Manchester United are looking ‘really healthy‘ under the management of Louis van Gaal, whose methods are proving very good for players, according to former defender Mike Duxbury.
“I’ve been interested to see the comments of the new manager with regards his unhappiness about the tour and what changes he will make in future. What has come across very clear is that he is his own man, he knows what he wants, and that seems to be very good for not only the club but the players too,” Duxbury told TalkOfTheDevils.com.
Van Gaal has put a new formation of 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 to use which utilises wing backs and Duxbury – an athletic right back when he played – feels that even though United’s full backs have always been encouraged to attack, the formation is a huge change. “It’s not only United, full backs at most of the top teams are expected to contribute to attacks, especially in the modern game,” says Duxbury. “But we were still full backs with wingers in front. It is a big change and it will be interesting to see what kind of player he intends to use there. I personally wouldn’t have been confident as a right wing back, or even as a right sided centre half… that’s probably just the way I was brought up.”
So far, Ashley Young has shown promise in those positions, while Antonio Valencia – a player who has played at right wing and right full back – looks like he will battle it out with Rafael. Rafael has been criticised for his defensive work at times but Duxbury believes it will be the contributions further forward that will become more important in the new shape. “If you were to look at the last few years, there has been a bit of a lack of quality in the delivery from wide areas. A lot has gone to waste and there seemed to be a lack of creativity – that, hopefully, looks to be changing as the manager is telling the players to make early decisions. Look at Ashley Young – a player who may well have expected to be sold has now probably played his way into plans moving forward”, said the former United defender.
Young is one player who appears to have benefitted from a clear direction and instruction from the new manager, and Duxbury feels that the impact could be felt far and wide. “The players are clearly responding well to the instructions they have been given,” he says. “If you don’t have a plan, a lot of players can be caught in limbo – not just at United last season, but at any club. Football hasn’t changed and sometimes going back to basics is best – Jimmy Murphy used to say “up together, down together”, as simple as that, and that was in the Sixties and Seventies. Within reason, things don’t change that much. Call it what you like, although formations matter, as long as the emphasis at United is on attack, then that’s what we’re meant to be doing.”