Ex-Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes has compounded fears currently surrounding Old Trafford in the wake of their Capital One Cup exit to MK Dons on Tuesday, outlining his biggest areas of concern.
The 4-0 defeat against League One opposition was the latest disappointment in a three-match winless streak, and Scholes writes in his Independent column that Louis van Gaal's formation adjustments aren't working:
The biggest problem of all for United? Three men at the back doesn’t seem to be working for them yet. At the moment, United look like they are going to concede goals too often. It was the same at Sunderland on Sunday. There were mistakes. They were letting Sunderland run through them. There was a worrying absence of tackles being made. I understand that Van Gaal is trying to make a lot of changes very quickly but the problem is the players don’t seem to have adapted comfortably to 3-5-2 yet.
Building up to Van Gaal's arrival at Old Trafford, there was a buzz of excitement about the formation changes that would inevitably come under the Dutchman.
The world had just watched his Netherlands side entertain with a near identical strategy en route to a third-place finish at the 2014 World Cup, but Scholes understandably believes it's not for United—for now at least:
Van Gaal says it will take three months for the players to adapt to the way that he wants things done. I hope it will be the case, because at the moment it looks like it could take a lot longer. There won’t be easy quick-fix solutions but I’m hopeful such an experienced and world-class manager is capable of rebuilding and reshaping this United team.
The back line is the biggest area under scrutiny, with Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra having just left the club, forcing the need to move for players like Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo.
The Daily Mail's Adam Crafton agrees that for a formation to work, however, one has to be schooled in it for a period, something only one player among United's ranks can boast:
3-5-2 has to go, right? No United player except RvP has played it. United youngsters schooled in 4-4-2 or 4-51. There is no rational for it— Adam Crafton (@AdamCrafton_) August 26, 2014
At the other end of the pitch, Van Gaal's formation doesn't seem suited to Danny Welbeck, the forward who yearns for his time in the spotlight as the Red Devils' centre-forward but is ever retained as a fringe figure.
Scholes believes that despite his peripheral placement in Van Gaal's side, the England international has the potential to be a Manchester United success and shouldn't be forced out by Angel Di Maria's £59.7 million arrival:
For the amount of money being paid for Di Maria I would ideally want an attacking player who can score 20 to 25 goals a season. His record says he will not get that many, but that he will create a lot. I hope Di Maria’s arrival does not mean that Welbeck leaves. Danny has a lot to offer, not least the raw pace that is lacking in United at times. His problem has always been that he has not scored enough goals.
I would have liked to see him given a run in the team of 10 to 15 games. It is going to be hard for him to get that now, with so many players ahead of him, but he is certainly capable of 15 to 20 goals a season.
Where those goals are going to come from for Welbeck, with the likes of Van Persie, Wayne Rooney and now Di Maria all occupying space in attack, is anyone's guess.
In recent years under Sir Alex Ferguson, David Moyes and now Van Gaal, Welbeck has played a great deal of his football out wide, and even that would appear a hard place to earn minutes right now.
Arsene Wenger spoke on Wednesday to deny Arsenal's reported interest in Welbeck's talents, per James Olley of the London Evening Standard:
Wenger rules out #afc interest in Zigic and Welbeck. A sharp "no" to both.— James Olley (@JamesOlley) August 27, 2014
However, Oliver Kay of The Times sensed there may have been less conviction in the Arsenal manager's tone:
Wenger emphatic in denying interest in Song and (perhaps reassuringly) Zigic. Less convincing in denying interest in Welbeck and Falcao— Oliver Kay (@OliverKayTimes) August 27, 2014
It's significant that Welbeck is among United's best academy products, if not their best in recent years, and yet he can't garner consistent placement in the starting line-up.
One can certainly argue that the 23-year-old is a victim of circumstance, considering the position he plays in, but Scholes also notes that fellow academy product Adnan Januzaj "does not look fit" at this early stage in the season.
Having stormed onto the senior scene last season, this term presents Januzaj with a stellar opportunity to enhance his reputation, but his trajectory is also at risk under new management.
Should United ditch three at the back?
After all, it was Moyes who gave him his first introduction among the first team, and Van Gaal may not be as big of a fan of the player as his predecessor.
Therefore, one would like to think the youngster is doing all in his ability to impress a fresh mind, and a lack of summer preparation wouldn't get his season off to the best of starts.
Peter Hall of Sky Sports wishes to see Januzaj handed a string of playing time in one consistent position, as opposed to being shifted about:
Where will Januzaj be playing tonight? Poor lad gets shoved everywhere. #MUFC— Peter Hall (@PeteHall86) August 26, 2014
It's clear from Scholes' comments that he has a plethora of concerns over United's current plight. The new manager has currently sparked little improvement, his tactics and player management are being called into question and local fighters like Welbeck may be set to leave.
There's undoubtedly an underlying belief that things can be turned around; this is Manchester United after all. However, as Scholes notes, it may take some waiting before the glory days are back at Old Trafford.