Manchester United: How will Falcao fit in at Man Utd?

Radamel Falcao playing for Atletico Madrid
Can Radamel Falcao kick-start Manchester United's season?

Striker Radamel Falcao could make his debut for Manchester United when his new side take on QPR at Old Trafford on Sunday.

The Colombia player, 28, joined on loan from French side Monaco on transfer deadline day for a fee of £6m.

He joins a club struggling in the league, with manager Louis van Gaal's team picking up just two points and scoring two goals in their opening three Premier League fixtures.

United also fell to a shock 4-0 defeat at the hands of League One MK Dons in the Capital One Cup on August 26.

But with a wealth of attacking talent such as Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Juan Mata and record summer signing Angel Di Maria also at the club, just how will Falcao fit into the team?

We asked football pundits and journalists who they think will feature in Van Gaal's line-up when the Dutchman has everyone fit and available.

Radamel Falcao

Phil McNulty (BBC Sport chief football writer)

Starting line-up (3-4-1-2): De Gea; Jones, Rojo, Blind; Valencia, Herrera, Di Maria, Shaw; Rooney; Van Persie, Falcao. Subs: Lindegaard, Evans, Smalling, Mata, Januzaj, Carrick, Wilson, Fletcher

Phil McNulty's Man Utd team

Van Gaal shows no signs of moving from his beloved three at the back so I would go with Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind as an initial selection, then a strong midfield four with Rooney in behind Van Persie and Falcao. Across midfield, using wing-backs, I would have Antonio Valencia, Ander Herrera, Di Maria and Luke Shaw - although this places great responsibility on Herrera and the likes of Michael Carrick may be required on occasions.

There should be lots of goals and this is seemingly a squad assembled with the short-term aim of reaching the top four this season then strengthening further next summer, or even in January if Roma midfielder Kevin Strootman's knee injury has healed.

Sadly, as I rate him highly, this leaves Juan Mata as the odd man out and Marouane Fellaini with not the slightest trace of a Manchester United future - a dreadful buy. Ashley Young would also be vulnerable but not Adnan Januzaj, a player of such outstanding potential who will eventually fit into that system. As for Anderson. Why is he still at Manchester United?

Henry Winter (Daily Telegraph football correspondent)

Starting line-up (3-4-1-2): De Gea; Evans, Jones, Rojo; Rafael, Blind, Di Maria, Shaw; Rooney; Falcao, Van Persie. Subs: Lindegaard, Mata, Valencia, Herrera, Januzaj, Smalling, Carrick

Henry Winter's Man Utd team

Difficult to explain Van Gaal's 3-5-2 system in an English context; it has rarely worked in the Premier League.

Teams just get overloaded out wide. I still think Di Maria is best when cutting in from the flanks but Van Gaal wants him inside. Much may depend on Van Persie's knee (and Falcao's).

Young was good in pre-season but I cannot see how he survives long-term with Shaw fit as left wing-back. I don't see how Mata can start with Rooney captain and playing off Falcao and Van Persie.

Herrera is a lovely, neat, mobile central midfielder but how does he fit in if Van Gaal wants Di Maria in there? The defence still looks an issue, particularly with Jonny Evans uncomfortable as the wide right centre-half.

They may deal easily with QPR but a return to a back four is surely required. A personal preference, involving dropping Van Persie and assuming Carrick is fit, would be a 4-2-1-3: De Gea; Rafael, Jones, Rojo, Shaw; Blind, Carrick; Rooney; Januzaj, Falcao, Di Maria.

One thing is for sure, Strootman cannot arrive soon enough.

Falcao's record in Europe
SeasonClubAppsGoalsGoals per Game
2012-13Atletico Madrid41340.83
2011-12Atletico Madrid/Porto52360.69

Ian Dennis (BBC Sport senior football reporter)

Starting line-up (3-4-1-2): De Gea; Evans, Jones, Rojo; Valencia, Herrera, Blind, Di Maria; Rooney; Falcao, Van Persie. Subs: Amos, Shaw, Smalling, Fletcher, Mata, Januzaj, Young

Ian Dennis' Man Utd team

To accommodate Falcao I believe Mata is the one who makes way. The Spaniard is a natural choice to be omitted as he has struggled to make an impression at Old Trafford.

