Manchester United beat Arsenal 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday to record their first away win of the season under new manager Louis Van Gaal. United have struggled with injuries to most of their first-team center backs this season and were without on-loan striker Radamel Falcao for the trip to London. With few options at the back, the Dutchman managed to put together a team that delivered and got all three points against their fiercest rivals.
Here is how the Dutchman managed to outsmart his opposite number for a famous victory on Saturday evening.
Reverted to a 3-4-3 formation
In his first few games in charge, Louis Van Gaal employed three defenders and two wings backs, a system that’s less often used in the Premier League. It proved a difficult system for the players as well, who needed more time to adapt. It was therefore, a surprise as United played with Tyler Blackett, Paddy McNair and Chris Smalling at the back, with Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw starting as wing backs for the trip to the Emirates, a decision that proved very effective.
An injury crisis at United meant that the former Netherlands boss had to protect his inexperienced young defenders. The performance of the two youngsters pleased the manager after the match especially in such a game that required full concentration throughout the 90 minutes. They were organized and confident on the ball, helping keep United in the game.
With several attack minded players and Wenger’s style of play, Arsenal were expected to have more of the possession and their front line was predictable with Olivier Giroud returning from injury since August. With five defenders at the back, Van Gaal ensured that Arsenal’s main threat was frustrated in most parts of the game.
Carrick and Fellaini in the middle of the park
In recent games, Arsenal’s weaknesses have been exposed and despite a glittering start to the game, they couldn’t take their chances. Arsene Wenger’s side have lacked protection to their defense this season, a good reason that explains their worst start to a campaign after 12 games in 23 years.
Louis Van Gaal was spot with his decision to play Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini in midfield, two commanding players who had a great influence on the game. They soaked up pressure and allowed the forward players counterattack on the other end. Marouane Fellaini released Angel di Maria who found Wayne Rooney in a devastating counterattack that led to the Englishman scoring his 11th goal against the Gunners for United’s second goal.
Moved di Maria centrally
Van Gaal has done this before- using a wide player centrally as a second striker. He played Arjen Robben in a central position for the Netherlands in Brazil along van Persie, and against Arsenal, asked Angel di Maria to play in a similar position. After playing out wide in almost all Manchester United matches following his move from Real Madrid, the Argentine was moved back to the inside to help United with his pace on the counterattack. The left-footed attacker can pick the right passes and uses his pace well in breaks.
This move worked very well, as di Maria set up Rooney for Manchester United’s second goal.