As Manchester United’s start to the season veered from unconvincing into the shockingly poor category via a 4-0 loss to MK Dons in the Capital One Cup, there was at least some good news at Old Trafford.
Whatever your thoughts about Angel Di Maria’s British record £59.7m price-tag, it is undeniable the Argentine will add some much-needed verve and class to United’s attack.
However, to get the best from his star signing Louis van Gaal should ditch the 3-5-2 system he has tried to implement at the Red Devils.
Having watched his Netherlands players take to the formation like ducks to water at the World Cup, it is understandable that Van Gaal was keen to try it at his new club, but results have shown it is less effective on the domestic stage.
After the MK Dons disaster, Ladbrokes are offering 8/1 that Van Gaal leaves United by Christmas, and 9/2 that the Iron Tulip is gone before the end of the season, with Ryan Giggs the 5/2 favourite to replace him as manager.
If he sticks with the 3-5-2, Van Gaal will either have to play Di Maria as a wing-back, a bizarre waste of the Argentine’s ability, or drop one of his current attacking three of Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie.
None of the trio have been in inspired form so far this season, but new captain Rooney and January signing Mata have both scored in the league, and it’s unlikely Van Gaal will jettison his Dutch skipper.
Di Maria registered 17 assists in La Liga last season mostly playing as part of a midfield three or as an inverted winger at Real Madrid, and it is in one of these positions that United must find him a spot.
In a 4-3-3, Di Maria could join two midfielders behind a fluid front three that contains Mata, Rooney and van Persie, while a 4-2-3-1 could see the Argentine installed on the right-flank of their attack.
Given the problems United are currently experiencing at the base of their midfield and in their defence, Di Maria is not going to turn their season around single-handedly wherever he plays, but a change in system will give him the best chance of succeeding.
Van Gaal has employed a 4-3-3 formation for nearly his whole career, it shouldn’t be too hard to convince him to abandon a 3-5-2 system that has so far yielded nothing but more United anguish.
United’s next match is away at newly-promoted Burnley, where they are 8/15 to register a first win of the season.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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