Sunday 15 September 2019

Louis van Gaal needs a tactical rethink for Man United

Jesse Lingard adds energy United need, two holding midfielders aren't always necessary and at least they haven't lost their sense of humour at Old Trafford

Wayne Rooney scores the winning goal against CSKA Moscow at Old Trafford
Wayne Rooney scores the winning goal against CSKA Moscow at Old Trafford

Mark Ogden

It was far from a vintage display against CSKA Moscow for Manchester United, but here is what we learned from the Champions League encounter at Old Trafford.

Two holding midfielders against a nine-men defence doesn't work

Louis van Gaal has changed many things during his time as Manchester United manager, but one constant has been his preference for two holding midfielders, regardless of the opposition.

It is a sensible tactical ploy against the stronger teams in Europe and the Premier League, but when a team arrives at Old Trafford and plays with two banks of four in their defensive third as CSKA Moscow did, two defensive midfielders are totally unnecessary.

But despite CSKA’s defensive mindset, Van Gaal stuck with Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger in front of United’s back four, therefore denying his team an additional attacking outlet.

Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick runs with the ball during a UEFA Chamions league group stage football match between CSKA Moscow and Manchester United at Old Trafford

It was another example of the cautious approach which is quickly losing Van Gaal the backing of the United supporters.

They haven't lost their sense of humour at Old Trafford

It cannot be easy to raise a raucous atmosphere at Old Trafford these days, on and off the pitch, following three goalless draws and growing disquiet from the supporters about the lack of flair and risk in Manchester United’s performances so far this season.

So ten out of ten to the club DJ for injecting some humour into United’s quest for style, panache and, most of all, goals, by playing That’s Entertainment by The Jam prior to kick-off.

Entertainment has been thin on the ground with United recently, but at least the music brings a smile to the face.

Louis van Gaal may be less than impressed, though, with the selection of What Do You Want From Me? by Manchester band Monaco, considering the lyric, ‘What do you want from me? You’re ruining everything.’

There is still life, and goals, in Wayne Rooney

For all of his poor form this season, Wayne Rooney gave a captain’s performance against CSKA and ultimately scored the goal which ended Manchester United’s 404 minute goal drought.

The header from Jesse Lingard’s cross took him level with Denis Law on 237 goals for the club – now just 12 behind Sir Bobby Charlton’s record haul of 249 – and consolidated his standing as United’s top scorer this season with seven in all competitions.

Wayne Rooney scores the winning goal against CSKA Moscow at Old Trafford

But this goal was a big one, not just because of the points it secured, but because it was the Rooney of old, with the striker showing predatory instincts to score.

Perhaps Rooney has been struggling for form like every striker does, but this goal could spark a return to the performances we have seen from the England captain over the years.

Marcos Rojo has overcome his summer problems

Marcos Rojo appeared to be heading for the Old Trafford exit door this summer, having first missed the pre-season tour to the USA due to an out of date visa and then reporting back to Carrington out of shape when he finally flew in from Argentina.

Luke Shaw’s fine form also kept Rojo firmly in the shade, but with the England full-back out for the season with the broken leg suffered against PSV Eindhoven, Louis van Gaal has been forced to hand Rojo a reprieve.

CSKA Moscow's defender Mario Fernandes vies with Manchester United's Marcos Rojo

And after a shaky return to the team initially, Rojo is now showing signs of promise at left-back.

At Everton recently, two crosses from the left resulted in goals for United and against CSKA, the former Sporting Lisbon defender once again proved a threat going forward, with some dangerous deliveries for the forwards.

Lingard gives United much needed energy

Jesse Lingard has moved ahead of £25m summer signing Memphis Depay in the pecking order at Old Trafford, with the Warrington-born winger starting successive Champions League games against CSKA.

While still not the finished article, the 22-year-old at least gives Louis van Gaal’s team some pace and purpose down the left and he is also young enough to play without the fear that is currently gripping some of his more experienced team-mates.

Manchester United's Jesse Lingard and CSKA Moscow's Alan Dzagoev

But for a bad knee injury last season, when he started Van Gaal’s first competitive game in charge, Lingard may well have been given the chance to stake his claim last term.

There are rough edges to smooth off, but Lingard shows promise and his emergence could also be a boost for England as they look to build for the future after France 2016.

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