Louis Van Gaal’s first game in charge saw him continue with the 3-5-2 system that saw him guide the Netherlands to their third place finish at the World Cup. Although before Brazil, Van Gaal’s teams have always played with a 4-3-3, the Dutchman stated at the World Cup that he picks whatever system will best enable the team to win. After the win over LA Galaxy Van Gaal said that this setup suits his unbalanced squad but he will revert back to 4-3-3 should it not work.
It makes a welcome change from last season, which saw David Moyes rigidly stick to 4-4-2 and 4-2-3-1. Van Gaal’s new system would allow Wayne Rooney to play alongside Robin Van Persie in attack with Juan Mata or Shinji Kagawa behind the front two in their favoured No.10 role. Too often last season, Mata looked marginalised when playing in wide areas and the Rooney/Van Persie axis never hit the heights of 2012/2013. It is a system that Antonio Conte used to great effect during his time at the helm in Juventus. He opted against the en vogue 4-2-3-1 and led the Bianconeri to three consecutive SerieA titles before his departure this summer.
On the other side of the argument, the 3-5-2 employs wing backs rather than out and out wingers which poses the question where would Adnan Januzaj fit in. It is believed that the Belgian startlet sees his long term future centrally behind the strikers but he caught the imagination when operating in wide areas last term. Does this mercurial talent have the defensive discipline to operate as a wing back? The defence will also need time to adjust and sterner tests than LA Galaxy lie ahead. Clearly defensive additions to the squad are needed following the departures of Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra.
Manchester United are a club who have traditionally played attacking football with wide players. It is clear that Van Gaal shares the club’s mantra for attacking football and giving youth a chance but the Dutch maestro will have no qualms in breaking tradition in order to succeed. Exciting times ahead.