United have been improving each week, however, the early season injury hoodoo has continued persecuting the Red Devils to this point. Whilst United, is blessed with a sizeable squad, it is never easy for a Manager to have limited resources as this would determine the tactical approach to the match. For different approaches, you need different players.
Louis van Gaal, recently admitted, that he has been fielding a 3-5-2 formation not out of choice but out of necessity due to both natural full-backs being injured. He added that both Valencia and Young, are not able to play as full-backs in a 4-at-the-back system thus he had to alter to a back three with wing-backs. Both players have done well in these roles. Whilst Valencia always give a steady and consistent performance, Ashley Young has attracted a lot of praise even by those supporters who only a few weeks back would have placed him first out of the exit door.
Both wing-backs have been the only source of speed for United and it has been clear in recent matches that United are missing the speed and dynamism in the middle and offensive part of the pitch. The natural players who can offer that are Herrera and Di Maria who have both been suffering with niggling injuries.
Herrera brings dynamism into midfield as well as a sense of urgency. This is not to say anything negative about Carrick or Fellaini who have been filling the midfield spots in recent weeks. Carrick in recent weeks has shows what an integral part he is to the United side. Carrick brings stability, calm and tempo. On the other hand, Fellaini brings strength and height to United’s midfield which United have been lacking in recent years. Due to injuries to both Fellaini and Herrera, LVG, had limited options and possibly, on Sunday, vs Spurs Herrera would have brought that urgency that United lacked in the second half.
United’s attack is one to be jealous of. Robin van Persie, Radamel Falcao, Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata all lined up against spurs. They are excellent players, however, neither of them give speed to the attack and whilst on most occasions, their obvious star quality shines (for e.g. vs Newcastle), when an opposing teams stifle them and don’t give them space or cut them off from source in the manner that Spurs did, the raw pace and technical ability of Angel di Maria is missed. Apart from being a technical player, Angel di Maria possess speed that only few players have. That speed helps you get past defenders and break down defensive barriers especially when counterattacking (Arsenal know exactly what I mean).
Di Maria had had a dip in form prior to his injury, however, a player of his quality will always be considered as a threat by opponents and therefore an opportunity for his own team. Whilst, with merit Cristiano Ronaldo is the World’s Best Player and Gareth Bale is the World’s most expensive player, it was the Argentine Di Maria who was voted as the Best Player in the Champions League final last May.
The positive news is that United should be getting most of their players back within the next couple of weeks. United have been performing well and seem destined to obtain their target of a top 4 finish. Most sides would have forfeited facing such an injury list. Having all of his squad back, will allow Van Gaal to make choices and thus exercise his tactical excellence, a factor which can win United points on its own. However, most certainly adding speed to United in their offensive side of their play will continue improving their performance and turn results such as against Villa or Spurs into wins.