Tagged: Manchester United

Arturo Vidal: Did Toshiba Medical Systems save Manchester United £40 million?

Manchester United's advert in The Economist boasting about their new Toshiba Medical Systems imaging suite

Manchester United’s advert in The Economist boasting about their new Toshiba Medical Systems imaging suite

A handy bit of medical kit from Toshiba has perhaps saved Manchester United over £40 million, after reports of Juventus and Chile star Arturo Vidal suffering a re-occurrence of his long-standing knee injury.

Those stories have since been downplayed by Vidal, and the 27-year-old did play the full 90 minutes in Chile 0-0 friendly draw with Mexico on Saturday.

However, the all-action midfielder hasn’t been the same player since his injury and had a relatively poor World Cup, hampered by the supposedly “rushed” operation before the tournament in Brazil.

And that hastened surgery came after he struggled on the pitch for over a month with his knee injury before he physically couldn’t go on any further – which came during the second leg of Juventus’ Europa League semifinal against Benfica.

The anthroscopic surgery Vidal had on the lateral meniscus in his right knee usually requires 6-8 weeks for full recovery.

Vidal started and played 60 minutes in his team’s 3-1 win over Australia at the World Cup, just five weeks after his procedure.

Of course recovery times can be shorter for athletes at the highest level in their sport, but it must be pointed out the demands are also greater.

After playing for an hour against Australia, Vidal played for 88 minutes in a 2-0 win over Spain just five days later.

Six weeks following his knee procedure, Vidal was in the centre of what for any footballer would’ve been a draining match – Chile had to work extremely hard to get that famous 2-0 win, especially with Spain having 63 per cent possession, a better pass success rate and more shots both on and off target.

Vidal was rested with qualification secured for the 2-0 loss to the Netherlands, but played for 87 minutes in the round of 16 loss to Brazil.

While footballers can recover ahead of the 6-8 week period, most would usually start returning to full training a week ahead of that time, not already be starting in matches played at some of the highest intensities he’ll ever experience in his career.

So the signs are there that Vidal’s problems in his right knee might very well not be over.

And if reports are to be believed that the player did have a medical at Carrington – something that even if true can be easily denied by the club, especially considering the ways to get into United’s training ground unnoticed – it could well have been the new Toshiba Medical Systems facility the Red Devils have boasted about which could’ve prevented the move and saved United wasting a reported £40 million, or more.

The facility at Manchester United’s base – which the club showed off in an advert in The Economist – allows the club’s medical staff to predict future injury problems a player may have.

According to the United website, the ‘medical imaging suite’ can:

“improve player welfare and also facilitate research into early markers of potentially preventable injuries and ways of maintaining player career longetivity at elite level.”

The boastful press release continues:

The new facility will aid analysis of patterns and trends in rehabilitation, with innovative cardiac and musculoskeletal profiling helping to gain a wider understanding of both normal and abnormal responses to athletic training with possible applications to everyday health problems and injuries outside of professional sports.”

From this information and the apparent deliberation from the Manchester United board and Louis van Gaal, it would appear that Vidal went through this imaging suite at Carrington and potentially serious knee problems showed up.

Or research gleaned from the facility suggested that terms with Juventus were agreed and the midfielder arrived for a medical, it would be pointless as he would fail it and another injury in that right knee was more than likely to happen at some point this season.

Further on in the press release, issued on 11 March 2014, the soon-to-be-axed Manchester United manager David Moyes says:

Not only is it cutting edge medical technology, it will also help us detect the early signs of injury and help to refine the rehabilitation process – something that will pay dividends for years to come.”

For new man van Gaal, the Toshiba Medical Systems imaging suite could well have paid dividends, especially when dodging bullets in the transfer market.


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Marcos Rojo: Manchester United’s new signing will improve the whole team

On the back of Manchester United’s drab draw with Burnley, Marcos Rojo can’t make his debut soon enough.

For the £16 million signing from Sporting Lisbon is exactly the type of defender Louis van Gaal needs in his team.

In the game at Turf Moor, the Red Devils were crying out for a player like Rojo. That is, they were desperate for a centre-back who could bring the ball out from the back.

Merely dribbling forward with the ball from defence may not seem like much, but it’s an important thing for a defender to do – and is not the easiest thing in the world.

When a centre-back comes forward with the ball, that allows the midfielders to get into spaces where they can influence play.

