Tuesday 20 January 2015 13:21, UK
Gary Neville says Manchester United's players must start taking more risks with the ball.
Louis van Gaal's side lined up in a 3-5-2 formation at Loftus Road on Saturday but struggled to breakdown QPR.
With United supporters singing “4-4-2” and “attack, attack, attack”, Van Gaal switched formation just before the hour mark and was rewarded with goals from Marouanne Fellaini and James Wilson.
They play the ball out from the back – as most good teams would – but the tempo is too slow.
However, while the change in formation led to United’s breakthrough, Sky Sports pundit Neville believes the players must change their mentality and, rather than worry about not losing the ball, think about how they can go forward with it.
“It’s more impatience than unhappiness [from the United fans],” he said on Monday Night Football.
“They haven’t been taking risks in the 3-5-2 system and in the first 57 minutes at QPR there were no goals, only five shots, four on target and 68% possession.
"Then, when they go to the back four, there’s less possession but goals, more shots and generally a far better performance from them in the last half hour.
“It’s partly the system but it’s a mentality thing as well. I’m not a fan of 3-5-2, when you play that, you end up with your centre backs being the free men and that becomes a careful option, then it kicks into your mentality: ‘I’ve always got a safer pass’.”
Neville also had an issue with the speed of United’s play, pointing out Van Gaal’s defenders were spending too long with the ball before getting it forward into the QPR half.
“They play the ball out from the back – as most good teams would – but the tempo is too slow. They play too many passes. Those back three players are on the ball far too much,” he said.
“In the first half on Saturday, Manchester United centre-backs had 114 passes of the ball. You look at the other teams that played away from home this weekend, Southampton (57), Chelsea (37), Arsenal (26) and it’s a miraculous difference.
“When they go to the back four in the second half it goes to 54 passes. It’s a big difference. They started looking at diagonal passes, playing risky ones, making QPR work and doing things that are unpredictable.”
Jamie Carragher reckons Van Gaal’s decision to switch formation wasn’t swayed by the United fans at Loftus Road – but feels the Dutchman must look closely at the stats and consider a long-term change away from the 3-5-2 system.
“The fans singing “4-4-2” and “attack, attack, attack” won’t change Louis van Gaal, given the manager he is. But those stats should change him and that’s the reason why he should go back [to 4-4-2],” said Carragher.
“Systems give you different things but that shows they are more successful playing like that. He’s a possession-based manager but it has to be fast, with penetration. The top teams keep possession – but it has to be quicker.”