The 3-5-2 is a notoriously hard formation to get right. It requires very specific types of players who know their role inside out, but if done correctly it is arguably the best there is and with minor additions and alterations United would actually be incredibly well suited to it.
Manchester United have been far easier on the eyes this season, but they currently sit on 37 points after 21 games, exactly the same as this time last season when David Moyes was in charge. Just let that sink in for a moment.
As a Premier League fan, the prospect of a massive, three-way battle for the title between City, United and Chelsea - with Arsenal sticking their noses in every now and again - is mouth-wateringly exciting. The top tier without a strong United feels weird.
As much as it's always claimed that anybody can beat anybody in the Premier League, that's never true over the course of a full season. It's part of what makes league competitions so much better in many ways than cups - it's entertainingly open from week to week, while still ensuring that the winning team at the end of the season is almost always the best one.
An away win at high flying Swansea, an emphatic cup quarter final victory over Newcastle and, finally, the defeat of a lowly premier league team at home after the debacles against Stoke, West Brom and Palace have meant that Christmas has arrived slightly ahead of schedule for Tottenham fans.
Chelsea and City are currently out in front by a large distance and are understandably favourites to take the crown, though contrary to popular belief, this year's Premier League is not yet just a duel between the two teams in blue.
This is written just in the wake of United's extremely satisfying smash-and-grab victory against Southampton. With all due respect, who knew a game against them, not even half-way through the season, could be that important, and pleasant to win?
Carrick is one of his generation's most decorated individuals. Since joining United from Tottenham in 2006, he has won five Premier League titles, two League Cups and has been a Champions League and Club World Cup winner, as well as playing in two further Champions League finals. He has the kind of top level experience that is matched by very few others...
While he perhaps does not receive the acclaim some feel he deserves, Blind is one of United's most important players at present and with the hectic festive period looming, the midfielder's absence is likely to seriously dent their chances of returning to Europe's elite competition.
Out of contract in the summer and therefore likely to be available on cut-price deals in January, here's a look at six short term options for van Gaal and United - any of which could be valuable assets over the next couple of years.
If Wayne Rooney had been Argentinian or Brazilian, he may well have been the poster boy of a football mad nation. Unfortunately for Wayne, however, he's English and gets lambasted after almost every performance.
Scotland's 1-3 loss against England was the most recent entry into the annals of brutal football slapdowns; those moments where a team gets a glimpse of success, only to see the door of fate slam shut in their face...
Manchester City won their second Premier League crown last term, but are already playing catchup in this season's title race after a string of poor results over the first three months of the campaign. But the current City team isn't alone in melting under the pressure when it comes to defending the title, with several spectacular examples over the years.
Many of the same supporters that once bemoaned his very existence are raving about the star with the famous afro. It highlights the fickle nature of the modern fan and what many couldn't or simply refused to see is that Marouane Fellaini's status as a Manchester United player actually made incredible sense from the very start.
The easy explanation of Manchester United's dramatic-fashioned equaliser against Chelsea on Sunday is to blame it on Ivanovic's dismissal. Despite the second booking obviously not was being irrelevant, José Mourinho didn't help himself through applying a zonal marking approach on set pieces.
So is he really worth it all?... If Rooney continues to score it will remain tough to drop him, but if his performances continue to wane his managers' hands may well be forced.