When David Moyes smashed United’s transfer record in January to snare Mata from Chelsea in a £37.1 million deal, many doubted how the three could be squeezed into the same system effectively.
Moyes’ riposte was often to shaft Mata to the right wing, a position which saw the Spaniard’s influence on the game decline significantly and United laboured against stronger opposition.
Van Gaal feels a three-man defence will allow Mata to play in the hole behind Rooney and Van Persie, identical to the role Wesley Sneijder fulfilled behind Arjen Robben and United’s No.20 during the Dutch national teams run to the semi-finals at this summers World Cup.
“That’s one argument why I choose this system (3-5-2) because I can play them all and that’s also important,” Van Gaal said.
“But we don’t forget that Hernandez, Welbeck and Keane can also play in the strikers positions.
“Then Rooney, he can play 10, 9 and he also said to me he can play 7 and 11 but I like him more at 9 or 10.”
One of Moyes’ biggest failings was his inability to integrate Van Persie, Rooney and Mata into the same team. Simply put, their axis just didn’t function in Moyes’ rigid 4-4-1-1 shape with the shape and dynamic of the team sacrificed somewhat as the former Everton boss tried to shoehorn the three into the same starting XI.
Van Gaal believes he has come up with a solution, while bemoaning at the imbalance of the current squad, and United will surely reap the benefits if the 63-year-old can get three world-class attacking talents playing effectively. Exciting times appear to be nigh if van Gaal can get United’s attacking trio firing on all cylinders.