It’s all looking very rosy in Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal’s garden after the 13-time Premier League champions thrust themselves into third place with a win at Southampton, leaving bitter rivals and last year’s top-flight runners-up Liverpool seven points in their wake.
United host Brendan Rodgers’ struggling Merseysiders next time out, and with the new Red Devils gaffer’s methods clearly coming through during their current five-game winning streak, a fifth top-flight win in six over the Reds at home rates a fine wager at 10/11.
Van Gaal admitted after his side edged a 2-1 win on the south coast that they were ‘the lucky team’, with United having to dig deep defensively and rely on the profligacy of Ronald Koeman’s attackers, but consecutive 2-1 away victories achieved through markedly similar tactics suggests otherwise.
According to WhoScored.com, the ‘Iron Tulip’ has set his side up in five different formations this season, which can be simplified into variations of 4-3-3, 4-1-4-1 and 3-4-1-2, the latter being the formation used at St Mary’s and the Emirates – United’s first two away wins under Van Gaal.
He hasn’t gone three at the back at home since losing 2-1 on the opening day against Swansea, generally preferring variations of 4-3-3/4-1-2-1-2.
If WhoScored are to be believed, one of those shapes was adopted in five of United’s past seven home matches, from which the full 15-point quota was garnered, with 4-1-4-1 wheeled out for the 1-1 draw against Chelsea and, intriguingly, the subsequent 1-0 win over Crystal Palace.
Van Gaal reverted back to 4-1-2-1-2/4-3-3 in United’s past two home wins over Stoke and Hull, and this tactic should provide plenty of space in attack, if used, for returning wide men Rafael da Silva, Luke Shaw and Angel di Maria, who are all fighting to face Liverpool.