Club legend question van Gaal’s tactics after League Cup debacle against Middlebrough at Old Trafford
LONDON: Manchester United face a difficult visit to Crystal Palace on Saturday with their legendary former midfielder Paul Scholes the latest high-profile figure to question Louis van Gaal’s tactical approach.
Two home games in the space of four days saw United record consecutive goalless draws against Manchester City and Middlesbrough in the League Cup, the latter leading to a penalty shoot-out which saw them exit the competition 3-1.
Wayne Rooney, the first of three United players to miss kicks in the shoot-out, has come in for particularly fierce criticism.
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But his former team- mate Scholes, now a television pundit, believes the fault lies with United manager van Gaal rather than the record-breaking England forward and concedes he would not enjoy playing in the current side.
“There’s a lack of creativity and risk,” Scholes told BBC Manchester. “It’s a team now you wouldn’t want to play against because they’re tightly organised.
“But it seems he doesn’t want players to beat men and it’s probably not a team I’d have enjoyed playing in.
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“The hardest thing to coach is scoring goals and creativity.
“I was at the derby and Rooney’s movement was brilliant but when he’s playing in that team there’s no one prepared to pass to him. I think after 20 minutes you’d be tearing you hair out.
“I played with some brilliant centre forwards and I don’t think they could play in this team – the likes of Ruud van Nistelrooy, Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke, Teddy Sheringham.
“You don’t get crosses into the box or midfielders looking for runs.”
Van Gaal made nine changes between the Manchester derby and the cup tie, although forward James Wilson, making his first start of the season, picked up a muscle injury against Middlesbrough and will not be in consideration at Palace.
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The United manager must therefore decide whether to persist with the unproductive Rooney as a lone forward or bring in promising teenager Anthony Martial from a wide to central position.
In any case, defender Chris Smalling admits United players need a quick response to the Middlesbrough defeat.
“Everyone’s very flat in the dressing room,” said Smalling. “We need to turn our attentions immediately to Saturday, because it’s another big game, an away game, and we need a response.”
Palaces have been one of the division’s outstanding sides during the opening weeks of the season, but problems are beginning to mount for Alan Pardew and his players.
The south London club remains seventh despite suffering back-to-back league defeats to West Ham United and Leicester City, but the sense they are entering a testing period of the campaign was reinforced by the 5-1 midweek loss at Manchester City in the League Cup.
Pardew remains confident his squad can sustain their challenge for a place in next season’s Europa League, but a run of injuries to key players will test the manager’s confidence.
Yohan Cabaye was the most notable absentee against City.
The France midfielder has been Palace’s standout player so far and if he doesn’t recover from a knock in time to face United, Pardew’s side will lose their main creative force.
James McArthur should return after missing the trip to Eastlands, but Pardew faces an anxious wait to discover if midfielder Jason Puncheon will recover from illness in time, while left-back Pape Souare is also doubtful.
“I do think the score line was fair but it is not good enough and we have got to pick ourselves up and go again against United,” said Palace midfielder Joe Ledley.
“It is frustrating because we could have been right in it but we missed a few chances and gave away sloppy goals. We need to concentrate on the Premier League now.”