Manchester United squandered their 10-match unbeaten streak as they went down 0-1 to Southampton at Old Trafford last Sunday, the Saints’ first success at Old Trafford in 27 years. Louis van Gaal’s persistence with the 3-5-2 has drawn criticism from all quarters, even though defender Phil Jones was quoted as saying the Red Devils are ‘comfortable’ playing a back three. But while it reaped dividends in the World Cup, maybe it is time the Dutchman goes back to the drawing board and returns to the free-flowing diamond that worked so well earlier in the season, none more so than against QPR itself at Loftus Road.
Luke Shaw is slowly getting back to match sharpness but Angel Di Maria’s woefully off-color display in an advanced role alongside Robin van Persie doesn’t seem to be his best position. Neither is the idea to play Rooney deeper in midfield. The solution is to revert back to the 4-4-2 diamond formation, which allows Rooney to play further forward and Di Maria to dictate the tempo of the game in a free role in the middle of the park.
David De Gea
The Spaniard’s stock begins to rise and his place between the sticks is all but assured. Undoubtedly United’s No.1 goalkeeper.
Jones, Smalling, Evans, Shaw
Phil Jones can be a liability at right back, but Rafael remains doubtful. Jonny Evans seems a much better pick in central defence than the makeshift selection of Daley Blind. Chris Smalling should retain his place despite a disastrous outing against Southampton but he must be testing his manager’s patience. Luke Shaw had an outing to forget against his former club, but remains United’s best bet at left back.
Carrick, Herrera, Di Maria, Mata/Fellaini
Michael Carrick was quiet against Southampton as James Ward Prowse put the screws on him. Carrick should sit in front of the back four with Ander Herrera alongside and the silky Angel Di Maria given the license to link up with the attackers. Juan Mata was wasteful against the Saints but should have more space to exploit against a QPR defence leaking goals for fun. However, van Gaal has to decide between the creative vision of Mata and the physical presence of Marouane Fellaini as QPR and Harry Redknapp are quite known for their long ball strategy.
Wayne Rooney, Falcao
Falcao saved United’s blushes at Villa Park couple of weeks back, but was dropped from the team for the Southampton game. Wonder what is going on behind the scenes, but a fit Falcao over an inconsistent Robin van Persie should be the way to go.
Wayne Rooney is a striker. That’s why you pay him 300k a week. Because he scores goals. So, play him where he is supposed to and can make the most impact.