The post-mortem continues as we reflect on Manchester United’s disastrous start to this year’s Premier League campaign, a 2-1 loss at home to Swansea.
1. Lack of pace in attack
One of the main problems last year for David Moyes was the lack of pace to stretch teams in behind. With Danny Welbeck the only United attacker who showed he was capable of running in behind last season, there was a lack of penetration in the final third. Welbeck’s running ability and pace was missed at the weekend.
Adnan Januzaj did show glimpses of flair on the right wing, when introduced but a lack of end product was also present in the young Belgian’s game.
It was clear to see that Swansea were able to deal with the United attack that failed to penetrate in the wide areas while the likes of Routledge and Montero when introduced were more of a threat on the counter attack . United have been linked to Juan Cuadrado and Angel Di Maria all summer and they would add much more directness in attack for this current paceless United attack.
2. United look more comfortable in a 4-3-3
The Red Devils have started using the 3-5-2 formation that Van Gaal utilised to great effect with the Netherlands. United however didnt look comfortable or fluid with this formation. An injury to Jese Lingard midway through the first half did not help and with Luke Shaw unavailable, Ashley Young looked uncomfortable playing atwing back and was exposed at times defensively.
Van Gaal stated afterwards that he changed the sytem as Swansea used the big open spaces of Old Trafford effectively.
“[I decided to change] in the first half. They made the pitch very big and we had to press in front, so 4-3-3 is better system to press. In the beginning we did well, we scored, and we had chances to make it 2-1 but chances are not enough, you have to [score] the chances.”
Van Gaal opted to change to a more accustomed 4-3-3 formation, replacing Hernadez with Nani. This resulted in United looking more fluid and cohesive with Nani and Januzaj providing width high up the pitch and allowing United to press Swansea in their half of the pitch. United enjoyed their best spell for the first 20 minutes of the second half.
3. Swansea could be in contention for a top ten finish
Many have been tipping Swansea to be in a relegation fight this year but Garry Monk has recruited some decent signings to add to his squad. Gylfi Sigurdsson is now back at the Swans and if he is played in his favoured postion, which is the no.10 role and not out on the left where he was left frustrated with Spurs. He is capable of providing more goals to this Swansea side and relieve some of the pressure on Bony to provide the goals.
French striker Bafétimbi Gomis also looked lively when introduced and fellow substitute Jefferson Montero provided a splendid cross in the build up of Swansea’s winning goal. It would seem that Garry Monk’s side have more depth to their squad this year as they introduced two internationals from the bench and with no Europa League football this year, expect Swansea to push for a top ten finish.
4. Van Gaal needs a big name signing
It is now even clearer to see that United need to strengthen, however one or two players may not be enough for the Red Devils to push for a top four finish. Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo look like the most likely to join while there is still hope that Juan Cuadrado, Angel Di Maria or even Arturo Vidal could yet be on their way to Old Trafford.
A box to box midfielder such as Vidal and a pacey winger would see United in much better shape to challenge the top four who have all strengthened significantly in a transfer window that has seen United sign only Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw .
A stellar name such as Di Maria or Vidal is needed to add quality to the current squad. If United were to sign a top quality defender,a winger and a box to box midfielder it would see other teams fearing playing Manchester United again, however time is running out for Van Gaal to add the quality that is needed.
5. Herrera disappointed on his debut
The young Spaniard had a frustrating afternoon. While looking neat and tidy at times, the former Athletic Bilbao player did not let his presence be known in midfield. Herrera was noted in La Liga as being a technically superb midfielder but also capable of breaking up the play but he didn’t impose himself in his opening Premier League game.
He did lack support however and a change of formation would not have helped the young Spaniard. It may take a couple of weeks for the 24-year-old to become accustomed to the frenetic pace of Premier League football and if the likes of Arturo Vidal joined him at the heart of United’s midfield we would be more likely to see Manchester United controlling the middle of the park.
Dan Dalton, Pundit Arena.