I am basing my selection on the big-hitting trio of Falcao, Rooney and Van Persie all starting plus Van Gaal persevering with his system of three at the back.

However, it is hardly surprising that Van Gaal has options available to him after spending close to £150m over the summer, but another complication to the equation is where will Carrick fit in when he is fit?

Valencia and Di Maria should play as wing-backs and provide a threat from the flanks, Blind can offer protection in midfield and give Herrera the chance to create with a rotating, fluent threesome of Rooney, Falcao and Van Persie.

Daniel Taylor (Chief football writer at The Guardian / The Observer)

Starting line-up (4-3-1-2): De Gea; Rafael, Jones, Rojo, Shaw; Di Maria, Carrick, Blind; Rooney; Falcao, Van Persie. Subs: Lindegaard, Evans, Smalling, Mata, Herrera, Januzaj, Wilson

Daniel Taylor's Man Utd team

Van Gaal has devoted himself to a 3-4-1-2 formation so far but that was before Falcao's arrival and nobody should be too surprised if he gradually ditches the wing-back system.

Evans and Chris Smalling would be left out of my defence because they are too erratic and too injury-prone. In midfield, Mata has to drop out and would become an understudy for Rooney in the number 10 role.

Di Maria can operate as a creative, attacking midfielder, with Carrick and Blind playing in more withdrawn positions to protect the defence. That would leave Falcao alongside Van Persie in what could become the most formidable attack in the country.

Fellaini will never have the quality that Manchester United aspire to and it is time to write him off as an expensive mistake. The same could have been said a long time ago of Anderson and it is mystifying that he is still at the club.

Tom Cleverley, Nani and Wilfried Zaha have already been moved out on loan. Young is more synonymous with diving than more orthodox wing play whereas Javier Hernandez has joined Real Madrid for what could be cruelly described as undisclosed reasons.

Hernandez has been fortunate, to say the least, when he has offered so little for United in the last couple of seasons.

List to sell: Fellaini, Young, Anderson, Hernandez, Zaha, Cleverley, Nani, M Keane, W Keane.

Martin Lipton (Chief football writer at the Daily Mirror)

Starting line-up (3-4-3): De Gea; Jones, Blind, Rojo; Rafael, Herrera, Di Maria, Shaw; Rooney, Van Persie, Falcao. Subs: Lindegaard, Evans, Smalling, Carrick, Mata, Januzaj, Valencia

Martin Lipton's Man Utd team

Attractive, thrilling, attacking - and utterly unbalanced. Welcome to the new Manchester United, Van Gaal style.

If we are to assume the Dutchman intends to stick with a back three, it only emphasises the lack of equilibrium in a squad that seems targeted to beat the weaker teams, often handsomely and through instilling fear, to target fourth place.

For lesser sides, to be confronted by Falcao, Van Persie and Rooney, with Di Maria arriving from deep, will be terrifying. Better teams, though, especially the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool, will deprive them of the ball and expose the defensive deficiencies.

It is hard to believe Mata has any sort of future. Likewise Anderson or Fellaini. The exit door awaits in January.

Pat Nevin (BBC Sport analyst & former Chelsea, Everton & Scotland winger)

Starting line-up (3-5-2): De Gea; Jones, Rojo, Blind; Rooney, Herrera, Fletcher, Di Maria, Shaw; Van Persie, Falcao. Subs: Fellaini, Mata, Carrick, Valencia, Rafael, Januzaj, Blackett

Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata, Angel Di Maria, Robin van Persie
How will Falcao integrate with United's current attacking quartet of Rooney, Mata, Di Maria and Van Persie?

It is over-simplistic to try to pick 'a' team or a formation for Manchester United under Van Gaal. He is a master of adaptability, so to tie yourself to one system or one set of tactics is anathema to him.

The team above could be 3-5-2, but with slight manipulations of adaptable players, for example moving Shaw back a little and Rooney moving up, it can be morphed quickly into a 4-3-3.

This is the key to playing under Van Gaal, an ability and willingness to do more than one job and preferably three or four sometimes during the same game. Look at Blind and Di Maria - both fill the criteria and the likes of Rooney and Jones can be just as versatile.

Fellaini fits into that bracket too oddly enough, but Mata and Young do not. The Belgian might be the lucky one of that trio if his form at the club improves. The others along with Smalling and Anderson might not be.

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