Dropping deep to pick up the ball well inside their own half makes it harder for a midfielder to envisage their next pass and draws the rest of the team backwards, helping the opposition shut off the spaces in the final third.

It’s why Juan Mata was so ineffective against Burnley. He couldn’t get into the right places to make the killer pass for Robin van Persie or Wayne Rooney because he had to come deeper for the ball, allowing Burnley to press higher and force the ball to ineffective areas on the wings.

Hence van Persie and Rooney also had poor games, as the service was mostly shut off and they had to try their luck for most of the game from crosses into the penalty area.

Angel di Maria was impressive and managed to give United’s play some flow with clever passes through the gaps in Burnley’s midfield line and great, accurate long balls to good areas on the wing, but there was only so much he could do from central midfield.

The unwillingness of the Manchester United defence to bring the ball forward often created situations like above, where Burnley pressed high and United's midfield had to drop deeper -meaning the likes of Juan Mata couldn't get into the game

The unwillingness of the Manchester United defence to bring the ball forward often created situations like above, where Burnley pressed high and United’s midfield had to drop deeper -meaning the likes of Juan Mata couldn’t get into the game

For a centre-back however, having the confidence to go forward with the ball isn’t the easiest thing in the world, especially in high stake Premier League games where one heavy touch could lead to being dispossessed, the goalkeeper being exposed and a goal being conceded.

And with the amount of money there is riding on each game – not to mention the defender’s clean sheet bonus and the potential for him to miss out on his appearance bonus the next game – it’s clear to see why Jonny Evans, Phil Jones or Tyler Blackett weren’t all too keen to take the ball forward in the last game.

Plus, they’re not the best at dribbling.

Marcos Rojo however does have that confidence. The amount of long range shots he had for Sporting Lisbon last season is testament to that – he’s a player who likes to get forward from central defence, and take the ball with him.

And while he played at left-back for Argentina at the World Cup, his two successful dribbles attacking the right side pairing of Granit Xhaka and Stephan Lichtsteiner against Switzerland show his dribbling ability when he is allowed to run with the ball.

Which is what Louis van Gaal wants, and what has been missing in his team – that centre-back with the confidence to take the ball forward.

It’s only a small thing, but it takes cajones to bring the ball forward and it also brings the rest of the team into play.

When a defender can do that however, it brings everyone else into play and forces gaps to open in the opponent’s defensive and midfield lines.

Di Maria was said to be the man who can help Juan Mata get his Manchester United career back on track. But it could well be Marcos Rojo who improves Mata’s game, and the rest of the team.


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Radamel Falcao to Manchester United perfect on all levels

Radamel Falcao will be happy joining Manchester United for a reported £136,000-a-week after tax.

Radamel Falcao will be happy joining Manchester United for a reported £136,000-a-week after tax. Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/elhormiguerotv/8558799034

Radamel Falcao’s move from Monaco to Manchester United is the perfect transfer on all levels for the Red Devils.

The reported £6 million loan deal, which Guillem Balague insists will be a permanent £51.4 million transfer, has stunned their rivals.

It’s also shown how United, and in particular Ed Woodward, are finally thinking ahead, and why Louis van Gaal has more than a shade of Sir Alex Ferguson about him.

Falcao was the one elite striker who was available for transfer this summer.

With United already having four strikers in Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez, and with young James Wilson also set to be promoted to the first-team, it seemed that the striker position was one area the Red Devils wouldn’t look to strengthen.

The club has already spent over £150 million this window, and while Chicharito has gone to Real Madrid, even if Welbeck also left, signing a new striker still appeared a long shot. And it’s that suprise factor which might well have ruined the plans of United’s rivals.

There seemed to be a lot of truth in Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal pursuing Falcao recently. While Liverpool plumped for Mario Balotelli in the end (though they would have almost certainly preferred Radamel Falcao), it appeared City especially were planning for his arrival.

It was thought that Falcao would arrive after wantaway striker Alvaro Negredo left for Valencia (h/t Daily Mail). However, United’s swoop for the Colombian now means City could well have to keep the disgruntled Negredo. While the Gunners now appear set to continue without a new striker if Arsene Wenger’s comments (h/t SkySports.com) are to be believed – particularly damaging for his team after missing out on Loic Remy.

So in one fell swoop, Manchester United have boosted the optimism flying around their squad and their fans, while creating an air of disappointment at both Manchester City and Arsenal.

