How do you fit Radamel Falcao, Robin van Persie, Angel di Maria, Wayne Rooney, Adnan Januzaj, and Antonio Valencia in the same side?
You play four of them out of position.
Louis van Gaal has an abundance of attacking talent at his disposal, yet his United side at times has struggled for invention and, as a result, goals in the final third.
Eight goals in four games against Queens Park Rangers, Leicester City and two against League Two outfit Cambridge should not deceive – United has been poor going forward.
For an armchair manager like myself, the problem seems rather straightforward.
Van Gaal is trying too hard to fit all his stars in the one starting XI.
Fair enough, too.
Who doesn’t want to see the likes of Falcao, Rooney, van Persie, di Maria, Januzaj and Juan Mata on the pitch at the same time?
In theory, it sounds excellent and these players are all so good you’d like to think that there is a way of getting them all onto the park and making it work – but the reality is United looks unbalanced.
There are similarities to the conundrum Sir Alex Ferguson had in 2008-09.
Club record signing Dimitar Berbatov came into the team and all of a sudden he had to try and accommodate Cristiano Ronaldo, Rooney and Carlos Tevez – a star in his first season at the club – all in the same team.
Rooney was once again the sacrificial lamb as his “versatility” and willingness to cover every blade of grass on the pitch saw him played on the left or in the middle.
Eventually, Sir Alex returned to the winning formula that had served him so well, but it meant that one of his four world class players had to take up a spot on the bench for the overall balance of the team.
Van Gaal might have to consider a similar approach now.
If that means benching one or more of United’s arsenal of attacking guns, so be it.
The fact is, neither van Persie nor Falcao has set the world alight this season and Rooney’s best performances have come when played in his proper position – up front.
Di Maria has so far struggled to light up United in any position other than on the left wing and while Valencia has his uses going forward from full-back, he’s not exactly a class defender.
The lack of game time for Ander Herrera, a player much suited to the midfield roles Rooney has usually been assigned to accommodate van Persie and/or Falcao is also a cause for frustration given how promising the Spaniard has looked when played.
With a run of tough but winnable games on the horizon, perhaps it’s time for van Gaal to start picking the best team – not just the best players.