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Man Utd Tactic Inspired by Louis van Gaal's Greatest Month in Charge


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Having spent a long time basing my Football Manager tactics on ones created by other users on this forum (much like striker-less, possession based tactics for FM2017 which worked an absolute treat), I thought I'd share a tactic I managed to create myself. Hopefully this helps and inspires others who might be struggling to create something for themselves like I was before this.

 

It all started with a tactic based on 4 games between March and April 2015 was then developed slightly to more suit the current squad available.

 

After a very inconsistent start to his first year in charge, Louis van Gaal suddenly pulled a tactic out of the bag that resulted in Man Utd playing their best football of the season, culminating in a 6th straight Premier League win.

 

The four results were:

 

Man Utd 3-0 Tottenham

Liverpool 1-2 Man Utd

Man Utd 3-1 Aston Villa

Man Utd 4-2 Man City

 

I started by trying to re-create the tactics used in these matches. Apart from Marcos Rojo coming in for Chris Smalling in the Aston Villa game, the starting XI didn't change. The players lined up in the classic 4-1-2-2-1 formation. Here's my interpretation of the roles they took up:

 

GK - De Gea - Goalkeeper (Defend) - Although excellent with his feet, De Gea is very much a goalkeeper who prefers to stick to the basics of goalkeeping and remains on his line more often than rushing out to cover in behind the defense.

RB - Valencia - Full-Back (Attack) - Having started out as a winger, Antonio Valencia has always been more comfortable going forward than he has been defending - while not quite being an outright wing back.

CBR - Smalling - Central Defender (Defend) - Plain and simple here. Just your normal, every day, central defender.

CBL - Jones - Central Defender (Defend) - As above.

LB - Blind - Full-Back (Support) - Blind didn't get forward as much as Valencia did on the other flank with most of the attacking threat coming through Young so a support duty full back is perfect here.

DMC - Carrick - Deep Lying Playmaker (Defend) - Kept the team ticking with his brilliant passing ability and the way he could read and dictate the game. Didn't venture forward at all.

MCR - Herrera - Carrilero (Support) - I was so happy when this role was introduced into FM18. Herrera would provide adequate cover out wide when Valencia overlapped Mata.

MCL - Fellaini - Box To Box Midfielder (Support) - Spent most of his career at Old Trafford as a much maligned figure but was one of the best players during this period. Causing havoc when he got forward and surprisingly handy in defense.

AMR - Mata - Advanced Playmaker (Support) - The main creative outlet when he drifted inside off his flank, opening the space for Valencia to gallop into.

AML - Young - Winger (Attack) - Would be the main provider of width on the left hand side. His crossing and dribbling caused problems for all teams. Was in such good form that the Man of the Match from the previous year's Champions League final, Angel Di Maria, had to make do with a place on the bench.

STC - Rooney - Complete Forward (Support) - Would drop deep and help link play but was also the main focal point up top.

 

Mentality: Control

Team Shape: Fluid

 

Team Instructions:

 

Retain Possession

Play Out Of Defence

Work Ball Into Box

Close Down More

 

Now for the changes. Obviously, since early 2015, Man Utd have spent a lot of money, A LOT of money, so the squad has improved quite a bit. So when I took the job on FM, I placed what I believed was out strongest current side into the above tactic and it was clear that a few role changes were required. I also amended the individual roles for a couple of the other players:

 

De Gea - Role amended to Sweeper Keeper (Support) - I like my teams to play with a higher line so need my keeper to cover the space in behind.  Distribute To Centre Backs and Roll It Out PI's added to help keep possession.

Lindelof in for Smalling - Role amended to Ball Playing Defender (Defend) - With Valencia pushing forward and Lindelof's far superior passing I slightly amended this role to give him the more risky passing PI.

Bailly in for Jones - No role change.

Shaw in for Blind - No role change.

Matic in for Carrick - No role change.

