Barrie's View

Ángel Di María offers chance for Louis van Gaal to ditch unsuccessful 3-4-1-2

August 30, 2014 by Barrie

Angel di Maria

Louis van Gaal has endured a tough start to his career in England – three competitive games in charge of the country’s biggest club and yet to register a win.

Beaten 2-1 at home by Swansea City, held 1-1 at Sunderland and humiliated 4-0 at MK Dons in the League Cup. Can he afford anything less than a victory at Burnley on Saturday?

The 3-4-1-2 formation he had adopted simply has not worked so far. How long will he give his side before changing?

Good news for United fans is the arrival of British transfer record signing Ángel Di María. His £59.7 million transfer fee does come across expensive. But as it gives United the option to move away from their unsuccessful formation and with a top quality player – things will only get better from here.

Di María started as a left winger when I watched him during his days in Portugal at Benfica. Declaring the club not big enough to fulfil his dreams, he got his dream move to Real Madrid in the summer of 2010.

Initially switching between left and right wings with Cristiano Ronaldo, he ultimately ended up predominately as a right winger. That was before Gareth Bale’s arrival last summer and then he switched to centre midfield when he did play.

At this summer’s World Cup, before getting injured in his country’s quarter-final victory over Belgium, Ángel Di María played spent a lot of time in a three-man centre midfield.

With Marcos Rojo unavailable this weekend, perhaps the switch of formation won’t happen just yet and Manchester United’s record signing may slip into the midfield alongside Juan Mata and Darren Fletcher, at least while Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw are also injured

The playmaker potential is mouth-watering with Juan Mata, Di María and Wayne Rooney supporting Robin van Persie in the front four. Manager Louis van Gaal has to get them to click though. Prior to Di María making his debut,

Manchester United have looked very limp going forward creating little against both Swansea and Sunderland.

Ángel Di María will certainly help change all that. The Argentine led La Liga in assists last season – with 17. Perhaps he’s not so bad in centre midfield. Question marks over his and Juan Mata defending off the ball though. Can they really be played alongside each other? And will they play alongside each other against the top opponents?

To me, here’s how Manchester United’s strongest lineup on paper looks, assuming all players on the squad were fit:

Manchester United strongest lineup

I’m sure you’ll have your own belief what the strongest lineup is for Louis van Gaal.

Manchester United also appear to be in the hunt for new central midfielder to protect the defence. They could certainly do with one, especially against the top sides that they will probably need more defensive than attacking players in the team.

10 Interesting Stats from Premier League Matchday 2

August 26, 2014 by Barrie

2 – Manchester City have scored at least two goals in each of their last five Premier League matches versus Liverpool.

2 – English trio Calum Chambers, Jonjo Shelvey and Ashley Young are the only players to have picked up a yellow card in each of their two games so far this season.

4 – For only the fourth time in Premier League history, Manchester United have failed to win either of their opening two matches. In 1992-93 they waited until the fourth game of the season to record their first win. In the treble winning season of 1998-99 the Red Devils failed to win their opening two. In 2007-08 they also waited until league game number four for their first victory.

5 – Arsenal have now gone five Premier League games without beating Everton following their 2-2 draw on Saturday.

7 – Juan Mata has scored seven goals in his last eight Premier League appearances for Manchester United.

7 – Aston Villa have already picked up seven yellow cards in their opening two matches – the most in the Premier League.

23 – Sergio Agüero scored after 23 seconds of coming on for Manchester City against Liverpool on Monday night.

73% – Manuel Pellegrini has won 29 of 40 Premier League games as Manchester City manager.

100% – Diego Costa has scored two goals from only two shots on target for Chelsea in the Premier League so far.

113 – Sergio Agüero came off the subs bench for the second successive match to score this season. The Manchester City striker now averages a goal every 113 minutes in the Premier League – the best record amongst players to have scored at least 15 goals in the league.

10 Interesting Stats from Premier League Matchday 1

August 18, 2014 by Barrie

2 – Arsenal and Liverpool were the only two teams to win at home on the opening weekend.

