Gary Neville says Louis van Gaal's 3-5-2 system sees Manchester United lack 'tempo' and 'risk taking'

The preferred formation of the Dutch manager has led to much debate

Simon Rice
Tuesday 20 January 2015 12:56
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Louis van Gaal, manager of Manchester United.
Louis van Gaal, manager of Manchester United.

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."

Sky Sports co-commentator Gary Neville

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)."

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.”

Phil Jones is among the regulars at the back

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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