On top of that, Falcao’s transfer shows how United – and Ed Woodward – have learned the lessons of their midfield crisis, and are now investing to avoid a similar situation up-front.

While Falcao is the same age as Rooney and just three years younger than van Persie, with the latter’s injury concerns the Falcao move provides that security for the Red Devils in attack.

In a season where Manchester United need to get back into the Champions League if their hard work building a money-spinning empire is not to be all for nothing, Louis van Gaal needs to have two world-class forwards in his line-up.

With van Persie needing to go under the knife and thus be ruled out for a number of months, United would be short of the required quality should Welbeck or Hernandez be deputising in that time.

So to replace van Persie in the short-term with a truly world-class forward in Falcao is the ideal situation for United which is now a reality.Plus van Persie’s injury record and the reported concerns over his fitness means a top striker is more of a necessity than most would think.  

And in the long-term, yes Falcao is only three years younger than van Persie, but that’s potentially three more years with a world-class striker in the team.

Signing Falcao almost certainly means Welbeck will follow Chicharito out of Old Trafford, and will provide a further boost for United in terms of the progress of James Wilson.

Wilson was better than both Welbeck and Chicharito put together in his cameo appearance at MK Dons, and the 18-year-old has already shown great promise with his two-goal debut against Hull City.

His promotion to fourth choice this season will enhance his development – and give United a better option than Welbeck or Hernandez – but the real boost to his progress will be at Carrington.

Training and learning off Radamel Falcao, in addition to Rooney and van Persie, could improve Wilson’s game immeasurably – again keeping United strong up-front for the long-term.

And finally for Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal, his agreeing to the Falcao signing provides a good insight into how his team will play this season.

That is, we now know that United – in terms of how the team is set-up – will be one of the most unpredictable sides in the Premier League this season.

Radamel Falcao signing also begs the question of where Angel di Maria will play. Photo credit: wikimedia.commons.org

Radamel Falcao signing also begs the question of where Angel di Maria will play. Photo credit: wikimedia.commons.org

While van Persie is out of action, van Gaal could well stick to the 3-5-2 formation. But when the Dutchman returns, the manager has a plethora of options.

He could go 4-3-3 with a fearsome Falcao-Rooney-RvP trio up front, or he could play Angel di Maria on one side with Rooney playing deeper.

Or van Gaal could stick to 3-5-2 with Falcao and van Persie, with Rooney just behind and di Maria as a wing-back. Or have Juan Mata in the no.10 with Rooney in central midfield.

The possibilities are endless.

Falcao’s signing begs the question of where the likes of di Maria, Rooney and Mata will play, and simply makes United a much harder team to second-guess for managers and oppositon scouts across the Premier League.

It also makes competition for places even tougher in the forward positions – that will make Rooney, van Persie, Mata, even di Maria and Falcao himself work harder in training and become more focused.

Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson always had many different options in midfield and attack.

They could be impossible to second-guess, and with so many quality players to choose from, teams would face the Red Devils without much of a clue as to how they would line up and how they would play.

It’s part of the reason why United were so dominant under Sir Alex – opponents just didn’t know who would play, but they knew whoever did play was going to be a quality option that could tear their team apart.

After sanctioning this deal, Louis van Gaal appears to be following a similar route to Sir Alex.

The signing of Radamel Falcao looks set to bring the fear factor back to Manchester United.


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2014-15 Premier League betting tips: Gameweek 3

Photo credit: wikimedia.commons.org

Photo credit: wikimedia.commons.org

Here are some Premier League betting tips for Gameweek 3.

While these tips are based on tactical, psychological and statistical analysis, the Premier League can be damn near impossible to predict at times.

As such, they could all be wrong.

Or they could all be right.

Or some of them could be right.

Aston Villa v Hull City – Draw @ 9/4 (or 0-0 @ 6/1)

Aston Villa are favourites for this game at Villa Park, but this one has draw written all over it.

Even Paul Lambert and Steve Bruce would probably be surprised if either walked away with a win.

Going for 0-0 would be a good shout for a number of reasons. Looking back at the stats, Hull have failed to score in eight of their last nine matches against Villa.

On top of that, the understanding between Ron Vlaar and Philippe Senderos is improving every match, and crucially both are in top form.

They both close down the space well, can read an opponent’s run and most importantly, they can read each other’s play as well.

