Radamel Falcao joins Manchester United: Where will the Colombian striker fit in at Old Trafford?

Louis van Gaal has bought a world class striker - but did he need him?

Tom Sheen
Monday 01 September 2014 16:18
Radamel Falcao
Radamel Falcao

Manchester United have agreed a loan move for Monaco striker Radamel Falcao.

The striker, who cost £50m just last summer, will arrive at Old Trafford pending a medical and agreeing terms - he is said to be on a flight to Manchester at the moment.

His arrival takes United's spending this summer to more than £140m, a figure that is set to rise with Daley Blind also primed to join for around £14m at some point today.

But Falcao's transfer has been met with an equal mix of excitement and confusion - with Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Juan Mata and Angel Di Maria already at the club, where will they all fit in?

Louis van Gaal now possesses a squad that appears extremely top heavy. It is unlikely that Rooney, Van Persie and Falcao will operate in a front three as none of them are really quick enough to be useful as wingers.

Rooney has played plenty on the left and Van Persie could be a threat coming in from the right-hand side onto his left foot but should Van Gaal adopt this method he will lose the goalscoring talents of both.

How will Falcao fit in alongside Wayne Rooney(left) and Robin van Persie

If he stays with his preferred 3-5-2 formation then one of the three will miss out.

Wayne Rooney is the club captain and is extremely prone to sulking should things not go the way he wants them, while Van Persie is a Van Gaal favourite and United's biggest goal threat when fit.

It could mean Rooney is used more behind the front two, meaning Juan Mata - a £37.1m January signing who has been among United's better performers this season - looks expendable.

Mata isn't physical enough to play in any other position than behind the forwards in the Premier League - he often started on the right wing for Chelsea in a 4-3-3 but it was really a free role and Mata was allowed to go where he pleased.

British record signing Angel Di Maria is not going to be dropped but he too seems better suited in a wider position than in central midfield - United currently seem to have a lot of very good square pegs for their round holes.

Angel Di Maria will not be dropped but may be better suited to a wide role

Louis van Gaal's team should be more balanced when the likes of Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo, Rafael, Michael Carrick and Daley Blind are ready to play, because Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia, Darren Fletcher and Tyler Blackett are either playing out of position or not good enough.

Of course Van Gaal may ditch his 3-5-2 but at the moment the Dutchman's squad is high on quality but not a good team.

The other problem that could arise is from Falcao's style of play; the Colombian is an old-fashioned No 9.

Falcao, 28, is quick without being explosive and plays on the shoulder of the last defender. He's not particularly known for work-rate, holding the ball up or creating chances for others; he uses his superior movement and instincts to find the net when given half a chance.

Juan Mata looks to be the odd man out

During the four-year spell from 2009-2013 when playing for Porto then Atletico Madrid, Falcao may have scored 142 goals in 178 matches but provided just eight assists for his team-mates.

His style is similar to that of Van Persie, although the Dutchman is a more rounded player capable of bringing others into play - during that same four-year spell Van Persie scored 99 goals in 148 matches but did add 32 assists for his Arsenal and Manchester United team-mates.

If the pair play up top they will probably try and operate in the same space, if they try and adapt their games Manchester United will lose what they paid for - goals.

Louis van Gaal has a top-heavy squad

Manchester United needed this signing to prove to their fans that they are still capable of capturing the very best. But with more than £150m expected to be spent by the end of the window tonight, they may have been better served spending some of that money on a top-class central defender.

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