Pogba in for Fellaini - Role amended to Roaming Playmaker (Support) - Pogba is, in my opinion, THE roaming playmaker. Outstanding stats all round for the role. More risky passes PI added.

Mata - PI added to Stay Wider to help stretch the opposition defenders, creating space for Pogba's movement forwards.

Martial in for Young - Role amended to Inside Forward (Attack). PI added to Stay Wider for the same reason as Mata.

Lukaku in for Rooney - No role change.

 

Team Instructions added:

 

Push Higher Up

Higher Tempo

Prevent Short GK Distribution

 

All in all, this helped me to an unbeaten season in the league, setting a new record points hall in the process (W33 D5 L0). 84 goals scored and only 16 conceded were both league bests. Unfortunately I've already moved into season 2 so not sure where to look for possession stats but I believe I had the highest average in the league.

 

Here's to, hopefully, no second season syndrome!

 

Thanks for reading. I'll be happy to answer any questions others might have.

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3 hours ago, goqs06 said:

Gd job with this article @Chevie! Quite spot on, but De Gea was always a SK (d) during the LVG era and the mentality was flexible. I don’t think it was too fluid or structured.

Thanks for the feedback!

 

Good point about the team shape, unfortunately I wrote this up after I had already amended the tactic to suit the new squad and didn't realise I just did that part based on the current set up. But yes, I full agree that flexible is a much more accurate choice.

 

For De Gea, I agree that on occasion he would cover behind the defenders but that is something all keepers do (albeit some more rarely than others). There's just one instance that really sticks out in my head from the City game during that run where Jesus Navas got in behind Blind and De Gea stayed at home before making the save only a couple of yards off his goal line. Having had a quick glance at the mentalities of each role, both GK (D) and SK (D) are exactly the same by the looks of the bar on the PI page so could possibly argue that either role is correct for De Gea?

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4 minutes ago, Ji-Sung Park said:

One of the great internet myths of this decade is that Louis did a horrible job with Man Utd. He in fact over-performed with an insanely balanced team. On top of that, Ed Woodward went and bought di Maria.

True, he didn't have the tools and time to make things right. But I didn't like his boring tactical philosophy though.

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1 hour ago, goqs06 said:

True, he didn't have the tools and time to make things right. But I didn't like his boring tactical philosophy though.

It came apart during the last half of the second season, but look at his record against Top 6 teams during his tenure. Unreal performance with that squad.

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21 hours ago, Ji-Sung Park said:

It came apart during the last half of the second season, but look at his record against Top 6 teams during his tenure. Unreal performance with that squad.

Kinda like Mourinho now.

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Just now, Rooks said:

Mourinho has a far better squad and still achieves more boring football than under van Gaal. 

Indeed, wish we could have Cryuff-esque Football at Man Utd one day. One that is attacking yet liberal in defence.

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1 hour ago, goqs06 said:

Kinda like Mourinho now.

I will take that as I hope it was meant to be; sarcastic.

Sorry OP, for the derail. Do keep us posted on the results of this one. I am looking for something inspirational to keep me interested in FM.

Edited by Ji-Sung Park
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On 2/11/2018 at 12:05, goqs06 said:

I also did something like this last year, but I gave up in between... :rolleyes:

I'll be sure to give it a read through and compare, until you gave up of course :lol:

On 2/11/2018 at 12:24, goqs06 said:

True, he didn't have the tools and time to make things right. But I didn't like his boring tactical philosophy though.

Agreed, wasn't anywhere near a great squad but for a team with the likes of Di Maria, Mata, Rooney, Falcao (albeit horrendously unfit) and van Persie it's amazing that his tactic was to have Smalling and Rojo slowly pass the ball between each other for 80 minutes before launching it long to Fellaini if we weren't lucky enough to be ahead by then :onmehead:

7 hours ago, Rooks said:

Mourinho has a far better squad and still achieves more boring football than under van Gaal.