Especially after losing Shane Long, who – despite his lack of good finishing ability (reflected in his goal tally) – is great at dragging defenders out of position to create space for teammates, Hull don’t have the imaginative kind of striker or midfielder who could trouble such a solid partnership as Vlaar and Senderos.

As for Aston Villa, they simply don’t have the firepower, especially with Christian Benteke and Libor Kozak still injured. Much more on that is outlined here.

Both will be fatigued and lower on confidence after their midweek losses in the League Cup and Europa League respectively (Hull’s being on aggregate of course).

And at home Villa have a big problem tactically which manager Paul Lambert still hasn’t sorted.

He’s worked hard on making sure his team keep their shape, have runners in midfield who can slot into defence to provide cover (Kieran Richardson is the one who doing it most this season), and are ready to pounce on the counter-attack.

However, teams drop off and let Villa play when they’re at home, knowing that Villa don’t have a good rhythm when they have time and space on the ball.

Lambert has yet to get his team playing better with long spells in possession.

Again, this one has draw – and quite probably 0-0 – written all over it.

Aston Villa's Ron Vlaar - or 'Big Gay Ron' - has been immense this season. Photo credit: wikimedia.commons.org

Aston Villa’s Ron Vlaar – or ‘Big Gay Ron’ – has been immense this season. Photo credit: wikimedia.commons.org

Everton v Chelsea – Draw @ 12/5

Chelsea are the favourites here by a fair distance, but Everton have won the past four out of five between the two sides at Goodison Park.

That doesn’t make them favourites however. They may have two strikers who used to play for the Blues – Romelu Lukaku and Samuel Eto’o – who no doubt will be more fired up than ever, but this Chelsea team will be the best they’ve played in a long time.

Roberto Martinez’s men were brilliant in the first half against Arsenal when facing Alexis Sanchez up-front.

But in that first-half, Sanchez couldn’t adapt to being a centre forward, and often looked for the ball on the wing, leaving nobody in the middle. That meant no focal point.

Arsene Wenger then makes a masterstroke sub at half-time, bringing on Olivier Giroud for Sanchez.

Suddenly the Gunners have direction in attack, and a focus in how they go forward. As a result, the Everton defence is tested more and eventually cracks.

Against Chelsea, Everton’s defence will be tested much more than last weekend with a direct striker like Diego Costa, or even Didier Drogba.

The weak point for Martinez’s men is their difficulty dealing with direct strikers who are supported with great service in midfield.

Hence Chris Wood got on the scoresheet for Leicester against the Toffees on the opening day.

Chelsea have the striker in Costa, and the midfielder in Cesc Fabregas (and of course the likes of Eden Hazard, Oscar, etc).

But, it will play on Chelsea and Mourinho’s mind that they lost the last game at Goodison, and that they haven’t done well there over the years.

On top of that, Everton have quality through the pitch themselves, which will leave the Blues vulnerable at times (as evidenced against Leicester last weekend).

The likes of James McCarthy, Gareth Barry, Steven Pienaar, Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman seem more comfortable in their play at Goodison – regardless of opposition – and that will help Everton stick to the manager’s tactics.

A draw with both teams scoring seems the most likely outcome here.

Tottenham v Liverpool – Home win @ 8/5

Mauricio Pochettino has worked wonders at White Hart Lane this season.

When Tottenham beat AEL Limassol 3-0 on Thursday night, the commentator on ITV4 was spot on. “Liverpool can’t come soon enough for Spurs”, he said.

The feel-good factor around the club is highly visible, even from the outside. It is only two games into the season, but the fact that Tottenham sit top of the Premier League is significant.

Pochettino has established a solid core to his team and has blended strong defensive football with attacking flair beautifully.

The likes of Nacer Chadli, Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen have been reinvigorated by Pochettino’s arrival, while overall the team is finally starting to gel with the understanding between them much better than last season.

However, the picture is rather different at Liverpool. The defence still needs sorting (much more explained here) tactically, and confidence is fairly low after a lacklustre win over Southampton, and a crushing defeat at Manchester City.

And going forward, Brendan Rodgers still seems to be working out the best way for his team to attack without Luis Suarez, part of the reason why Daniel Sturridge hasn’t been in the same form as last season.

There seems to be a bit of transition at Liverpool after losing Suarez and adding a lot of numbers to the squad for the Champions League.

