Saturday 7 November 2015

Rooney, Martial, Mata and 4-4-2

After four games out on the left Anthony Martial was back down the middle against CSKA Moscow on Tuesday.

He didn't have the best game- and admitted as much in agreeing with the decision of LVG when he was replaced by Marouane Fellaini- but his presence at centre-forward certainly led to an improved team performance.

UEFA's team sheet had United's system as a 4-2-3-1 with Rooney tucked in behind Martial but, more often than not, it was a 4-4-2.
It may only have been a narrow, nervy win but we did at least play at a better tempo and create chances.

That will be important against Tony Pulis whose teams are always well-drilled defensively and difficult to break down.

Juan Mata has been playing on the right for the best part of a year now, and in Van Gaal's variations of 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 it has suited him.
He's been able to stay high up the pitch, drift inside to get on the ball.

But on Tuesday night it was different.

Playing on the right of a front three is one thing, but doing it in what was essentially a 4-4-2 system is another.

While Jesse Lingard hugged the touchline, Mata occasionally went missing on the other side.
If Van Gaal sticks with the system against WBA today, he may prefer a more traditional winger. 

The key issue for LVG is that he knows that Pulis isn't going to send his team out to attack us at Old Trafford.
West Brom will sit back and try to hit United on the counter attack or score from a set-piece, which is exactly how they played on their last visit here in May.

He's usually played with two of Michael Carrick, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin in his team this season- even doing so at home to Sunderland when they were bottom of the league- but he probably won't need to do that this afternoon.

Matteo Darmian is suspended and Antonio Valencia not fully fit, so Ashley Young will again play at right-back against the Baggies.
Aside from the diving controversy, he did well against CSKA especially with the way he burst forward.

Having a winger playing at full-back is a risk against the big clubs (as we found at Arsenal), but against West Brom at home Young's attacking threat and pace could be a vital asset for us. 

The fans were chanting 'attack attack attack' before the game had even kicked off on Tuesday and if van Gaal names a team with two defensive midfielders today then that's likely to be continue.

An early goal will stop any unrest but we have only once scored twice at home in a first half this season.

Another subdued performance could see a repeat of the rare dissent seen in the stands on Tuesday. 

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