What Louis van Gaal’s United do right and wrong


man united tactics,van gaal tactics

Louis van Gaal is regarded by many as a great coach who laid the groundwork for Pep’s Barcelona and Heynckes’ Bayern, two teams that dominated the world. Now, at Manchester United, he is criticized for using ineffective tactics that have taken down Old Trafford’s reputation as a United fortress.

Van Gaal is known to be a coach who believes in a solid defense, and you can see United have been very well drilled in that aspect.




You see a very flexible United. Carrick and Rooney line up to pressure the defense, with Depay covering. As the ball moves, so does Rooney, applying light pressure to keep the ball moving and not give anyone too much time to think. The ball does get lofted into a danger zone, but a clearance from de Gea and nothing comes of it. When Norwich come at them again, Fellaini and Blind smoothly switch positions, and the ball eventually comes high and lazy to the United keeper. Now of course, Norwich did catch sight of goal, but it was all rather half-baked chances. In addition to being well-drilled in driving play out wide, their cutting off of passing lanes and forcing play back is amazing.




 Young, Carrick, and Martial force Brady back, and Martial follows Olsson, with Rooney shadowing from a distance away. The ball reaches Rudd, who, pressured by Rooney, boots the ball that reaches a calm Phil Jones.

Now, United are doing great off the ball, exchanging positions at the right times, running forward well, and coming tight to their man to win the ball. But look at United on the hunt.




United’s first idea is a cross from the deep right, and when Martial gets his head up, everyone immediately freezes, forcing him to send the ball back to Michael Carrick to be passed around. Fortunately, Blind, Fellaini, and Depay all combine to give a delightful ball to Rooney that he should have shot first time. Van Gaal’s forward play is too safe. At this bout of pressure from Norwich,





Mata comes very far down for the ball. The ball is booted to Fellaini, and the attack develops before Mata can get to his position, giving Norwich a relatively easy way to play the ball out. A big emphasis seems to be on passing short,but they get it very wrong for having such big-name players.

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When de Gea has the ball, Jones runs down and gives him another option. De Gea goes with Smalling. Smalling to Fellaini, de Gea, Fellaini, Mata shows up behind him, Mata gets the ball. They’ve given Mata very good time and space to look for a smart ball over the top or slicing through on the ground. But look what everyone does.


 Rooney is comfortably controlled by the entire back four, Depay and Martial are too deep for any immediate threat, Fellaini is uselessly jogging a few yards ahead of Mata, and Blind is too wide to pose much threat with his pace. As soon as Mata looked up, Martial should’ve started sprinting diagonally into a central position, Depay busting a gut to get to the right, Fellaini taking up Depay’s hole on the left, and Rooney between and slightly behind Fellaini and Martial. Mata over to Depay, who is excellent if he has beat just one man with a large swath of space behind, who crosses it and has Fellaini, Rooney, and possibly Blind against Norwich’s right back and centre back, or Martial with Rooney and Fellaini against 2 centre backs.

Sometimes, it’s to the point where it’s less short passing, more ‘ I’m not sure you can reach me, let me come down to get the ball’.


 Rooney especially. As Jones looks up, Depay starts a smart, if hopeful, run, but Rooney dashes down to pass it back. Jones has it again, and Young is not making a run up his channel, just sitting right next to Jones. He gets the ball, takes a touch back, is closed down by the same man who pressured Jones to pass (which is something awful if two of your men are controlled by one of theirs) and gives it to de Gea. Young gets the ball again, only to look up and see Rooney running at him. They have a give-and-go, and Ashley Young loops it into the space where Rooney would’ve been had he not come down.

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Now Rooney. Rooney is trying to be involved in every step of attacking play. This is United’s starting formation.

Rooney has alot of space to help build and make a late run int the box. But he also wants to spearhead the attack. So he stayed up along with running back to help the play, and Martial moved to the right, which made Mata go to the midfield, who kept getting displaced with Rooney’s dips into midfield, making him settle into a role passing out from in front of the defense .

This is a legitimate tactic, especially against man-marking where wandering can either have an opponent follow you and leave a hole, or stay and be unsure of who to mark, causing confusion on who goes for what,but United had not been trained in it. They were basically playing with 10 men in attack since someone was always out of position. It’s also why there is such a sharp contrast between their drilled defense and their aimless attack.



This pictureputs the final nail in the coffin against van Gaal for me.

Mata is not running into the big hole Norwich’s left have. Martial is not running into the big hole Norwich’s left have. Ashley Young is not pushing up to remind Martial he’s got more space in front of him than NASA could see with the Hubble Space Telescope. Depay, Fellaini, Rooney, and Mata are all in a line, being marked by 3 men. Lastly, a well-directed clearance from Norwich could leave four men against Young, Jones and Martial.

I really doubt in van Gaal’s ability to turn United around. Rooney seems to be leashless (as opposed to unleashed), Martial is young and not finding a rhythm, and they’re really the only two who can create and finish. When Rooney’s out and the ship starts tipping, he’s always been the talisman to come through, so he gets called upon. His work ethic seems to be his weakness now, since he used to have the industry to accompany the ball, not chase it.

-Sourced from a post which appeared first on r/soccer

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