There are plenty of reasons to be excited about Louis van Gaal at Manchester United but the possibility, nay, probability, that he will revolutionise the squad from a tactical point of view is surely one of the most exciting.
An excellent piece from the Daily Mail’s Neil Ashton summarised how Van Gaal’s approach can change everything.
For decades, United have been synonymous with the 4-4-2 formation and it played to our strengths. With the likes of David Beckham and Ryan Giggs, our squad had the quality to thrive when playing with an emphasis on natural width.
However, times have changed and so has the squad. No longer do we have pacey wingers whose natural instinct is to stick to the byline and deliver a whipped cross into the box, instead we have delicate players like Juan Mata and Shinji Kagawa who love nothing more than cutting inside to play some intricate passing football.
David Moyes ignored that last season. He stuck with a rigid 4-4-2 and United’s football reflected how incompatible that formation was. Instead of playing with panache and pace, it looked like the players were trying to run through treacle and the football suffered because of it.
That will all be different under Van Gaal.
The most exciting aspect is Van Gaal’s tactical flexibility, something he has shown at the World Cup. Borne out of necessity thanks to a Kevin Strootman injury, Van Gaal diverged away from his favoured 4-3-3 formation to an unprecedented 5-3-2 and eyebrows were raised, that is until Holland’s 5-1 destruction of Spain.
Van Gaal hasn’t stayed strict to the 5-3-2 in Brazil and reverted to 4-3-3 for other games, and that tactical flexibility is something only the greatest of coaches can achieve, an asset which will pay dividends at United.
No longer will United fans have to be frustrated at seeing a rigid formation with the players used in wrong positions simply because there is no alternative. If something needs to be changed, Van Gaal will not be afraid to do it and if there is one thing that Van Gaal guarantees next season, it is that he will make United competitive once again.