9 – Yaya Sanogo has now played nine Premier League games for Arsenal and is yet to get on the scoresheet.

10 – Manchester City have won the last 10 Premier League games versus Newcastle, scoring 27 goals and conceding five in the process.

17 – It took Fernando Torres 4 months to score his first goal for Chelsea. He took Diego Costa only 17 minutes.

23 – No defending Premier League champions have ever lost their opening game of the following season (W20 D3).

28 – Liverpool have found the back of the net in 28 of their last 29 Premier League games

Englishmen scored nine of the 26 goals scored in the Premier League this weekend.

71% – 12 of the 17 Premier League matches between Everton and Leicester City have ended in a draw. Thw two sides played out a 2-2 draw at the King Power Stadium on Saturday.

80% – Swansea City have won 4 of their last 5 Premier League games under Garry Monk.

174 – Wayne Rooney now has 174 Premier League goals, one less than Thierry Henry who is the third all-time top scorer.

Have Liverpool taken a step backwards this summer?

August 1, 2014 by Barrie

Liverpool were odds-on favourites to win the Premier League with three games to go last season. 226 minutes away from all-but winning the top flight for the first time in 226 minutes. Then Steven Gerrard slipped…

After finishing two points behind champions Manchester City in May, Liverpool are now a massive 11.0 to win the 2014-15 Premier League. Fifth favourites.

The sale of Luis Suárez to Barcelona has affected everyone’s faith in this Liverpool team. One must remember they were not amongst the favourites at the start of last season until the Uruguayan started scoring for fun.

Liverpool now have the potential to do what Tottenham did 12 months ago – sell their star player, bring in a number of new players, not gel, and have a disappointing season.

Brendan Rodgers have brought in six new faces this summer. Three of them do have Premier League experience at least. Adam Lallana and Lazar Marković are two more skilful midfielders to add to to what is already the strongest part of their side. Rickie Lambert we believe is the plan B in attack. Although they are yet to sign a plan A – a replacement for Suárez in the striker position.

Emre Can can play either centre midfield or left-back. Dejan Lovren is an upgrade a centre-back. The Croatian is a leader on the pitch and will organise the defence that conceded 50 goals in the Premier League last season. Don’t underestimate the importance of someone like Lovren.

Young striker Divock Origi was loaned straight back to Lille after completing a £10,000,000 move. I would still expect Liverpool to dive into the transfer market against before the window closes.

Here’s what I think is the strongest Liverpool line-up right now:

Predicted Liverpool line-up for 2014-15

It’s a very strong starting line-up but tactically there are question marks raised. They were out mastered by Chelsea last season after entering the game on the best form in the country against a team who were playing in the middle of two Champions League semi-final legs and resting several players. Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur are going to be better organised this season with their new managers.

With the threat of Suárez gone I don’t see Liverpool scoring a century of goals this season. They still have plenty of pace going forward, something that proved very successful last season. But getting 50+ goals from Sturridge and his strike partner this season is a tough ask.

Of the teams that finished below last season, Chelsea have certainly invested the best, on paper at least. The signing of Alexis Sánchez is an upgrade for Arsenal. The appointment of Louis van Gaal and the signing of Ander Herrera makes them a top four contender once again and all-of-a-sudden you have to wonder if Liverpool will finish in a UEFA Champions League qualifying position.

Manchester United will finish in the top 4 this season

July 31, 2014 by Barrie

Optimism is in the air around Old Trafford once again this summer. After a terrible 2013-14 campaign that saw the 20-time champions of England finish outside the top three in the Premier League for the first time in their history, the appointment of Louis van Gaal has put confidence back in the fans.

Louis van Gaal impressed with a young Netherlands side of whom many play outside of the top five European leagues at this summer’s World Cup. The Dutch manager led his nation to a third place finish after losing to Argentina in the semi-finals on penalties.

The Netherlands only conceded four goals in their seven matches at this summer’s tournament and none in their final 372 minutes of action.

