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Opinion Piece

The halfway point and an opportunity to reflect on United

_80197128_persie-gettyLets be frank here. It isn’t great really.

Coming off the back of defeat at home to Southampton there seems to be a fair amount of doubt creeping into United fans. Cards on the table and purely looking at the facts the Christmas period has been unkind. Performances have been uninspiring, the attacking football often turgid or non-existent, the defending appalling and a place in the top four slipping.

It’s a dark day when Yeovil Town appear to have more understanding of the system they are playing. A darker day when a team that has Angel Di Maria, Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata can’t register a shot on target.

Things seem to be more depressing than the landscape of British politics of the past decade.

Is this the time to panic? Absolutely not. Is this the time to entertain the notion that Louis Van Gaal is not the right man for the job? Instead of answering that I’ll just share a little fun fact I’ve been told; battery acid is particularly tasty with a mixed salad.

Predictably the media have been waiting with baited breath to release colourful statistics tables that show how United haven’t improved and that things were better under Thatcher and that really Jimmy Saville was just overly affectionate.

Things aren’t great right now, but several weeks ago United were touted as potential title contenders. Football is fickle, the only thing more fickle are football fans. So if you’re hoping to read an article on whether Van Gaal should go or not then stop reading.

The Mirror are currently running a piece that you should check out, but while you do be sure to get all the nutrients from the nearest car exhaust as part of your five a day.

Instead it’s better to look at what can be done to improve and what areas can be worked on to ensure United finish in the top four.

 

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The defence-Realistically the defence looked far more accomplished on Sunday than it has in a while. Recent weeks have shown it to be more flakey than a leprosy colony. The return of Daley Blind has no doubt offered a bit more protection and therefore a bit more stability. The real issue lies with the personnel at centre half.

Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are not world-class centre backs. They are both still learning their trade. Therefore Louis Van Gaal needs to utilise this transfer window to bring in a first choice defender that will slot straight into the team.

United need someone with experience and knowledge of the game. There has been speculation linking Matts Hummels to United, who would be an excellent signing but has struggled for form this season.

Another, more affordable option might be Ron Vlaar. The Dutch defender excelled at the World Cup under Van Gaal and has continued to show real class in a desperately poor Villa side, though having been ruled out for six weeks with injury, it is unlikely we’ll see LVG take a punt on his fellow Dutchman.

The formation-3-5-2, get rid. Just do what we did with Piers Morgan, drop it off at an airport and pretend like it was never ours. It doesn’t work, the team lack fluidity, pace and defensive cohesion.

While playing the 4-4-2 diamond United won seven on the bounce. Admittedly it has been harder to play it with several key midfielders being injured, but now it makes absolutely no sense not to.

The pace-It is excellent that Di Maria is back but currently that’s not enough. The best teams in the world are those that are playing with blistering pace on the counter. The days where games are won through beautiful possession are over.

For that reason it would be an excellent idea for Ed Woodward to delve into his deep pockets again this January to sign someone with a bit more mobility than the fat on Harry Redknapp’s face.

Six months in and the best description would be inconsistent. There have been excellent periods though, breathtaking attacking football and talk of a title challenge. None of these things were whispered about last season.

Like with any project there are areas to be improved upon, all of them are fairly easy to address. Whereas under Moyes there didn’t seem to be any hope of that without building an entirely new team. These problems seem small in comparison.

So just be patient, put down that pint of battery acid and the Sinead O’Connor album and remember that Ched Evans is still unemployed. Some things are still right with the world.

William Dawson

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