Van Gaal struggling to harness United's attacking talent

Reuters , Monday 12 Jan 2015

Manchester United
Manchester United's manager Louis van Gaal walks from the pitch after his team's 1-0 loss in the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Southampton at Old Trafford Stadium, Manchester, England, Sunday Jan. 11, 2015 (Photo: AP)

How could a front six including Angel Di Maria, Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata fail to get a single shot on target in a 1-0 home defeat by Southmapton?

That was the question that Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal would have been wrestling with over his Sunday supper.

On paper it looks a formidable array of attacking talent, especially with wing backs Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw providing width on the lush Old Trafford turf.

Yet the reality was worrying.

Following an impressive climb up the table after a slow start to the season under Dutchman van Gaal, United have managed only one win in their last five and the goals have dried up.

Since a 3-1 win over Newcastle United on Dec. 26, they drew 0-0 with Tottenham Hotspur, 1-1 with Stoke City and on Sunday lost to Southampton in the league for the first time in 27 years.

Despite having plenty of possession they created precious little against a well-drilled Southampton unit that cost a fraction of the hundreds of millions it cost to assemble United.

British record signing Di Maria, playing up front alongside Van Persie, looked woefully out of position.

The 60 million pounds Argentine is at his best on the left, running at defenders and providing cunning passes to the strikes, but too often on Sunday he was asked to be little more than a hold-up player with his back to goal.

Van Persie cut a frustrated figure and, like Di Maria, was eventually substituted while Rooney grafted hard to little effect in the hole behind the strikers, rarely getting a sight of Southampton's goal.

Colombian striker Radamel Falcao was not even on the bench -- a strange decision by Van Gaal considering he had scored two goals in his last four league appearances and was fit.

United lacked rhythm and Van Gaal does not appear to know the right combinations up front.

Fourth spot is a sign of progress considering the defensive injuries he has had to absorb but the reality is he has the same amount of points (37 from 21 games) as David Moyes managed at United last season before being sacked.

The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss was in a tetchy mood after the game when reminded of that fact.

"Yes. You have waited until this moment to put this question? This moment I have the same points as David Moyes? OK," he told reporters.

"We have to be better, we have to improve and that is why we are working hard and working on that.

"I have said already we were the dominating team, but we have to create more when you are the dominating team. I think Southampton came for the draw, and went away with the victory."

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

Short link: