Manchester United rescued a late draw at Upton Park on Sunday, a late Daley Blind strike earned United a point. Louis Van Gaal praised his side’s character and belief but reiterated his unhappiness at his side’s inability to keep the ball on the floor. Sam Allardyce branded Van Gaal’s United as ‘Long Ball United’ a tag that many would not have associated with a Louis Van Gaal side. Van Gaal will be pleased with his side’s ability to fight to the end and rescue a point right at the death, however it was a game that yet again raised more concerns over this current crop of United players. Here are some key factors that were taken from the clash at Upton Park:
Rooney wasted in midfield role
At the start of the season Rooney was deployed in a midfield role to compensate for the injury crisis. Now in February and apart from Michael Carrick everyone available for Louis Van Gaal, Rooney’s days as a striker may be numbered. Rooney is 3rd in Manchester United’s all-time top goal scorers, but is yet to hit the target in 2015 and as the games go by he seems to be having less of an attacking influence. Many thought that Rooney would be playing at the tip of the diamond, trying to create opportunities for the likes of Falcao and Van Persie. Opposition defences will be delighted to see Rooney lining up in the midfield and having his attacking abilities nullified. Comparisons were made with Rooney and Paul Scholes, Scholes had the ability to dictate the tempo of a match and spearhead United attacks. Rooney on the other hand doesn’t have the passing range of Scholes and is at times very sloppy in possession. Many are starting to question what Rooney actually offers in central midfield, Van Gaal clearly doesn’t trust the likes of Herrera and Fellaini, hence Rooney’s constant selection in midfield. Van Gaal now has a predicament does he accept that Rooney’s best positon is as a striker and drop either Van Persie or Falcao to accommodate his captain, or does he continue to install Rooney in a midfield area and have England’s potential all-time top scorer be on the periphery of games.
Strikers becoming a concern
United’s defenders didn’t get a moments rest from West Ham’s Sakho and Valencia. West Ham throughout were provided a constant outlet. United’s forwards on the other hand looked sluggish and lacked movement, Falcao and Van Persie aren’t placed with blistering pace, they have both made a name for being such predatory finishers. Both possibly entering the twilight stages of their careers, Van Persie and Falcao are arguably playing for their United futures. United’s current team is lacking pace, Danny Welbeck’s transfer to Arsenal on deadline day (August) was given mixed reviews. Welbeck’s pace and movement is hugely missed at times with this current United side. Van Persie and Falcao are arguably too similar to become a lethal partnership, James Wilson’s pace and willingness to run the channels may result in Van Gaal calling upon the youngster’s services more frequently. In order for Manchester United to get back amongst the footballing elite then the club may have to splash big money on a world class forward that possesses lighting pace. United’s rivals currently possess strikers such as Kane, Costa, Sturridge and Aguero respectfully. Those strikers are all young and have many different weapons to hurt the opposition. It is looking more and more likely that Van Gaal is not going to stump up the reported £47m to make Radamel Falcao’s loan move from Monaco permanent. With Rooney now seemingly destined for a midfield role, Wilson and Van Persie will be United’s only recognised strikers with Javier Hernandez set for a summer exit. Many felt that United’s problems were at the back but in recent weeks it has become more and more glaring that United’s long term issues could be in the attacking area.
Blind a consistent performer
Since returning from injury Daley Blind has become one of United’s most consistent performers. Blind has had to play in numerous positons in Van Gaal’s ever changing system, the Dutchman has played at wing back, centre back and most recently in holding midfield. The biggest compliment to Daley Blind is that United haven’t really missed Michael Carrick’s presence as much as expected. Due to Carrick’s injury, Blind has been featuring as a regular holding midfielder. Most of Blind’s work goes unnoticed but his teammates will appreciate his reading of the game and his ever present discipline. Unlike Carrick, Blind has added the ability to score crucial goals for his side to his game. With such attacking talent at Van Gaal’s disposal, Van Gaal places a lot of trust in Blind to be his anchor man. Late goals against West Brom and West Ham from Blind have rescued late draws and both goals demonstrated his composure and technique. It will be interesting to see what Van Gaal does with Blind when Carrick returns to the fold but one thing is evident, Blinds importance to this current United side is becoming more and more apparent.
What has happened to Angel Di Maria
Angel Di Maria has revealed that he is struggling to adapt to the English culture and hasn’t learnt much English since joining Manchester United. Di Maria in the early stages of the season looked a livewire and seemed to be loving life with the Red Devils, however in recent weeks it has become more and more obvious that all is not well in the Di Maria camp. Van Gaal revealed that Di Maria and his family were shaken up by the attempted break in on their new home. Di Maria is United’s most gifted player and Van Gaal needs to find a position that gets the best out of Di Maria’s ability. At Real Madrid, Di Maria’s work rate and desire was on display every time he entered the field, however at United Di Maria has been a shadow of the man that came to prominence. United fans will hope that Di Maria’s dip in form is only temporary and that he can rekindle the form that made United fork out a club record £59.7m for the Argentine. On the other hand Di Maria has previously spoken about the lure of Paris Saint Germain and his desire to finish his career back in his homeland. The enigma of Di Maria will continue to be raised until he consistently hits the dizzy heights that he so commonly reached at Real Madrid.
Never say die attitude is back
Manchester United haven’t hit the heights that many expected, under the guidance of Louis Van Gaal and the amount of money spent, many expected United to be challenging for the title this season. Van Gaal’s men started the season very poorly and the jury was out for Van Gaal straight away, performances haven’t significantly improved but there seems to be a resilience and a sense of togetherness with the current crop. Van Gaal has instilled a belief within the United squad, a late equaliser against West Ham meant that United had only lost one in the last seventeen. Late drama was associated with Sir Alex Ferguson’s teams and the famous ‘Fergie Time’ tag, United haven’t blown away many sides this season but the ability to fight until the end and rescue points is looming large once again.