People are underestimating the size of the squad rebuilding job that van gaal has to do. He arrived half way through his first summer, and the only player signed that summer that he probably asked for was Daley Blind. All the rest were either players united had lined up from the season before (Shaw, and Herrera) or players that Jorge Mendes managed to hook them up with, at enormous expense, and with limited success.
Van Gaal spent the first season sifting through the squad to see who he would keep and who they needed to sign.
They went out, tapped up/made contact with appropriate players, and signed some of them. But United still need to sign a number of players to have two players for each position who can play van gaal’s style of football.
This summer they sorted out the back half of the team, and United are now remarkably difficult to score against, but they only have two strikers, one of whom is turning 20 today, and Depay and lingard are 21 and 22 respectively. I know that Manchester United have traditionally been big on giving youth a go because they are cheap but I think that people have forgotten how prone to dips in form, or erratic finishing young players can be.
For instance, Rooney scored a hat trick in his first CL game, but he and Ronaldo didn’t score a CL goal proper, until Rooney scored away against Roma in march 2007 and Ronaldo then went mad in the next game and started scoring goals like a train, and hasn’t stopped.
One of the big problems that man utd have this season is that they are getting virtually nothing in attack from their fullbacks. Shaw’s injury (suffered when charging into the box at top speed trying to score) really threw a spanner in Van Gaal’s plans. The main reason behind signing Darmian, along with playing blind as a left sided centre half, was when Man utd had possession, Shaw would run off up the pitch, Blind would shift across, Darmian would tuck in and Man utd would play 3-2-4-1 or 3-2-3-2.
Having shaw as an auxiliary winger, would have given Depay more support on the left, and allowed him to cut inside, giving him a passing option on the overlap, or a decoy. With Rojo there, Depay never has anyone going on the overlap, has to stay out wide, and often finds himself double marked, which means that his job is much harder, and he has struggled. Darmian isn’t particularly amazing at attacking, but he was primarily signed because of his ability to play as a full back, and on the right of a defensive three.
The loss of shaw, or the lack of adequate cover has robbed united of speed, width, and movement between the lines. Whatever Manchester United are doing this season in an attacking sense would probably be improved by having a player who was bombing down the wing like a train all the time.
But Shaw isn’t going to be back for ages. and it’s difficult to see who united might buy in the winter transfer window. But they simply can’t go through the season with only two strikers. They’re going to get injured at various points, and they need to be rested.