Manchester United defender Chris Smalling says Louis van Gaal has finally discovered a winning formula ahead of Newcastle’s visit to Old Trafford on Saturday.
Van Gaal chopped and changed his side at the start of his United reign last season and had to wait four games for his first Premier League win.
But 12 months later, the United manager is reaping the rewards of selecting a more settled line-up.
And while he may make the odd tweak against Newcastle this weekend, with Bastian Schweinsteiger pressing for a full debut in midfield, continuity appears to be the key.
That is particularly the case in defence with the same goalkeeper and back four likely to continue their ever-present records, having played together for every minute of United’s two Premier League wins and their midweek 3-1 Champions League play-off first-leg victory against Club Brugge.
Smalling is one of those to have benefitted from van Gaal’s policy and he should carry on alongside Daley Blind in the middle of United’s defence.
The England international is convinced the selection policy is paying off as van Gaal’s side have kept clean sheets in their league games against Tottenham and Aston Villa this season.
“Last season there were that many changes it was hard to get a good run – even though I still don’t think we conceded that many goals in the second half of the season,” he said.
“But that togetherness and that work ethic is showing on the pitch now because we are not letting that many chances in.”
– Benchmark –
United’s winning start has made them one of four teams with 100 per cent records in the Premier League.
And with an early kick-off to look forward to against winless Newcastle on Saturday, Smalling wants United to steal an early march on their rivals for top spot.
“We must continue our good start. It is another home game and we have to assert ourselves early on,” he said.
“It is good that we again get to be in the first game that plays and, hopefully, set the benchmark for the weekend.”
United will again be without midfielder Marouane Fellaini, who scored in their Champions League win but still has to complete a domestic three-match ban.
Goalkeeper David de Gea is again expected to be overlooked as his future at Old Trafford remains uncertain, while defender Phil Jones is also set to be absent through injury.
Florian Thauvin hopes to make his Newcastle debut at Old Trafford after sealing his move from Marseille.
The arrival of the France Under-21 international on a five-year contract takes the Tyneside club’s spending since last season to £47.7 million ($74 million), and the 22-year-old former Lille midfielder said: “I’m delighted to be about to start my Newcastle career against such a big team with such a great reputation.
“I can’t wait to get out there, and I’m really looking forward to it.
“It’s great to know that Newcastle have wanted me for such a long time, and to know they wanted me so badly. It’s a massive club.”
Newcastle’s Dutch full-back Daryl Janmaat is suspended after his red card in the 2-0 defeat at Swansea that leaves Steve McClaren’s side searching for their first victory of the season, at a ground where they’ve won just once in 43 years.
Steven Taylor is expected to start alongside skipper Fabricio Coloccini in central defence, with Chancel Mbemba switching to right-back.
Photo Credits : AFP