Louis van Gaal must sort out his defence – but improvement is just around the corner for Manchester United, says Paul Hayward.
The Old Trafford outfit suffered an embarrassing 4-0 Capital One Cup exit to MK Dons in midweek and a lacklustre 0-0 draw at Burnley on Saturday means the former Holland boss is still waiting for his first win in charge of United.
However, while Daily Telegraph journalist Hayward says the United defenders ‘don’t look like they know what they’re doing’ in their 3-5-2 formation, he believes Van Gaal is on the right path, now he knows more about his squad.
“I actually think he will start to come into his own now,” he told the Sunday Supplement.
“He’s identified the players who are of no use to him, he’s pretty clear about that. The pre-season tour disguised the poverty of his resources and in the first couple of league games he realised just how thin the squad was, in terms of the quality he needs.
“The front of the team isn’t too much of a problem. Angel di Maria adds real thrust and energy and is world class. That will work out fine. The problem he’s got is whether he’s going to persist with three at the back – and also the absence of a really good, strong midfield player.
“The players he’s got playing in the back three at the moment – Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Tyler Blackett - don’t look comfortable with it, they don’t look like they know what they’re doing, and without the defensive foundations of the team I don’t think the front of the team is going to work properly.
“Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo will be more comfortable in those roles and once the back of the team is sorted I think the rest of the team will start to function well.
“Van Gaal’s strength is that all the research and reconnaissance has been done and now performances will start to improve.”
Van Gaal has called for more time to resolve United’s problems and Hayward says he is entitled to do that.
While the Dutchman enjoyed success soon after taking the reins at Barcelona and Bayern Munich earlier in his career, Hayward says he is now facing a much tougher task at Old Trafford, with a club which is paying for a lack of investment ahead of the previous season.
“There’s a huge difference between taking over at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, who were winning trophies at the time, and taking over a team here that needs completely re-building,” he said.
“I don’t think he was prepared for that, I don’t think he expected that. It’s a much bigger job than what he imagined. Therefore, he’s extending his time period from three months to possibly a year. And that makes sense.
“They’re paying for the lack of top class incoming purchases last year. That was a legacy he’s inherited. It is going to take a long time to sort out.”