Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working – but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
It is never easy to make a dramatic change in a short space of time
Almost 19 years ago I was part of the Manchester United team that failed to overturn a three-goal deficit in the second round of the League Cup against York City.
We won 3-1 at Bootham Crescent in the second leg but it was not enough and the experience of being eliminated by a team two divisions below us was terrible.
I can only imagine that the United players, as well as Louis van Gaal and his staff, will have felt devastated Wednesday morning as they sifted through that 4-0 League Cup defeat to MK Dons. I don’t care about the mitigating factor that the United team included some young, inexperienced players. The team was good enough to win that cup tie.
The strange thing was that United did put a shift in. I never thought the players gave up. They were just not good enough on the night. Benik Afobe scores during MK Dons' shock 4-0 win over United
In the end, United managed their first shot on target on 72 minutes. Having Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck in the team should have guaranteed them some goals. Adnan Januzaj does not look fit enough to me. It was the first game of the season for Anderson and Nick Powell. But even so, there should have been enough quality.
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The biggest problem of all for United? Three men at the back doesn’t seem to be working for them yet. At the moment United look like they are going to concede goals too often. It was the same at Sunderland on Sunday. There were mistakes. They were letting Sunderland run through them. There was a worrying absence of tackles being made.
Video: Van Gaal reacts to MK Dons defeat
I understand that Van Gaal is trying to make a lot of changes very quickly but the problem is the players don’t seem to have adapted comfortably to 3-5-2 yet.
It is never easy to make a dramatic tactical change in a short space of time when you are dealing with players who have been drilled to play with a flat back four for many years. This doesn’t mean Van Gaal’s preference for 3-5-2 is wrong – change isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all and players have a responsibility to trust and believe in their manager’s methods.
The players have struggled to adapt to the 3-5-2 formation
But it does take time, patience and perseverance before the message sinks in and players feel comfortable and confident about the new system.
Van Gaal says it will take three months for the players to adapt to the way that he wants things done. I hope it will be the case, because at the moment it looks like it could take a lot longer. There won’t be easy quick-fix solutions but I’m hopeful such an experienced and world-class manager is capable of rebuilding and reshaping this United team.
Of course, the expectation now on Angel Di Maria becomes ever greater. He is what United need. He is the kind of player who will get fans at Old Trafford excited and out of their seats. He can beat a man and create a chance. Like a lot of United fans I don’t care how much was paid for him – although I think £59.7m is too much. The important thing for the club is that they have signed him. I just hope there are more players to come.
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I don’t think Di Maria is going to play as a wing-back in a 3-5-2 system. I could see him playing wide in a 4-4-2 or a 4-4-1-1 formation. But if Van Gaal is sticking with 3-5-2 I could see Di Maria playing off Robin van Persie and Rooney as a third striker. I could also see him as a No 10 in the Juan Mata role. He could also play in the same side as Mata. Mata is a great player but he doesn’t have any pace, and needs to be played with others who do. The expectation on £59.7m signing Angel Di Maria becomes even greater
For the amount of money being paid for Di Maria I would ideally want an attacking player who can score 20 to 25 goals a season. His record says he will not get that many, but that he will create a lot. I hope Di Maria’s arrival does not mean that Welbeck leaves. Danny has a lot to offer, not least the raw pace that is lacking in United at times. His problem has always been that he has not scored enough goals.
I would have liked to see him given a run in the team of 10 to 15 games. It is going to be hard for him to get that now, with so many players ahead of him, but he is certainly capable of 15 to 20 goals a season. Either way, it will take Van Gaal time to get this team right. I imagine there will be more difficult days for United fans before he does.
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