Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville has defended the opinion of the club’s supporters, and insists that manager Louis van Gaal’s favored 3-5-2 formation has made the side slow.
The Red Devils lined up with three central defenders against Queen Park Rangers on Saturday, but failed to breakdown Harry Redknapp’s side resulting in a disappointing first half.
A pocket of away fans at Loftus Road were heard chanting strategic advice to the Dutch manager, as they were shouting for a change to 4-4-2 urging the team to attack.
Van Gaal seemingly took their advice and brought in James Wilson for Jonny Evans to deploy a more traditional back four in the opening minutes of the second half, and was instantly rewarded after substitute Marouane Fellaini’s strike gave them the lead in the 57th minute followed by Wilson’s goal in injury time, as the side bagged an important three points
And Neville believes that the fans are right to criticize the manager’s tactics and feels that the 3-5-2 formation doesn’t allow the players to take risks and lacked energy, focusing more on possession rather than on creating chances.
“It’s more impatience than unhappiness (from the United fans)”, the former English international told Sky Sports.
“They play the ball out from the back – as most good teams would – but the tempo is too slow.
“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”, he further explained.
“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 felt that the team’s defenders failed to pose any real threat on the opposition and were more interested in passing the ball among themselves.
“They play too many passes. Those back three players are on the ball far too much”, the 39-year-old 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”, he continued.