There are times when a battling draw at Sunderland can be a result of potential Premier League champions. The Stadium of Light is rarely an easy place to go and in recent years Manchester United may have been content with a draw on Wearside. Sunday was not one of those times.
United’s performance in the 1-1 draw with the Black Cats wasn’t a resolute, backs-against-the-wall showing from a team with the mark of title challengers. It was muddled, rife with mistakes, poor decision-making and players who, tactically and technically, appear out of their depth.
But Louis van Gaal is persisting with his 3-5-2 formation. The Coach has said in the past it’s because of the players he has at his disposal, but on this evidence it looks more like van Gaal is using the system in spite of the squad at hand. Try as he might, Ashley Young is not a left-sided wing-back.
Statistics from EuroFantasyLeague.com
No other United player topped 300 and the second in the list, Juan Mata, started the season at Chelsea. Young performed better than Chris Smalling, Javier Hernandez, Shinji Kagawa and Michael Carrick, among others, and was one of the better-value United players in the game.
There have only been two United games this season so the sample size is small to make a real comparison, but it doesn’t auger well. Young is one of many United players to be in minus points, thanks to his two yellow cards, the second of which came against Sunderland when he was adjudged to have dived under a challenge in an attempt to win a penalty.
Only Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata have, statistically, been positive influences on United’s season so far. They’ve scored a goal each but in truth, haven’t looked entirely comfortable in the new set-up. The signing of Angel Di Maria could see Mata squeezed out of the side, depending on whether van Gaal sees the Argentine as a central midfielder or a support for the front two.
There is clearly a long struggle ahead for van Gaal at United and Di Maria is the latest to join the fight. Mata may be forced to the sidelines soon and the likes of Young won’t be far behind.
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