Louis Van Gaal has spent over £100 million this summer thus far, with Luke Shaw costing £34 million from Southampton, Ander Herrera knocking United back £29 million and Real Madrid not willing to sell Angel Di Maria until the Red Devils coughed up a whopping £59.7 million, which they did.
The Dutch boss is yet to win a competitive game in charge at Old Trafford, with a 2-1 home defeat to Swansea followed by a 1-1 draw with Sunderland and to make matters worse, a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of league one side MK Dons.
It is without doubt that United need at least three more world class signings to even challenge for the top four, but, failing to do that, let’s see what their strongest starting XI is right now, in my opinion. (Barring injuries/suspensions)
Van Gaal is looking to use a 3-5-2 formation so let’s see his strongest XI for that tactic;
Goalkeeper – Only one choice really, David De Gea has been a magnificent goalkeeper in the premier league for the last 2 seasons or so despite a very rocky start to life in England. His reflexes are second to none and at just 23 years old, the Spanish shot stopper is only going to get better with age and experience.
LWB – Luke Shaw offers pace and endless energy up and down the left flank. Perhaps not the best defensive full back yet, given he is only 19 years old he still has plenty of time to improve and mature as a footballer.
CB – New signing Marcos Rojo will add some much needed bite to United’s defence with his aggressive approach. Comfortable in both centre back and left back, the 24 year old will undoubtedly prove useful for Van Gaal this season.
CB – Phil Jones has been questioned many a time about his quality and ability to defend but with United short in quality in the centre back position and Van Gaal wanting three central defenders Jones has to feature regularly. United clearly need new defenders but for now, Jones’ versatility will ensure he is a regular starter.
CB – Chris Smalling is another one who’s ability is regularly questioned. The 24 year old is a good athlete with more pace about him than the average defender, but a lack of concentration and schoolboy defensive errors means he will likely be replaced very soon.
RWB – Rafael struggled with injury last season but when fit he is, in my opinion at least, United’s best option as a right wing back. His dribbling and passing is good going forward and his tackling is good at the other end. His discipline tends to let him down, however.
CM – New signing Angel Di Maria’s natural position may be out wide, but with Van Gaal’s formation not featuring any wingers the Argentine may find himself in the centre of midfield, which is somewhere he is comfortable with. The former Real Madrid man has bags of pace, fantastic delivery from crosses and superb dribbling ability. Not the best defensive player, however.
CM – New signing Ander Herrera is a very creative player, no surprise given he is a Spanish midfielder. Key passes are a strong point of his game, unlocking the tightest of defences with a killer final ball. Again, not the best tackler in the world, United need new defensive midfielders.
CAM – Juan Mata is absolutely world class in the number 10 role. His vision is out of this world, matched only by his ability to pick out a pass us watching would never of even seen. Mata is also an accomplished finisher, and is dangerous from direct free kicks. An absolute must starter for United this season.
ST – Robin Van Persie had a hard time with injuries last season but showed in flashes he is still a top striker, (his hat trick against Olympiacos in the Champions league to win the tie). The Dutch international led United to the premier league title in 2011/12 and his goals will be vital to Van Gaal’s ambition of returning the Red Devil’s to the top four at the first time of asking.
ST – Wayne Rooney’s best position may not be upfront but it is the best way to accommodate both him and Mata in the team. The United skipper is a goalscorer despite not being seen as an out and out striker by some and is also a very creative player. He is Manchester United’s main man, and if a return to the champions league is going to happen this season, Rooney will undoubtedly be a key part of that.
To sum up, Manchester United’s options in defence are limited in terms of first team quality and the same can be said for the defensive midfield position.
New signing Di Maria would fit best into a formation with wingers, e.g 4-2-3-1, but that would leave Van Gaal having to pick between Mata and Rooney in the number 10 role, when both player’s qualities are going to be needed this season.
Louis Van Gaal has said himself that his team is very unbalanced and the signing of Di Maria may only complicate things further.
Is this Louis Van Gaal’s strongest Manchester United starting line-up? Has Di Maria complicated things further? Join the discussion in the comment section below, or on Twitter @TBRFootball.