking sides in the world. With Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Juan Mata, Angel Di Maria, and Radamel Falcao leading the strike force, who could doubt the offensive prowess that United had. Maybe they would allow a lot of goals, but they would score in gobs as well. It hasn’t turned out that way.
The sad truth of the matter is that Rooney has been pushed back to the midfield, Mata has been pushed to the bench, Di Maria has looked a shadow of his Real Madrid self, and Falcao and van Persie look like they’d be better suited sitting behind Ryan Giggs with the fans than leading the attack of one of the biggest clubs in the world. Each and every one of them looks lost and it’ll take more than another dose of van Gaal’s philosophy to reignite their once great powers. Frankly, a shuffling of the deck is due. Young talismans James Wilson and Adnan Januzaj look raring to work hard and prove themselves, and the once condemned Marouane Fellaini looks more and more like the right option to have up top. Van Gaal, with all of his acclaimed strategic knowledge, must see this.
It’s not an easy problem to fix. High paid world class players are, as any big club will tell you, hard to juggle. However, some juggling needs to be done. Rooney, one of the most prolific goal scorers of all time for United and the Premier League, must be returned up top. He is an exceptionally hard worker, and perhaps he drops deeper than he ought at times, but playing him in a deeper role negates the magnificent scoring and assisting ability he brings to a front line. Di Maria must stay in the lineup, recent games show he seems to be trending upward, especially with his speed and counterattack ability on display against Burnley. I can’t help but feel that he’ll work out his issues if the players around him can get their acts together.
The real challenge is with van Persie and Falcao. Both were superstars in years past, but now they look old and grey. Their talent is surely immense, but neither seems to be clicking at this point late in the season when you would expect players of their caliber to be hitting good form. The sad truth is that neither deserves a guaranteed place in the starting lineup, but they are each getting one, especially van Persie. Maybe they practice exceptionally well, who knows, but the truth is that they are putting on poor performance after poor performance. If van Gaal wants the best from his players, then he needs to send a message that no one is invaluable, and he’s not doing that right now. Falcao and van Persie need to be dropped.
Van Gaal needs to start experimenting with the attack. That’s all that can be said. Playing the same offence against Burnley that barely squeaked out a draw against West Ham was nothing short of moronic. Thank goodness Chris Smalling was doing his best Peter Crouch impression by bullying the Burnley defense on set pieces. Changes need to be made. Move the captain up top and give the likes of Mata, Januzaj, Herrera, Fellaini, and Wilson the chance to play alongside of him. Switch the pieces around until they start to click into place, because the same old tactics and offence that United has been exhausting are going to leave them watching the Champion’s League from home again next year. Let’s face it, even if it doesn’t work, the offense won’t look anymore derelict than it does right now.