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Opinion: How Manchester United can put their opposition away earlier

With Manchester United struggling to score in the first half on a match-to-match basis, it would only make logical sense to see goals come with large amounts of possession.

In United’s 1-0 win at Newcastle last Wednesday, where captain Wayne Rooney was the only striker starting, the Red Devils dominated the match with 68% possession. However, it took United 89 minutes to find the back of the net even after possessing the ball for a majority of the match. With massive amounts of possession like this, it is expected that Manchester United score earlier in the match. Manager Louis van Gaal shared his thoughts in the post-match interview by saying,:

“I think we have dominated for 90 minutes, maybe our best match of the season, especially in an away match we deserved the victory. We created a lot of chances and could have scored much earlier.”

In United’s 2-0 win over Sunderland on Feb. 28, Wayne Rooney scored two second half goals to secure the three points. The best way for Manchester United to address the lack of first half goals is by changing the formation and mixing up the players in the squad. Wayne Rooney started as the lone striker in a 4-1-4-1 formation against Newcastle, which does not always work for the Englishman as he will track back whenever he feels necessary. This leaves no true number nine striker up top to bring the ball down from the air. Instead, Van Gaal played Belgian midfielder Marouane Fellaini behind Rooney to carry out this job.

United used all three substitutions, none of them being a striker (Michael Carrick, Juan Mata, Adnan Januzaj). United passed the ball from touch-line to touch-line throughout the first half, but seemed to either miss the chance on a cross, or give the ball away in the midfield. The biggest culprit of this was Angel Di Maria. If United want to score earlier on, they need to start Spanish playmaker Juan Mata over the Argentine. This would add a more creative aspect to the midfield and United would stand a better chance of scoring earlier in the match. If Van Gaal wants to keep Di Maria in the starting lineup, he needs to figure out a different way to bring Mata on, because he will make a difference.

Herrera, Blind, Fellaini, Young and Januzaj have all proved that they also deserve a starting spot in the squad, but there are only so many places to be filled. Louis van Gaal faces a difficult task every match when picking the lineup, but as the FA Cup quarterfinal match against Arsenal looms, there is an enormous need for an early goal in the match to get a win. To accomplish this, Untied should start Ander Herrera, Daley Blind, Juan Mata and Ashley Young in the midfield with Wayne Rooney and Radamel Falcao up top. Herrera and Blind are more than capable of holding the midfield and controlling the tempo of the match. Mata brings the creativity and passing accuracy to the midfield that United desire desperately. Young has been consistent and Van Gaal has praised him after recent performances.

With Falcao and Rooney up top in a 4-4-2 formation, United can afford Rooney occasionally dropping deep to assist the midfield and defense, while Falcao pushes forward.

With this attack, Manchester United should be able to get more goals earlier in a match. The lineup may look good on paper, but it is up to the players to push on, score and win each game.

This article was researched and written by Shawn Medow. You can follow him on Twitter.

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