However, Spurs have hit the ground running and don’t look like stopping soon. A home win and a clean sheet for Tottenham appears most probable.

Sergio Aguero to score two or more @ 5/2 (or three or more @ 9/1)

Sergio Aguero has three goals in his three games in the Premier League at home to Stoke City.

He’s approaching full fitness and is providing early indications – with the ease at which he scores, the cleverness of his forward runs, the spaces he can create for himself, the list is endless – that he is in the form of his life.

Stevan Jovetic may also be in stellar form, but there’s no doubt Manchester City look first to Aguero for goals.

Tactically, Stoke’s defence and midfield simply aren’t good enough to stop a player like Aguero, especially at the Etihad.

Two goals is a safe bet for Aguero, but it could well be quids in with an Aguero hat-trick.

Manchester United and both teams to score @ 13/5

This one doesn’t need a great deal of analysis and is quite obvious, but with odds of 13/5 seems worth a punt.

Angel di Maria is in line to make his Manchester United debut, and besides the obvious improvement he will clearly give the team, his signing could well have the ‘Mesut Ozil effect’ seen at Arsenal.

Also, United have greater belief in themselves away from Old Trafford, and will seek a response from last week’s disappointing draw at Sunderland (the 4-0 MK Dons defeat compromised virtually none of those who will start this season, besides David de Gea).

Burnley did beat United 1-0 at Turf Moor at the start of the 2009/10 Premier League season, and while the teams are markedly different today, that will still give the Clarets confidence.

Combine that with a defence still struggling with their roles in the 3-5-2, and it does seem clear United will concede.

But overall, with the ‘di Maria’ effect, as bad as they’ve been it’s really hard not to see United win this one.

MK Dons 4-0 Manchester United: 5 players who failed Louis van Gaal audition

Manchester United’s embarrassing 4-0 defeat at the hands of lowly MK Dons in just the second round of the League Cup is conclusive proof of the complete lack of depth available to United manager Louis van Gaal.

Here we look at five players who van Gaal most definitely was not expecting to let him down against an average third-tier side.

Javier Hernandez

The most useful thing Javier Hernandez can do for Manchester United is accept a move to Juventus as part of the Arturo Vidal deal, if reports are to be believed.

The 26-year-old striker has scored big goals in the Premier League against the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal, and as a Mexico international scored against Argentina and France in the 2010 World Cup, before his move to Manchester United.

And yet against a League One team in MK Dons – who aren’t exactly the best in England’s third-tier – Chicharito was shockingly ineffective.

In his first season at United, the Mexican made his name as a goal-poacher with brilliant movement to get behind defences and score the tap-ins that look easy but take an intelligent footballer to get in the right places at the right time.

But on Tuesday night, none of those quick, imaginative runs were on display, just as they haven’t been since the moment Sir Alex Ferguson walked out the door.

His understanding with Danny Welbeck has also disintegrated, perhaps because they are part of different cliques at Carrington and in the Old Trafford dressing room.

And when his golden chance came knocking on 78 minutes – which in itself proves how useless Hernandez was throughout the match – he decided to try and poke the ball in with the outside of his right foot, despite having all of the requisite space to trap the ball and produce a calm finish past David Martin, the MK Dons goalkeeper.

It’s that poor decision-making, combined with his lack of effort and movement, which could well have cost Javier Hernandez his Manchester United career.

Danny Welbeck showed some fight in the game, and would no doubt have got on the scoresheet had there not been a load of inexperienced kids providing the service from midfield.

Hernandez however was the complete antithesis, and even the young James Wilson looked a million times better than the Mexican.

After letting down Louis van Gaal yet again, surely his chances are up. It’s got to be curtains for Chicharito.

Anderson

To have an article published in the Daily Mail describing the fall from grace of a Manchester United player after a match against a League One team just shows how shockingly poor Anderson was against MK Dons.

From a United perspective when in possession, the game was crying out for a leader in midfield, a man who would demand the ball and take it forward, skipping past players and bellowing at teammates to make runs and create options.

And off the ball, the Red Devils desperately lacked that midfielder who would bust a gut to get back and help the defence.

Never before has a Manchester United player looked so out of place wearing the shirt has Anderson did on Tuesday night at the MK Stadium.

Not only did he fail to inspire going forward, but defensively he played a big part in all four goals United conceded.