This is why I'm so glad FM exists - a place we can go to get the current squad with it's embarrassment of riches playing the way it should.

2 minutes ago, Bluebird123 said:

Hopefully it doesn't discourage the OP from posting further updates to his thread

Don't worry about it! I'll be sure to keep my updates going, just working on something about how I've built my squad over the three transfer windows I've had so far.

3 minutes ago, Bluebird123 said:

Hopefully it doesn't discourage the OP from posting further updates to his th

Never fear, I'm still here! :D

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Squad Building

Once I had my tactic sorted I had to assess the current squad to see who would and wouldn't fit:

Goalkeepers: David De Gea, Sergio Romero, Joel Pereira - In my opinion, the world's best goalkeeper in De Gea with a very able deputy in Romero.

Full Backs: Daley Blind, Luke Shaw, Antonio Valencia, Matteo Darmian - Shaw and Valencia were good options to start with for my full backs but I wanted better players in place of Blind and Darmian. The Dutchman's lack of pace and the Italian's lack of pretty much any attacking ability what so ever meant a change was needed.

Center Backs: Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Chris Smalling, Axel Tuanzebe - The antithesis of football that is Smalling had to go, with my team instruction to play out of defense he was never going to fit. I was happy with the others for the first season, with Rojo's starting injury giving Tuanzebe a few chances in the first team.

Defensive Midfielders: Michael Carrick, Nemanja Matic - Carrick's aging legs meant I looked for another body here to help Matic.

Central Midfielders: Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Ander Herrera, Marouane Fellaini - Inspired by him form centrally this season, I wanted to give Lingard the chance to be Pogba's back up in the Roaming Playmaker role. Fellaini also needed replacing as, even though his stats aren't the worst, he will always be synonymous with the hoof ball football us fans have come to loathe recently.

Attacking Midfielders: Juan Mata, Henrikh Mkhitaryan - Two very good footballers so no need to amend this yet. However would be a position I'd be looking to change in the near future as I prefer to have a younger squad with sell on value.

Wingers: Anthony Martial, Ashley Young, Marcus Rashford - With Martial and Rashford in this position I'm pretty much set in this position for 10 years (if they develop as they should, of course).

Strikers: Romelu Lukaku, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, James Wilson - Reinforcements were very much needed here. With Zlatan's injury keeping him out for the first few months of the season there would be a lot of pressure on Lukaku's legs to play every game. For all his early promise, James Wilson was not going to be up to standard.

 

Summer 2017:

In: Rafael (Lyon), Kasper Dolberg (Ajax), Jose Gaya (Valencia), Jorginho (Napoli), Allan (Napoli)

Out: Darmian (AS Monaco), Daley Blind (Paris SG), Chris Smalling (Tottenham), Ashley Young (Watford - Loan)

During this window I addressed the areas of my squad that I felt needed the most attention. Rafael brought more attacking threat than Darmian (with the bonus of his Home Grown at Club status), Gaya's pace replaced Blind, Smalling was removed swiftly, Jorginho and Allan were perfectly suited to the Deep Lying Playmaker and Carrilero roles. I thought Allan was coming in as Fellaini's replacement until I realised that Marouane's transfer to the Chinese super League wasn't happening until January (I feel very sorry for the Under 23 players he would be oaf-ing himself into for those few months). Young was never going to play so I was happy when Watford offered to take his wages off me for the final year of his contract.

