Manchester United will face Arsenal in the Quarter Finals of the FA Cup, the clash between two giants at Old Trafford promises to be a mouth-watering prospect. However Louis Van Gaal’s men had to overcome a valiant display by League One Preston North End to earn the right to play Arsenal. For large periods of the game against Preston, United were once again labelled as sluggish, laboured and lacking urgency. Van Gaal’s team managed to recover from 1-0 down to eventually secure a 3-1 victory at Deepdale. Van Gaal praised his side’s character and fight but question marks continue to be raised over a side that has now lost only 1 out of their last 19. Here are some key points taken from Manchester United’s display:
Rooney looked re-energised
The deployment of Wayne Rooney is a subject that has been hot in the headlines for a good period of time. After claiming that Rooney was his best forward, Van Gaal decided to unleash his captain in his favoured forward role. In recent weeks the likes of Robin Van Persie and Radamel Falcao have been criticized for their lack of movement and inability to run in behind defences. Rooney against Preston was a willing runner and injected some much needed pace into United’s forward play. Rooney seemed to relish the opportunity to be the vocal point of United’s attacking play, in recent games Rooney’s influence on matches has been more defensive based and prior to converting his penalty against Preston, Rooney was yet to hit the target in 2015. Van Gaal now has a dilemma, the Dutchman has indicated that utilising Rooney in midfield provides the team with more balance. On the other hand playing Rooney upfront significantly improves United’s attacking potency. Van Gaal’s team selection against Swansea on Saturday could be a huge indicator of where he sees Wayne Rooney’s best positon. One thing is guaranteed Wayne Rooney upfront creates problems for the opposition and makes United look a more attractive attacking outfit.
Herrera deserves a run of games
Ander Herrera has quickly turned into a fans favourite at Old Trafford, chances to impress have however been tough to come by for the Spaniard. Herrera was a £29m summer signing from Athletic Bilbao and after Van Gaal’s claims this week that the summer priority for United is to sign a creative central midfielder it seems that Van Gaal doesn’t yet trust the young Spaniard. On the other hand in the 5 matches that Herrera has started he has produced 5 goals and 5 assists which indicates that Van Gaal may well have that creative midfielder he craves already in his ranks. United fans have quickly warmed to Herrera’s energy and passion, Herrera’s positivity in possession has also caught the eye since his summer move. United’s tempo significantly quickens when the likes of Herrera and Di Maria are playing. The general consensus amongst United fans is that if Herrera is granted a run of games at the heart of United’s midfield and Rooney is fielded in his best role then the attractive football that all the United fans desire to see will slowly be embedded into this current crop. Van Gaal doesn’t seem to fully trust Herrera hence the constant selection of Rooney in midfield but Herrera is doing all he can to make sure his name doesn’t continue to be overlooked in Premier League games.
Is Falcao’s time up before it’s really even begun?
Many were gazumped when Manchester United secured the services of Colombian star Radamel Falcao on deadline day in the summer transfer window. However it is looking more and more likely that Van Gaal will not stump up the reported £47m fee to make Falcao’s loan move from AS Monaco permanent. The signing of Falcao captured the imagination of the United fans, prior to his cruciate knee ligament injury Falcao was arguably the most clinical forward in world football. Now 29, Falcao looks a shadow of his former self and clearly hasn’t physically and mentally recovered from his previous injury. Against Preston, Falcao seemed perplexed to see his name up on the substitution board, United’s number 9 was withdrawn after the hour mark. The worry for Falcao is that United’s performance significantly improved after his withdrawal. Falcao could still rekindle the great form that he consistently set at Porto and Atletico Madrid, but it seems his time at Manchester United is running out and for United to pay Moncao such money would present a huge uncalculated risk. At the age of 29 and the seriousness of his previous injury it seems the rigours and the physicality of the English game has caught up with Falcao.
Width Key for United
Pacey wingers and width is something that has been embedded in Manchester Uniteds’ DNA for numerous years, Giggs, Beckham, Sharpe, Kanchelskis and Ronaldo are some of the best wingers to have worn the United jersey. Van Gaal has however implemented his own philosophies at Manchester United and has very rarely played with wingers, Van Gaal focus is a possession based game. With United trailing against Preston, Van Gaal decided to switch to a conventional 4-4-2 formation. Angel Di Maria and Ashley Young hugged the touchlines, Di Maria in particular thrived on the opportunity to isolate the opposing full back and play in his favoured role. The use of wingers allowed the likes of Herrera and Rooney more space and as a result enabled them to have more of an influence on the game. Van Gaal now has a predicament, does he persevere with his possession based philosophy or does he return to what was so successful under Sir Alex Ferguson and play with width and pace. Van Gaal seems to be rather timid and cautious with his team selection and formation hence the constant selection of Rooney in central midfield, the focus for Van Gaal is balance. Van Gaal needs to realise that he possesses a crop of creative and attacking talent that can blow teams away, 4-4-2 may make United vulnerable but the problems the constant width will pose for the opposition will most certainly make Van Gaal’s team look a more eye-catching outfit.
Could Rafael’s days at Old Trafford be numbered?
It seems that Louis Van Gaal isn’t Rafael Da Silva’s biggest fan, Antonio Valencia a natural winger has become Van Gaal’s regular right back. Rafael throughout his career has been branded as rash, reckless and hasty during his time at Old Trafford. Rafael’s most consistent year for United was arguably Sir Alex Ferguson’s last year, he strung together a host of consistent performances and seemed to have significantly matured as a footballer. Since Ferguson’s retirement, Rafael’s development seems to have deviated off course. Rafael didn’t even make the match day squad against Preston and was instead included in the U21 squad to face Everton 24 hours later. The emergence of Paddy McNair has also hindered Rafael’s opportunities this season and it seems that Van Gaal may look to offload the young Brazilian in the summer. Seamus Coleman, Nathaniel Clyne and Dani Alves are all names that have been constantly linked with a move to Old Trafford. Time will tell what the future holds for Rafael but it seems that there are a host of names ahead of him in the full back pecking order and Louis Van Gaal doesn’t trust the Brazilians temperament.