Anderson failed to stop the run of Will Grigg and proved how far he's fallen as a Manchester United player

Anderson failed to stop the run of Will Grigg and proved how far he’s fallen as a Manchester United player

For Will Grigg’s first, while Jonny Evans made the mistake, Anderson was the nearest man to Grigg and when Evans committed the error, the Brazilian should’ve reacted and ran back to pressure the MK Dons striker.

Instead he just jogged back to goal a little and saw the ball go into the back of the net – the sign of a man who simply didn’t give a shit.

Although it must be said for the second goal Anderson did initially react to the danger, and tracked back to cover the run of Grigg.

Trouble is, despite two looks over his shoulder to see where Grigg was, Anderson lost his man completely and gifted the striker an easy tap-in.

That’s the main symptom right there of a player who has virtually lost of all his ability as a top level footballer.

The sooner he leaves Manchester United the better.

Jonny Evans

For an established member of the Manchester United first-team, a man who has been an integral part of the defence for many seasons and has won nine trophies in over 180 appearances for the club, Jonny Evans was atrocious against MK Dons.

His thoughtless mistake – which was meant to be a pass to Anderson – costed his team greatly, with the error not just leading to a goal but also massively knocking the confidence of all the youngsters around him, who had been looking more dominant up until that point.

That attempted pass shows exactly how complacent United’s attitude was in the game. In the Premier League, no centre-back would attempt something that risky.

In the second half Evans was lucky not to concede a penalty, and for the second goal he should have stopped the cross coming into the penalty area in the first place. Again he was complacent.

Overall a night to forget for Evans, and one that has almost certainly seen him lose out to Marcos Rojo for a place in the back three.

Michael Keane

As a youngster, Louis van Gaal will probably expect Michael Keane to make mistakes.

But not like the one he made for MK Dons’ second goal. It was his lazy attempted pass to Andreas Pereira which was intercepted and allowed the Dons to score.

As van Gaal will no doubt point out to Keane in excruciating detail – with Ryan Giggs and Albert Stuivenberg probably piling on – misplacing that pass in such a sloppy fashion, in the position he was in, is one of the biggest cardinal sins of his philosophy and the 3-5-2 formation.

Out on the flank as the right-sided centre-back to allow the wingback to push forward, Keane was in one of the two places on the pitch (the other being in central defence) where he should definitely not give the ball away.

And yet he did, and found out to his detriment why giving the ball way in that position can be oh-so-deleterious.

Michael Keane's lazy attempted pass to Andreas Pereira is cut out and leads to second MK Dons goal

Michael Keane’s lazy attempted pass to Andreas Pereira is cut out and leads to second MK Dons goal

If he needs it explained again – conceding possession in that position gives the opposition the most ideal position on the pitch to launch a counter-attack, and on top of that makes it much easier for them to score as they’re facing an exposed defence which is missing a man.

Of course Anderson could’ve saved his blushes if he actually knew how to man-mark, but such is the Brazilian’s fall from grace that as a defensive midfielder he can’t even read the run of a goal-shy, out-of-favour League One forward.

If Keane was competing with Tyler Blackett for a first-team place, then after that mistake to end all mistakes as far as Louis van Gaal is concerned, he has most certainly lost out now.

A loan move to a Championship club (it’s highly doubtful any Premier League team would trust him in the heart of their defence) now surely beckons.

Wilfried Zaha

Despite the fact Manchester United clearly needed more energy, pace and directness – all things Zaha offers – against MK Dons, the fact that van Gaal felt the winger/striker wouldn’t be able to make a difference shows that his time is up.

Even before a ball was kicked, Wilfried Zaha failed his Louis van Gaal audition.

Manchester United have 99 problems and 3-5-2 is one

As eleven Manchester United players stood despondent after hearing Mike Dean’s whistle, Louis van Gaal received the clearest message yet over the scale of his task at Old Trafford: Manchester United 1-2 Swansea City.

The days and weeks leading up to the game were exciting, morale-boosting, and filled with optimism.

The world famous Red Devils conquered the Champions League winning Real Madrid in front of a record crowd.

For good measure, a win over arch-rivals Liverpool allowed an apparently resurgent squad to proudly hoist aloft the International Champions Cup.

But their confidence was then “smashed” in an opening day defeat to Swansea – United’s first opening day defeat at home since 1972.

