It seems like only a few weeks ago that Manchester United were scrabbling around for players to fill an XI. Now, with the transfer window done and the injuries easing, Louis van Gaal has options. Particularly up front, where the combined talents of Wayne Rooney, Radamel Falcao and Robin van Persie look like an embarrassment of riches.
Asked today about his intention, Van Gaal was clear that nobody has an automatic place in the team ... except one man.
I don't think any player is fixed. Only the captain has more privileges.
So the reign of Wayne will remain. This will doubtless please some of you while thoroughly vexing others. Interestingly, Van Gaal also indicated that the three strikers above are competing for two places, along with young James Wilson and Adnan Januzaj, current bearer of the burden of all United's dreams for the future and scorer of an U21 hat-trick in midweek:
Falcao is a very good striker & I like van Persie. Then we have Rooney, Januzaj & Wilson. We have five players for two positions. Januzaj has to compete with very strong strikers. When we play 4-3-3 he should have more chances to play.
And that brings us neatly on to the third point of interest: formations. Asked about his 3-5-2, Van Gaal pointed out that the circumstances have changed ...
I started with another system. Now we have bought players in and you have to look at their qualities
... which sounds to us quite a lot like the three-at-the-back is dead, at least for the moment. Though with the fullbacks pushing on and Daley Blind dropping deep, the shape may remain, even if the actual defenders diminish in number. We'll end with two more pieces of good news: first, Chris Smalling is back; and second, United are going to be all sexy.
Louis van Gaal believes #mufc fans "shall enjoy themselves" watching the Reds' attacking style this season.— Manchester United (@ManUtd) September 19, 2014