In Depth

Man Utd: is squad, system, Van Gaal or Ferguson to blame?

Years of neglect blamed for United's demise, but the unfamiliar system could be making things worse

It has not taken long for the collywobbles to take hold at Old Trafford, and in the wake of the humiliating defeat to MK Dons on Tuesday new manager Louis van Gaal has "hit the panic button".

The Daily Mirror reports that having forked out £60m for Angel di Maria the Dutchman has now demanded the keys to the United coffers and "launched a desperate double bid for Arturo Vidal and Daley Blind... after realising the size of the task facing him in Manchester".

If he were to land them it would take his spending to around £200m this summer - United have also brought Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera and Marcos Rojos - but will spending money solve United's problems?

The squad:

"Van Gaal appears to have extended his rebuilding phase from 'three months' to a 'year', like a mechanic lifting a bonnet to discover that, despite earlier assurances to the poor motorist, the whole engine does indeed need replacing," says Paul Hayward in the Daily Telegraph.

The band of players inherited by Moyes has been shorn of Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra, and the squad is awash with dead wood. To make matters worse Robin van Persie has reverted to his former injury-prone incarnation, while Wayne Rooney is regarded as something of a spent force by many observers and coaches.

According to Jamie Jackson of The Guardian: "The evidence so far shows how last term's farrago under Moyes can be traced back to the shoddy state of the squad left by Sir Alex Ferguson."

Ian Ladyman of the Daily Mail agrees. "It is impossible to view the current picture of United's predicament without placing their greatest ever manager somewhere in it... To question Ferguson's legacy in this way is a very uncomfortable thing to do. It is more fashionable, more palatable, to blame Moyes entirely," he adds. But the players Ferguson brought in during his final years were not up to scratch.

"Some might term all of this a mess," says Jamie Jackson. "Whatever the result at Burnley [this weekend], these deep-lying problems inherited by Van Gaal will remain." Despite that, he says that any more new arrivals at Old Trafford will make life "a whole lot rosier", says Jackson.

The system:

While there have been concerns over United's personnel for some time, the performance against MK Dons in particular set off alarm bells over Louis van Gaal's insistence on playing a new 3-5-2 formation.

"The biggest problem of all for United?" asks Paul Scholes in The Independent. "Three men at the back doesn't seem to be working for them yet... I understand that Van Gaal is trying to make a lot of changes very quickly but the problem is the players don't seem to have adapted comfortably to 3-5-2."

Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown agrees. The BBC pundit says the United defenders "don't seem to understand" the new system.

Another ex-Arsenal man, Tony Adams, agrees with a point made by Scholes - that players bought up in a flat back four find it hard to change to a five man defence. "Van Gaal does not have the kind of central defender who can also do the job of a full-back," Adams tells the Telegraph.

Van Gaal's 3-5-2 plan seems flawed says James Ducker in The Times. "Is the move to a demanding new formation the most sensible strategy when the confidence of a depleted squad is so low and numerous players, notably in defence, lack the technical qualities that Van Gaal demands?"

The coach:

Van Gaal is a great believer in his own powers, but he got his team selection badly wrong against MK Dons, says Ducker, who has more questions for the Dutchman. "His desire to give youth a chance is commendable, but is he in danger of overestimating their talents? And why did he not prioritise signing a leading centre half and defensive midfielder?"

His brief has already changed, according to Paul Hayward of the Telegraph. "Van Gaal's 'saviour' label has already been cut off. He is now solely the rebuilder," he says. But that does not mean that he will be unable to show off his skills, says the Guardian's Jamie Jackson. "As he proved at the World Cup Van Gaal remains a tactically flexible coach unafraid to gamble which can only be good for the team."

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