David Moyes picked up records at almost record-breaking speed in his 10 month spell; now it’s van Gaal’s turn.

But is it his fault, or that of a squad described as “rotten to the core” and featuring a starting eleven described as Manchester United’s worst in 20 years?

Certainly the 3-5-2 didn’t help. It’s hard to tell if it is van Gaal’s fault or the players’, but the failure to apply the requisite tactics for the formation gifted Swansea both goals.

chris smalling - credit - muss.se.bloggwp-contentkris.jpg

Chris Smalling at fault in Manchester United’s three-man defence. Photo credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Take Wilfried Bony’s opener. The ball starts with Jonjo Shelvey inside the Swans’ half. He plays a long ball on the ground to Bony, who picks it up unmarked around 10-yards inside United’s half.

Louis van Gaal said to BT Sport before the game if his players “do as we agreed” then his team shall win.

Chris Smalling, the central centre-back in the three-man defence, did not do as agreed. He should’ve been charging out to close Bony down.

That’s how the system works. As soon as a ball is played centrally into the team’s own half, the central defender immediately pushes forward to apply pressure and break down the move, either by winning possession or forcing the ball back.

Smalling clearly forgot his role and failed to react quickly enough. Bony, with all the time he needed, then played the ball out wide to Gylfi Sigurdsson, allowing one of the tactical moves that Swansea boss Garry Monk worked on throughout the week to continue unabated.

A passing triangle between Sigurdsson, Angel Rangel and Nathan Dyer eventually saw Rangel play Dyer down the wing, who in turn played in Sigurdsson on the edge of the penalty area.

Showing all of his inexperience, Tyler Blackett on the left side of the back three races out to meet Sigurdsson, who doesn’t even get the ball.

Rangel takes wingback Ashley Young out of the game with a ball over his head to Dyer as Sigurdsson makes his run forward anticipating the next pass.

Young Blackett however cannot read the game as well as Sigurdsson.

The 20-year-old, making his senior Manchester United debut, charges out to try and stop Dyer’s next move, but fails to communicate this with his defensive partner Smalling.

The lack of talking, plus Smalling’s slow reaction speed, gives Sigurdsson plenty of time and space to receive Dyer’s pass, turn, look up, find an unmarked Ki Sung-Yueng, dribble towards him with ample room to see off Smalling’s advances, and play in the South Korea midfielder for a free shot on goal.

Blame here also has to go to Ander Herrera, United’s exciting new midfielder who was closest to Ki and failed to remember his defensive duties in picking up his onrushing opponent.

Of course Bony gave an obstructive hand in blocking off Phil Jones, but the time and space was already there for Ki to get his first Swansea goal.

Blackett’s inexperience and a lack of understanding of the new formation from Smalling and Herrera gifted Swansea the opener.

The prequisite pace of a 3-5-2 winger saw United claw back into the game, as Adnan Januzaj’s bursting run past Neil Taylor eventually gave Wayne Rooney his chance to equalise.

But the formation’s teething problems surfaced again as Sigurdsson had his great game rewarded with Swansea’s winner.

Ashley Young has made a good fist of being a wingback so far this season, but had Luke Shaw been assuming the role instead, the second goal might not have happened.

As Dyer put a poor cross into United’s penalty area for Swansea, any natural left-back would simply head that ball clear.

But Young’s lack of defensive understanding meant he took up the wrong position and ended up getting underneath the ball, allowing it to drift through to Wayne Routledge.

Routledge then plays in the unmarked Sigurdsson and it’s the shock 2-1 lead for the visitors to Old Trafford that could one day end up bordering on the cliché.

“Unmarked” being the key word for United just like last season.

It may have been his first ever senior game for Manchester United, but the home match with Swansea was not one to remember for Tyler Blackett.

Sigurdsson was his man and again the Icelandic playmaker got the better of the English rookie.

The build-up to Dyer’s cross could also be looked at, but if it was to be analysed then a 50-page technical report might as well be placed on van Gaal’s desk on the Monday morning.

David Moyes complained about his lack of time to succeed or fail at Old Trafford.

While Wayne Rooney has insisted United will learn under their new boss.

For the sake of Louis van Gaal, his “rotten” squad, the Stretford End faithful, Adidas and the club’s 29 other sponsors, and Ed Woodward, the team really do need to learn – and learn quick.

Otherwise, time in the hotseat could again disappear in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era.