So it transpired. After an eager pursuit of Angel Di Maria, Louis van Gaal and chief executive Ed Woodward had secured their man. The Angel to exorcise the demons of Manchester United’s regrettable demise. The superstar they hoped would aid in attracting players of his world-class calibre and propel United to their previous great heights.

The Argentine’s value, a British transfer record fee of £59.7 million, exuded desperation but the urgent need for the quality and penetrative pace of the World Cup finalist, pivotal to Argentina’s path to the finals was indisputable. He was welcomed to English football in the humbling surroundings of Burnley’s Pennine way and a banner reading “One Love: Manchester United”, which the away United fans waved constantly in his direction. Their excitement at his acquisition was understandable.

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The 26 year-old was United’s only cause of hope following an abject display, succumbing to the power and organisation of Sean Dyche’s well-drilled Burnley side. Heckled, harried and treated to a bruising greeting to English football, Di Maria was United’s brightest, his most notable contribution coming courtesy of a 50-yard pass where the Argentine converted defence into attack in exceptional fashion but Robin van Persie was subsequently denied by Tom Heaton.

Urgent need for defensive reinforcements
He will experience better days in the comfort of the historic number seven jersey but unless Van Gaal strives to address United’s most prominent, most detrimental deficiency, once again so conspicuous in its appearance, it is questionable whether United will get better. Van Gaal spoke of the Argentine not being a “miracle man”, bidding to diffuse the great anticipation his arrival from Real Madrid had generated, and the Dutchman is more than acutely correct in his judgement.

United’s defence, in particular the three-man central defence at the rock of Van Gaal’s 3-5-2 system, comprising Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Tyler Blackett, were a disorganised unit, culpable for several lethargic lapses of concentration which Burnley, displaying their inexperience in the Premier League, were profligate not to profit from.

Evans, a decent defender, seems particularly bewildered by Van Gaal’s 3-5-2 system, relinquishing possession with such alarming frequency. The Northern Irishman struggled to contain MK Dons in United’s 4-0 mauling in the Capital One Cup second round and must evolve to survive.

Jones, considered such a promising prospect, particularly at Blackburn Rovers, is the epitome of a struggling young player, trying his best to live up to his great hype, which is something Blackett has assumed now. The 20 year-old, seemingly the most comfortable in Van Gaal’s 3-5-2 formation, is promising but must learn quickly if he is to thrive up against the unique adversities posed by the Premier League.

Whether Daley Blind, the son of Danny Blind, one of Van Gaal’s defenders when he last visited Turf Moor with Ajax in 1992, and Marcos Rojo, who is awaiting a work permit, will prove to be adequate antidote to United’s toils is ambigious. Blind, soon to be acquired from Ajax for £14 million, excelled at the World Cup in Brazil, with Van Gaal a particular admirer of his Dutch compatriot’s versatility. The left-sided duo are likely to exude much more responsibility in Van Gaal’s 3-5-2 system and could help in treating United’s defensive toils.

However, United’s urgent need for a commanding, imposing central defender is patently clear, the void left by the departures of Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand producing a hugely detrimental effect. United’s defensive unit are shorn of a leader, a composed mind unfazed by pressure.

A move for Mats Hummels of Borussia Dortmund, with the transfer window rapidly approaching its culmination, would make perfect sense, with Germany’s World-Cup winning defender a natural leader and a world-class defender. With alarming frequency, when harried by the intense pressing game preached by Sean Dyche, Jones, Evans and Blackett seemed perturbed, relinquishing possession as the likes of Danny Ings and Lukas Jutkiewicz approached.

The need for an imposing defensive midfielder is equally acute. Louis van Gaal’s encouragement of Di Maria and Juan Mata to surge forward and support Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie left Darren Fletcher dangerously exposed, with the Scot struggling to cover the substantial space left unmarked.

If he is to persist with such a debatable system, a durable, energetic midfielder, one capable of covering for the deficiencies in the Dutch manager’s preferred formation, is sorely required. Kevin Strootman, of Roma, would be ideal and a substantial upgrade on United’s current options, with Van Gaal a huge admirer of his Dutch compatriot.

By Admin