Louis van Gaal’s 3-5-2: How the knee of a Roma midfielder shaped Manchester United’s formation for the new season.
Following Holland’s progress in the World Cup deploying the system, it was always likely that Louis van Gaal would consider bringing the 3-5-2 formation to his new club, Manchester United. That the Dutchman is a coach of world-renown, with a trail of trophies and titles behind him in countries across Europe is of course widely accepted. What may be less well appreciated however is that his adoption of the formation was less part of a strategic plan, and more a reaction to the knee injury sustained by a key player.
It may feel like a flippant, knee-jerk reaction way to talk of a player who won’t be 24 until August, but the career of Bojan Krkic, onetime wonder-kid of the Camp Nou, is now resembling one of those ‘what could have been’ stories redolent of a bright spring that turned into a damp, disappointing and dispiriting summer. Recent reports have even suggested that next season he could be plying his trade with Stoke City. No offence to the Potteries’ club, but Bojan burst onto the season, that wasn’t on the menu.
Born to a Serbian father and a Catalan mother in the small town of Linyola, ironically about a 90 minute drive from the Camp Nou, Bojan joined the Blaugrana at nine and had all the makings of a La Masia graduate destined for greatness; blessed with consummate skill, elegant balance and an unerring eye for goal. In the next seven years he accumulated more 850 goals for the club’s junior teams. It’s a mind-blowing total. If one works on an eight-month season over the period, it equates to almost 3.50 goals per week – every week; not for the team, just for Bojan himself. When he was 15 he played for Spain in the U17 European Championships, and although officially a year too young, still ended up as the competition’s joint top scorer. He returned to the same tournament the following year and notched the winning goal for Spain in the final. Here was a player set to rank alongside Cruyff, Messi and Maradona as an all-time great at the Catalan club – and a born Catalan to boot. The football world lay at his feet. Or so it seemed. Continue reading →