 

January 2018:

In: Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Marco Asensio (R. Madrid), Alvaro Odriozola (Real San Sebastian)

Out: Marouane Fellaini (Huaxia Xingfu), Marcos Rojo (Guangzhou), Antonio Valencia (Barcelona)

January involved me bringing in a couple of huge names who became available. Rojo seemed really affected by the injury so I wanted to replace him. I wanted to bring in a new Ball Playing Defender as Phil Jones is more suited to the more basic Central Defender job. Pique was an intriguing option due to the fact he's a world class player who, just like Rafael, is also home grown at Man Utd. This convinced me to go for him despite his age as it would help me with future Champions League squads. An initial enquiry and a bit of media flirting got him unsettled before a £55m move. Asensio wasn't playing for Madrid and was transfer listed by request. The Lingard experiment wasn't going badly but then he broke his foot so I decided to move for Asensio. He found himself in the AMR position as the Advanced Playmaker with Mkhitaryan becoming Pogba's back up. Odriozola's Crossing and Dribbling attributes of 16 a piece with his pace and acceleration of 17 made him the perfect replacement for Valencia. Finally, Fellaini's transfer finally went through after a record number of elbows were thrown towards 20 year old footballers.

 

Summer 2018:

In: Paulo Dybala (Juventus), Jadon Sancho (Dortmund), Bernd Leno (Leverkusen), Kik Pierie (sc Heerenveen), Pietro Pellegri (Genoa)

Out: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Retired), Michael Carrick (Retired), Ashley Young (Released), James Wilson (Middlesbrough), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (AS Monaco), Juan Mata (R. Madrid), Sergio Romero (Huddersfield)

I wanted to bring in a huge name to take Ibrahimovic's newly vacant number 10 shirt. Dolberg's performances in the first season (more on that in a future post) convinced me that I didn't need to sign an out and out striker as a replacement. With both Mkhitaryan and Mata leaving I decided upon Dybala who joined for the modest(?!) sum of £95m. Moves for Sancho, Pierie and Pellegri were motivated but wanting exciting young cover for first team injuries. Leno was happy to play second fiddle to De Gea so I chose him as Romero's replacement. The return from loan of Andreas Pereira and Timothy Fosu Mensah also boosted the squad.

 

Current Squad:

Sweeper Keeper (Support): David De Gea, Bernd Leno, Dean Henderson, Joel Pereira

Full-Back (Attack): Alvaro Odriozola, Rafael

Ball Playing Defender (Defend): Victor Lindelof, Gerard Pique

Central Defender (Defend): Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Axel Tuanzebe

Full-Back (Support): Jose Gaya, Luke Shaw, Kik Pierie

Deep Lying Playmaker (Defend): Nemanja Matic, Jorginho

Carrilero (Support): Ander Herrera, Allan, Timothy Fosu-Mensah

Roaming Playmaker (Support): Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira

Advanced Playmaker (Support): Paulo Dybala, Marco Asensio

Inside Forward (Attack): Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho

Complete Forward (Suuport): Romelu Lukaku, Kasper Dolberg, Pietro Pellegri

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Does anyone know how you could go about making a midfield target man? Fellaini played that role and it was pretty crucial to solving the problem of getting the ball forwards quickly which blighted Van Gaal's time at the club. The team especially struggled when Chelsea man-marked Fellaini and forced us to play out normally. That's still a problem the current Man Utd team have, but they won't play Lindelof so it's a problem of their own making. 

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2 hours ago, mikejess92 said:

Does anyone know how you could go about making a midfield target man? Fellaini played that role and it was pretty crucial to solving the problem of getting the ball forwards quickly which blighted Van Gaal's time at the club. The team especially struggled when Chelsea man-marked Fellaini and forced us to play out normally. That's still a problem the current Man Utd team have, but they won't play Lindelof so it's a problem of their own making. 

This should do the trick!

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On 2/13/2018 at 19:12, mikejess92 said:

Does anyone know how you could go about making a midfield target man? Fellaini played that role and it was pretty crucial to solving the problem of getting the ball forwards quickly which blighted Van Gaal's time at the club. The team especially struggled when Chelsea man-marked Fellaini and forced us to play out normally. That's still a problem the current Man Utd team have, but they won't play Lindelof so it's a problem of their own making. 

I dont think Lindelof will play there anytime soon, but I would like to see him play as a defensive midifelder.

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