Manchester United’s defeat at the hands of Arsenal in the quarterfinals of the FA Cup highlighted a couple of major issues within United’s ranks. I know some will blame Louis Van Gaal for their style and the defense will get blamed as well, but again David De Gea will be praised as he should. However, the defense was not that bad today, but what hurt United today was individual performances, primarily from Daley Blind and Valencia and Angel Di Maria, but they also finally got exposed for their lack of team speed.
When United plays teams with overall speed they struggle. Newcastle, Man City, West Ham, Swansea are all teams with major team speed through the midfield and at the forward position and United doesn’t match up well against them. Today’s game highlighted that teams like Arsenal, who play a one-touch quick style attack can give United fits because United has no speed through the middle and has no quickness in a player over a 15 yard burst in a mid field position. It became apparent today why Van Gaal has been rotating players around because he has been trying to find a mix that can compete in the English game but that mix doesn’t exist on the roster.
On the other hand, if I want to play that type of game, I don’t sub Ander Herrera with Michael Carrick-I pull Daley Blind and bring in Juan Mata. My first thought was that Van Gaal was subbing Carrick for Blind but that soon proved a mistake on my part. You can’t be long and slow against a team that has that much speed and quickness up top. It just does not work.
After Valencia made the mistake of the game on his failed back pass to De Gea, United had no ability to move the ball forward through the middle because the triangle in the mid was Carrick, Blind and Fellaini. Long and slow. They were no match for Arsenal’s speed.
I still like the formation, but I think its time for James Wilson up top as the sole striker; drop Rooney to the slot with Young and Di Maria or Van Persie on the side, move Carrick to center back with Rojo and put Juan Mata in the line up with Herrera to create some midfield combination. I don’t see United at this point in the top four but I do see them making fifth or sixth by the end of the year. They will struggle with Liverpool and Spurs for the same reason they struggled today.
I think Van Gaal is the guy to lead the pack he just doesn’t have the right mix of guys.