Sunday 3 January 2016

"Risky" United earn reward against Swansea

It was, according to Louis van Gaal, a "risky shape and system" that his side adopted to change their fortunes against Swansea.

He might have added that is was a strategy deployed when we needed it most in a risky time for the biggest and most successful club in England.
Later, he added that the "amazing thing" was that the team could take such risks under such pressure.
It is what United teams have done for years throughout the long and decorated history of the club but then these are different times with a different manager and different ideas and Van Gaal will want to find the positive points where and when he can.

On first glance, it appeared that Van Gaal had- according to the official team sheet- set up his side in the usual 4-2-3-1 formation with Juan Mata on the right, Anthony Martial on the left and Ander Herrera occupying the space behind Wayne Rooney.

It's this tactical  inflexibility that many believe have been the root cause of United's problems but it soon became apparent that Van Gaal had shied away from this stymied set-up in the opening moments.

Both midfields were effectively diamonds but United were once again slow and pedestrian in their build-up in possession, but after half-time- when the system changed again- we played with better intensity and stepped up a gear. 

Swansea set up in a hybrid 4-3-3/4-4-2 diamond so the Dutchman responded and changed to deploying three centre-backs- Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Daley Blind- in a 3-5-1-1 confection.
Young pushed up the field to a wing-back role, Herrera dropped a little deeper and Mata moved inside to take up the no.10 position- a fluid, interchanging system in stark contrast to the recent rigidity.
Indeed, at times, United's formation was hard to fathom but appeared to resemble a 3-3-2-1-1 set-up with Herrera in a trio with Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger, Martial and Young on the flanks and Mata in behind lone striker Rooney.

Van Gaal described the system as "risky" because of the space that was left at the back but it was Young playing further forward that allowed him to race clear and whip in the cross for Martial to nod home the opener. 

Matteo Darmian replaced Phil Jones in defence at half-time, which resulted in Van Gaal again switching to a back four with Darmian on the left and Young as an out-and-out full-back in a

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