It didn’t matter that Falcao landed in Manchester with a hefty price tag of around £50 million and wages rumoured to be in the region of £300,000 per week, because his goal stats were amazing. 104 goals in 132 league starts in Europe is excellent, though some would argue that he three seasons in the lesser-quality Portuguese league boost that ratio. But 39 goals in 46 European games is nothing to be bleated at, and anyone who saw that immense hat trick against Chelsea in the Super Cup in 2012 can’t fail to be impressed by his finishing.
But there’s something up at Old Trafford. This came to a head when he wasn’t even on the bench for the recent game against Southampton, when LVG decided it was best to have three central defenders on standby, you know, just in case. Yet even before that, he’d been an unused substitute six times in the short time he’s been there. To put that into perspective, that had only happened to him on five previous occasions during his whole career!
Getting to the point, having seen a few games in which he’s played, I can see why people would allege that he’s a flop, and say that last year’s knee ligament injury has finished him. However, I’d argue that he’s being employed in completely the wrong manner by Van Gaal. I understand that the team is full of superstars and not everything can revolve around him as it did at Porto and Atletico, but surely we can all see what Falcao’s real strength is? Putting the ball in the back of the net. History, mostly Youtube, has shown that on one-on-ones and in and around the box, he’s lethal with both feet and his head.
At Man Utd, he’s almost stuck in no-man’s land. He’s evidently been asked to get involved in build-up play, which to his credit, he’s had a real go at. As expected, his first touch is decent, he has good strength, and effort is not lacking, but he’s facing completely the wrong way. And two players who were already at Old Trafford are stepping all over his toes. When he looks for the ball deep, Rooney is there and in the way and team instructions clearly instruct that the paceless Van Persie is the one to play on the shoulder of defenders. As a result, he’s toing and froing between the centre circle and 18-yard line and always seems to be too late arriving in the box. I’d bet that he’s sick of the sight of Michael Carrick or Daley Blind in such close proximity. He wants to see the whites of the goalkeeper’s eyes, not theirs!
Every time I see him play, he’s got his hand up, wanting the ball to be crossed in or played in for him, but unfortunately he’s initially too deep to be able to get into any dangerous positions, as he’s just been the one to lay the ball out wide or backwards. In effect, he’s slowing down Man Utd’s attacking tempo because he’s not a natural target man and defenders are having plenty of time to pick him up as his start position doesn’t allow him to make runs at any kind of pace.
What Van Gaal needs to do is have him as a classic striker, running in behind or receiving the ball facing goal. You only need to look at his goals here to see how deploying him as an out and out goal scorer brings the best out of him. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Feg9vWc5DxY or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eB3iJWH9_6w. In no moment whosoever does he have his back to goal in any of the clips.
Clearly, that means dropping Van Persie or asking the Dutchman to link up more, something he’s never really done. I reckon Falcao alongside Rooney would really work, as Rooney would drag defenders around when he goes looking for the ball deep. And he also has the intelligence to play killer passes in behind.
Sadly, it seems none of that will ever happen, and Falcao will be labelled as a failure because he didn’t live up to expectation and his wage packet. People can argue till the cows come home that a professional football player on such money should be able to thrive regardless of tactics and playing personnel, but turn any player’s role right around (literally) and you won’t get the best of him.
Here is the post I wrote upon Falcao’s arrival at Man Utd.