Anything van Gaal can’t do I can’t do better: three at the back with Newcastle United

Louis van Gaal’s project at Manchester United has got me fascinated. His side only have two points in three league games and every (clueless) sports “writer” under the sun (or writing for it), like every season ever, is writing off the club, the Dutch manager and his tactics already.

And as a United fan, it’s hard not to feel frustrated about losing to Swansea and only managing draws versus Sunderland and Burnley, teams we should be beating comfortably in my opinion.

But I have high hopes it will click before long.

On to another United though… in Football Manager 2014 I am taking on the same challenge van Gaal has. I’m going to try to win success with his 3-5-2 and I think attempting the project at Newcastle provides more of a challenge than if I simply took over the Red Devils.

I want to rebuild an “average” team and bring in suitable players for the 3-5-2/ 5-3-2 formation/s. And although in reality, Jonny Evans et al aren’t very good in a back three, I reckon in FM they’d do fine there (I might be wrong) so it (managing Man United) wouldn’t be as much of a challenge as I want.

This is one of the articles that has inspired this save: The Van Gaal Dossier

It describes van Gaal’s career, life and achievements.

Back to Newcastle, below are my team instructions. This I think is similar to the way van Gaal wants his teams to play. I’ve also taken inspiration from how Barcelona have played under Pep Guardiola. Van Gaal managed Barcelona from 1997-2000 and 2002-03 of course and surely contributed to the Catalans’ current philosophy.

He even suggested one day Barca would field a starting 11 entirely made up of home grown players made at La Masia – people laughed – but it happened.

In 2012, during the 26th minute of Barcelona’s game with Levante, Dani Alves came off injured to be replaced by Martin Montoya and for the first time in its history, the Barcelona XI was entirely home-grown.


It’s an adventurous, risky, maybe even brave tactic and that’s the point. It’s bullish like van Gaal, it refuses to bow down to opponents’ strengths. I am going to set it to fluid, attacking for now.

I haven’t played any matches yet. When I have brought in a few players, I will post again.

Funnily enough, my scout’s first recommendation is United reject, Tom Cleverley!

This is what my team looks like at the moment. It’s my assistant’s pick. I don’t like Anita, Tiote, Taylor, or Ferreyra particularly. I need players who are much better on the ball – this could take time and lots of the moolah.

I am a big fan of Jack Colback though, partly due to his class in FM13. Cabella and Riviere could be hits as well. Colback will probably be my deep lying playmaker for now or I will push him forward if Ben Arfa doesn’t perform. I’m going to look in to Nigel de Jong and I might actually give Cleverley a chance to turn his career around. That’s all for now, folks.


It’s been a few hours since I posted this article and I’ve now signed a few players (who I’ll write about later) and we’ve played some friendlies.

Our play style has looked brilliant so far, beating Getafe 5-1 was a highlight, we’re dangerous down the middle and from corners. I don’t usually think it’s worth sharing a tactic because I rarely hit on anything special but this one excites me.

Download the tactic here


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