Gary Neville has questioned the preferred 3-5-2 formation being played by Manchester United this season, suggesting it's led to a lack of tempo and is a risk averse system.
Louis van Gaal has made clear it's the formation in which he wants to see United play, but with results only marginally better than under his predecessor David Moyes, questions have been asked.
Among those appearing disgruntled are the club's own supporters, who over the last couple of decades have been used to a fast and attacking style instilled under Sir Alex Ferguson. During the win over QPR at the weekend, the away supporters at Loftus Road chanted “four-four-two” and “attack, attack”. They got their wish and Manchester United managed to find the breakthrough, although Van Gaal insisted after the game that it wasn't pressure from fans that led him to tweak the system midway through the game.
Speaking during last night's Monday Night Football show on Sky Sports, former Manchester United defender Neville explained where he saw problems with the system.
"They play the ball out from the back – as most good teams would – but the tempo is too slow.
"They haven’t been taking risks in the 3-5-2 system and in the first 57 minutes at QPR there were no goals, only five shots, four on target and 68 per cent possession.
"Then, when they go to the back four, there’s less possession but goals, more shots and generally a far better performance from them in the last half hour."
Neville continued: "It’s partly the system but it’s a mentality thing as well. I’m not a fan of 3-5-2, when you play that, you end up with your centre backs being the free men and that becomes a careful option, then it kicks into your mentality: ‘I’ve always got a safer pass’.
“It’s more impatience than unhappiness (from the Manchester United fans)."
QPR 0 Manchester United 2 player ratings
QPR 0 Manchester United 2 player ratings
1/27 Rob Green - 5/10
Couldn’t be blamed for letting Fellani’s powerful effort in, but spilled a save into the path of James Wilson to give away the second.
2/27 Mauricio Isla - 7
Wasn’t really tested down the left but got forward well and delivered some nice crosses. Once United went ahead he was a constant threat in the QPR attack.
3/27 Nedum Onuoha - 6
Composed on the ball for the most part and outmuscled the United attackers. Caught out of position as his team searched for an equaliser.
4/27 Richard Dunne - 6
The centre-back looked solid before being subbed at half time.
5/27 Clint Hill - 6
Looked good until QPR were forced to attack in the second half which pulled him out of position.
6/27 Edurdo Vargas - 7
Had a lively game, winning possession and creating chances on more than one occasion.
7/27 Joey Barton - 5
Lucky not to give away a penalty for a cynical block on Wayne Rooney in the first half. Delivered set pieces well.
8/27 Karl Henry - 5
Helped provide pressure in the middle. Dropped back and helped frustrate United for long periods.
9/27 Leroy Fer - 6
Played a part in the QPR attack, winning headers and moved the ball about well enough. Subbed on 70.
10/27 Charlie Austin - 7
The Premier League player of the month was constantly threating a vulnerable United defence. Twice forced de Gea into good saves and was unlucky not to score.
11/27 Bobby Zamora - 6
United dominated possession which left the big man starved of chances. Fought for the aerial ball well as expected. Subbed on 70
12/27 Steven Caulker - 5
Was forced into the attack as QPR chased from behind and couldn’t make anything happen.
13/27 Adel Taarabt - 7
Was part of everything that QPR did following his introduction and helped trouble the United defence.
14/27 Niko Kranjcar - 6
Wasn’t unable to effect the result after his late introduction.
15/27 David De Gea - 8
If United do qualify for the Champions League they’ll have de Gea to thank for it. Made some fantastic stops early on and quashed a number of QPR attacks in the dying minutes.
16/27 Phil Jones - 5
Looked nervous early on and made some errors, but he helped withstand the late QPR onslaught.
17/27 Jonny Evans - 5
Didn’t look particularly assured before he was subbed for James Wilson.
18/27 Marcus Rojo - 6
Was embroiled in a physical battle with Bobby Zamora and fared well. A strong performance from the Argentine.
19/27 Antonio Valencia - 5
Has been effective breaking away down the right flank in recent weeks but he didn’t look dangerous today.
20/27 Michael Carrick - 4
Anonymous for the second straight game.
21/27 Juan Mata - 5
His passing, normally so effective, was errant at times and didn’t create any good chances. Subbed at half time for Fellani.
22/27 Daley Blind - 6
Couldn’t stop Mauricio Isla from having some success down the left but picked out a few nice passes as United went forward.
23/27 Wayne Rooney - 7
Largely shut out of the game in the first half, but played a crucial part in most of United’s attacks including the goals.
24/27 Angel Di Maria - 5
A lot of running, but doesn’t look like he enjoys playing up front. Can’t find a killer ball but it’s not from lack of trying.
25/27 Radamel Falcao - 6
Was poor in the first half but grew into the game in the second. He couldn’t get on the score sheet but he put in a shift and came close on a number of occasions.
26/27 Marouane Fellaini - 8
As expected, Fellani challenged every long ball and usually came out on top. Blasted his goal past Robert Green in a powerful performance.
27/27 James Wilson - 8
Energized the attack when he came on. Created two very good chances for Falcao before scoring a late second. Tenacious.
Neville also said that United's current defenders are also overly keen to play simple passes that won't threaten opponents.
“They play too many passes. Those back three players are on the ball far too much.
“In the first half on Saturday, Manchester United centre-backs had 114 passes of the ball. You look at the other teams that played away from home this weekend, Southampton (57), Chelsea (37), Arsenal (26) and it’s a miraculous difference.
“When they go to the back four in the second half it goes to 54 passes. It’s a big difference. They started looking at diagonal passes, playing risky ones, making QPR work and doing things that are unpredictable.”
Despite calls for a change from fans and criticism from pundits, the star signing of the summer, Angel Di Maria, recently stated that it was here to stay.
"There are some people saying that we're not playing in a particularly good style or that it's not the old Manchester United - but it's not," he told MUTV.
"We're beginning something new here. We've got a new style, we've got a new manager and we're all working hard to make sure we're putting Manchester United back where it belongs."
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