Manchester United have been active in the transfer market, recently adding Daley Blind to their ranks. But will the investment be enough for United to secure Champions League football for next season and how will Louis Van Gaal set up his United side with the arrival of new high profile signings?
Manchester United’s potential strongest XI in the 3-5-2 system that Louis Van Gaal is currently operating could see Daley Blind find it difficult to earn a starting place.
While Blind could deputize for Luke Shaw in a left wing back role, he did impress in the number six role for Ajax which is arguably his best position. The 24-year-old was the Dutch footballer of the year last season for his performances in a deep lying midfield role.
Interestingly, Van Gaal has brought in a number of left footed players to perhaps add balance to the United side that used right footed wingers such as Ashley Young and Nani on the left side of the pitch. They also often used the left footed Mata in a right midfield role so that the Spaniard could cut in on his left foot.
Marcos Rojo is set to be used in a left centre back role and this may suit the Argentine international who will add his ability to play the ball out from the back. Tyler Blackett has performed admirably but he looks set to be a squad player with the arrival of Rojo.
Chris Smalling and Phil Jones should also keep their place in the United defence provided that Louis Van Gaal does not bring in a world class centre half and with moves for Mats Hummels and Medhi Benatia failing to materialize it looks unlikely that United will add a further signing in the centre of defence.
Luke Shaw should be expected to start in a left wing back role when fit but with the young full back out injured Marcos Rojo or perhaps Ashley Young may deputize in a left wing back role. Shaw however is certainly the long term option in that position after joining for £30 million this summer.
A midfield three of Ander Herrera, Juan Mata and Angel Di Maria looks potentially devastating in possession and far stronger than last year’s midfield. If they can supply the quality to the front two of Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, United should score the goals to push them back up towards a top four finish.
However there may be limitations in this United side that struggled in a 3-5-2 formation against Swansea and Burnley, so much so that Van Gaal had to change to a 4-3-3 formation.
United could still sign William Carvalho as the midfielder has the ball-winning ability that United are currently lacking. Carvalho would add steel and power to this United midfield.
United switched to four at the back against Swansea and looked more comfortable despite suffering a loss. United could switch to a 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 or 4-4-1-1 depending in what way you interpret the formation.
This would allow Daley Blind to operate in midfield and Angel Di Maria in a left wing role to add pace on the flanks, while Rooney and Van Persie would remain in central roles. However, Juan Mata would have to play in wide midfield role where he has struggled to contribute effectively in a United shirt.
Could Van Gaal use a 4-4-2 diamond similar to the one that that Liverpool used to great effect last season? It certainly looks like a system that could work with the current players that United have at their disposal.
In this formation Daley Blind would play in a defensive midfield role that is arguably the 24-year-old’s best position. Angel Di Maria also plays in a left centre midfield role where he excelled for Real Madrid last year. Juan Mata can be used in his favored number ten role.
With a number of new signings having already arrived, it will be interesting to see how Van Gaal looks to utilize the new talent that he has at his disposal. Will he stick to the 3-5-2 formation, or with more quality available could he revert to a more accustomed four at the back?
The answer to this question may depend on where he decides to use new signing Daley Blind.
Dan Dalton, Pundit Arena.