Louis van Gaal eager to avoid twitchy bum time

Manager feels tense nervousness when Manchester United use 4-4-2 formation

Angel Di Maria slips past QPR’S Charlie Austin during their Premier League match at Loftus Road last week, the Manchester United midfielder was played as a striker by Louis van Gaal. Photograph: Eddie Keogh/Reuters.

Angel Di Maria slips past QPR’S Charlie Austin during their Premier League match at Loftus Road last week, the Manchester United midfielder was played as a striker by Louis van Gaal. Photograph: Eddie Keogh/Reuters.

 

Louis van Gaal has come out fighting over supporters’ criticism of his 3-5-2 formation, accepting that the players might be more comfortable with 4-4-2 but pointing out that whenever Manchester United take the field that way they have their coaches’ asses twitching on the bench.

Alex Ferguson gave the nation squeaky bum time, his successor appears to prefer an Americanisation for a state of tense nervousness. “I know that with 4-4-2 the stats are giving positive results, we have won more with 4-4-2 in a diamond, but when you analyse the games then we have twitched our ass on the bench,” the United manager said before tonight’s trip to League Two’s Cambridge United in the FA Cup fourth round.

“I said to my players I was squeezing my ass but I knew that was the wrong expression,” Van Gaal said. “I meant I have twitched my ass on the bench because we were out of balance. We won against West Ham playing 4-4-2 for instance but all the time it was twitching your ass and I don’t like it.

“After I switched the system we won nine in a row [actually eight, then three draws] then we lose one game and the discussion about the system start up again. It’s ridiculous.”

United supporters who attended the Premier League victory against Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road at the weekend were partly to blame for reviving the conversation, chanting for a return to 4-4-2 and urging the team to attack with more conviction.

Van Gaal claims he did not hear the chants and would not have taken any notice anyway. “I do not have to take into account 600 million opinions,” he said. “I cannot listen to what the media are writing or what other people are saying because they are never at the training ground or attending the team meetings. It is my job to analyse the games, communicate with the players and then make a decision with my staff.

‘New system’

Van Gaal’s claim he is working out new ideas on the hoof, so to speak, also applies to his questionable gamble at Loftus Road of employing Angel di Maria as a striker.

“It was something I wanted to try, because we needed pace up front to stretch the game,” he said. “When we play 4-4-2 Di Maria can play left midfield, in the 3-5-2 we haven’t seen him so much because he has been injured. Then he came back and I tried him as a striker, because when you have pace in that position you stretch the pitch and make a bigger space for your midfielders. I tried it in a game because I didn’t have the chance to do it in the preparation at the beginning of the season.”

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Van Gaal may use the game to give Victor Valdes his debut in goal, though he denies having reached a decision. “I have read in the media that he shall play, and I thought that a little strange, because at that point I had not made up my mind or spoken about it,” he said.

The United manager has researched his League Two opponents and expects a difficult game. “When you see Cambridge and analyse them they play very direct with long balls,” he said. “They have five or six players above 1.9m so for us it will be difficult to defend. That’s why you have to prepare yourself very well. It will not be so easy to beat Cambridge.” Guardian Service

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