Fervent speculation rents the air regarding how Louis van Gaal will squeeze £200m worth of new signings into his Manchester United team, especially after striker Radamel Falcao’s shock move to the north west.
Will Van Gaal now go 4-3-3, with a seemingly irresistible forward three of Falcao, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, ahead of Angel Di Maria, Juan Mata and Daley Blind?
Or will the ‘Iron Tulip’ move Rooney into midfield alongside Angel Herrera and behind Mata, pushing Blind into a three-man backline alongside Marcos Rojo and probably Phil Jones.
However, for the immediate future it seems Van Persie’s fitness will dictate his former international boss and current club coach’s thinking.
Eagle-eyed media watchers will have noted rumours over the weekend claiming the 31-year-old has needed a knee operation for some time, with both United and Holland complicit in Van Persie putting off surgery during the second half of last term ahead of the World Cup.
The story is back in force today now Falcao’s services have been secured for at least a season, with United signing the 28-year-old – who has recently been plagued by knee problems himself – on loan for £6m from Monaco.
If Van Persie is indeed set for a spell on the sidelines, all the early evidence from Van Gaal’s four matches in charge so far points to his 3-5-2 formation being retained, initially at least.
Rooney and Falcao will be the ‘2’ ahead of Mata with Blind lining up alongside Herrera, who is expected to be fit when Premier League football returns after the international break.
Di Maria will become the world’s most expensive wing-back on the left, while the less illustrious Antonio Valencia takes up the opposite pitch. Pick three from Rojo, Jones, Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling in front of safe-as-houses goalie David De Gea.
Of course, when Van Persie returns Van Gaal will have to be more creative, and we may then see Rooney dropped back into a position more befitting of his scurrying talents.
How Luke Shaw fits into all this is less clear, but the £27m teenager is due to return from injury for the QPR game at home, where United are 2/7 to win competitively for the first time under their new gaffer.
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