Stop toying around, LVG

Stop toying around, LVG
LOST: Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney, deployed as the main striker against Tottenham last Saturday, often cut an isolated figure up front without much support from his teammates.
PHOTO: Reuters

One shot on target in 90 minutes summed up Manchester United's opening-day performance.

An unfortunate own goal by Tottenham Hotspur's Kyle Walker gave the hosts a 1-0 home win last Saturday and the verdict on United's attack can be summarised in one word - toothless.

Memphis Depay, who arrived in England amid much fanfare, showed fleeting moments of genius but could not hide his discomfort in a supporting striker's role.

Cast outside of his most effective position on the left, he struggled to get involved, even though he looked bright on the occasions he managed to get on the ball.

It was a tactical move which perplexed legendary Holland midfielder Ruud Gullit, who insisted that manager Louis van Gaal must play him in his best position.

Deployed on the flanks were Juan Mata and Ashley Young, both of whom had average outings.

Young couldn't provide the width regularly enough to offer much of a threat.

Mata's preferred diagonal path through the centre was often blocked by the spirited Spurs players.

As a result, Wayne Rooney, deployed as the main striker, often cut an isolated figure.

Rooney as a targetman has always been a double-edged sword.

As he became increasingly frustrated, so did the frequency of his runs back to the midfield area, where he stood a higher chance of getting into the thick of action.

Unfortunately, that also diminished his presence in the Spurs penalty box.

The link-up play, or the lack of it, between Rooney and Depay was particularly worrying.

United's toils in the final third of the field will not be lost on Aston Villa, who entertain the Red Devils tomorrow morning (Singapore time) on the back of a 1-0 win over Bournemouth.

Tim Sherwood's side may lack the depth and quality of their more illustrious opponents, but the youth and energy of the Villans are amply equipped to hold the fort.

If United repeat their Spurs performance against Sherwood's cohesive unit, the chances of van Gaal walking away from Villa Park with a smile are remote.

Things could change, of course.

The quartet of Rooney, Depay, Mata and Young possess so much individual quality that you wouldn't put it beyond them to click as one, if given the time.

Van Gaal also has the option of introducing Ander Herrera into the fray to liven things up, as he did last Saturday.

However, if the attacking mojo still doesn't flow eight games into the season, then what?

Can they afford to wait until the January transfer window to bring in the reinforcements that they currently look in need of?

Van Gaal is a tinkerer with a penchant for introducing the new and sometimes unexpected.

United and their fans, though, may not have the stomach for another season of tactical tests and experiments.

At the moment, the club are heavily linked with Barcelona's Pedro Rodriguez, who is equally adept on either side of the wings or as a second striker.

If he comes, it means van Gaal can then draw the best out of a Depay on the left flank, and also coax more out of Rooney who will have a capable man supporting him from behind.

If the Dutchman sticks with the same attacking line-up tomorrow morning, and still doesn't see a marked improvement, then Villa Park has to be where the toying ends.

It will signal that the time has come for them to get down to the serious business of bringing in who they really need.


This article was first published on August 14, 2015.
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