Their back three was made up of Aston Villa’s Ron Vlaar and Feyenoord pair Bruno Martin’s Indi and Stefan de Vrij. The latter two both aged 22 and with 16 and 12 caps respectively at the start of the tournament.

Manchester United’s own defence currently consists of Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling following the departures of the experienced Nemanja Vidić and Rio Ferdinand at the end of last season.

Very little should be taken from pre-season but one thing that can be for United is that they have used the 3-4-1-2 formation in all three of their matches over in the USA – the same formation van Gaal used successfully during the World Cup.

Jones, Evans and Smalling have played the majority of these games in defence, whilst 20-year old youth academy product Tyler Blackett has seen some game time too. Blackett was on loan at both Blackpool and Birmingham City in the Championship last season – playing the majority of games at left-back and a couple of games in the centre, making 13 appearances combined.

Manager van Gaal has said he will not rush into making any transfers whilst he analyses the talent he currently has at the squad. United have let Stefan de Vrij sign for Lazio after being strongly linked to the centre-back this summer. If the papers are anything to go by they continue to pursuit Mats Hummels. Personally, I cannot see the 2014 World Cup winner leaving Borussia Dortmund for Manchester United this summer, and he won’t be leaving the club before his team’s first home game of the season that’s for sure.

Borussia Dortmund start their season at home to Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Saturday 23 August when Hummels along with teammates Kevin Großkreutz, Erik Durm and Roman Weidenfeller can receive their heroes welcome for bringing the World Cup back to Germany this summer.

Youngster Michael Keane is the only other centre-back option available to van Gaal, so you have to believe they will sign at least one more this summer.

Luke Shaw and Ashley Young are the two options at left wingback in this formation. Adnan Januzaj could potentially play there or centre midfield. As he was part of the Belgium squad that reached the quarter-finals in Brazil this summer, he is not with the United squad currently.

Antonio Valencia has been playing right wingback whilst Nani has seen some game time too. Rafael could also play that role but he is currently out injured.

Ander Herrera has been signed to play in the centre of midfield as the player who dictates the play for Manchester United. He’ll link the defence to the attack. The question is who will play alongside the arrival for Athletic Bilbao?

Darren Fletcher has started two of United’s three games in the USA. Michael Carrick is currently sidelined for a few months, Marouane Fellaini is not considered suitable for this role. Tom Cleverley not a good enough defensive midfielder. This is one position I believe United will need to invest in unless Fletcher gets back to his best and can remain healthy all season.

Going forward is where Manchester United can look strong. Juan Mata has been playing in the role behind the two strikers. Wayne Rooney could also drop into this position and Shinji Kagawa is also available.

The two strikers have mainly been Rooney and Danny Welbeck on tour as Robin van Persie has not travelled. They also have Javier Hernández. I’m not a fan of Welbeck, but the Red Devils otherwise have three goalscorers on their books.

So here’s what I believe to be the strongest line-up currently for Manchester United in Louis van Gaal’s formation:

Predicted Manchester United line-up for 2014-15

I think this team is a bit behind both Chelsea and Manchester City in terms of talent, but no European games this season should really help Manchester United to at least break back into the top four.

They have a good tactician in van Gaal although it must be noted that his side largely struggled against the three top tactical managers in the World Cup – they left it late to come-from-behind to beat Mexico and drew 0-0 with Costa Rica; two nations they were expected to beat, and many thought they’d win comfortably. They then had just one shot on target in 120 minutes versus Argentina, so it will be interested to see how the Dutch manager fares against the top tacticians in the league.

Arsenal have more depth this season and a lot of attacking talent so it should be an interesting battle between the two sides, in terms of their head-to-head matches and league battle.

Tottenham Hotspur should not be ruled out having hired a tactical coach of their own and investing heavily last season. Last season’s runners-up Liverpool have taken a backwards step so far this summer and although there were 20 points between them last season, I can see United finishing higher.

Manchester United are an attractive 1.55 to finish in the top four with Betfair currently before any more signings are made.

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