So, Manchester United are having a busy deadline day, with deals now in place for Radamel Falcao on-loan and Daley Blind of a permanent basis. Both will presumably be confirmed within the coming hours.
Forgetting the debate over Louis Van Gaal’s use of formations and the argument as to whether he’s stubbornly refusing to adopt a structure which would better suit the available personnel, here’s a list of hypothetical options made possible by the new arrivals:
N.B. Assume Robin van Persie for Radamel Falcao, Juan Mata for Ander Herrera, Juan Mata for Angel Di Maria, Michael Carrick for Daley Blind.
In the existing 3-5-2, with Daley Blind in the holding role and Ander Herrera as the conduit between the defensive and attacking halves of the midfield. If Van Gaal is to persist with this formation, that’s probably the most balanced midfield he can create out of the available players.
N.B. Assume Wayne Rooney for Robin van Persie, Michael Carrick for Daley Blind, Ander Herrera for Daley Blind.
A more orthodox 4-4-2. Realistically, such a shape would marginalise too many of United’s attacking pieces and would force Van Gaal to leave out one of his forwards - don’t expect to see this any time soon. There are advantages, though, in that it would provide greater defensive security and it’s a system all of that back-four would be familiar with.
N.B. Assume Robin Van Persie as an alternative for Radamel Falcao, Michael Carrick for Daley Blind.
A 4-3-3 with a fluid front-three. Falcao is not really a complete enough forward to play the kind of role that Diego Costa does for Chelsea, and when he’s on the pitch Manchester United will want him in the penalty-box more often than not, but this shape would allow for Rooney and Di Maria to occupy freer roles and to be relatively fluid. Again, as with above, the defensive shape would be much more familiar for all of the named players.
N.B. Wayne Rooney for Radamel Falcao, Robin van Persie for Radamel Falcao, Michael Carrick for Daley Blind.
Again, not a shape that’s likely to be seen, but one which could be useful at big away grounds against sides with midfield strength (Man City, Chelsea). The emphasis is on flooding the middle of the pitch and relying on counter-attacking situations. Defensively strong, potentially useful when the objective is just to restrict an opponent’s attacking momentum.