The whole time I was growing up, Manchester United were a force to be reckoned with, whether it was the Class of ‘92 winning The Treble in ‘99, the hat trick of Premier League trophies or Fergie’s final Premier League title before bowing out after 26 years. Like any team they would have their fair share of ups and downs, but ultimately they would come out on top. You only have to look at last season, with the team they had, they still managed to win the title ahead of clubs that were pumped full of cash such as Chelsea and City. So what has happened to them? They’ve gone from world beaters to a team that can barely salvage any points at home; a place that once struck fear in to opponent’s hearts is now a place where three points are very much possible.
The obvious person to blame is the change in manager; Fergie did it last year so why can’t Moyes do it this year? They’re two totally different managers, Fergie was characterised by his all-out attacking style, if they score 2 we’ll score 3, Moyes needs to instil his own brand of football. If he stays for the long term they will need an identity and that always starts at the top. You only have to look as far as Tottenham to see how the same team can play with such a contrasting style compared to when they had their previous manager. Spurs have gone from a rigid 4-2-3-1 to 4-4-2 with a lot more freedom. United are known for their two wide players who always hug the touchline, at the moment though they do not have a quality winger on the left. Ashley Young is nowhere near good enough, how he earns money for playing football is beyond me, I’d do a few step overs and fall over for £100K a week! Nani is another player who has World Class potential, but just doesn’t have the mental strength to achieve it, which is disappointing because he always shows glimpses.
With the acquisition of Mata it looks like Moyes might put him on the left, looking at Spurs again it’s not a bad idea. You get an unbalanced midfield, with an orthodox winger on the right and an attacking midfielder such as Siggurdson or Eriksen on the left. It adds variety and with intelligent players such as Mata and Eriksen they can play the killer through ball through to the front man. Then you always have the other winger bombing on and gambling at the back post.
In recent games it has been clear to see that United have been missing their big names, in the summer there was a huge call to let Rooney go and reinvest the money elsewhere. I bet the United fans are seeing what a mistake that would have been; when Rooney arrived from Everton Fergie said he would build the team around him and it so clear that he has been a focal point for the team. He is worth three players, creating chances, putting them away and working back; all from playing off the back of the striker. It was a blow when RVP was ruled out, but with Rooney injured as well, United lack that cutting edge. They don’t have enough world class players and haven’t been able to replace Scholes in the slightest. The midfield at United is evidently their weakest area on the pitch; Carrick is good for keeping possession but lacks the attacking flair Scholes once provided. Cleverly has shown glimpses of hope but has retreated to sideways passes and not offering much forward. Again, this leads to United perhaps playing a narrower game and utilising players like Mata and Kagawa.
A lot of people will say the “Fergie factor” is what made United successful, and while it plays a part, I don’t think it entirely rules out Moyes from doing a good job. Looking at the second leg in the Capital One Cup we saw glimpses of the United of old, clinching goals at the death and reigniting the match. What they did lack was that ruthless attacking spirit throughout the game and the confidence that normally defines a United side. Misplaced passes, counter attacks breaking down and lazy defending is not something you normally associate with United. The only bright spark on the pitch was Januzaj and he looks key to Moyes’s plans.
What Moyes needs is time, just look at the Premier League and you’ll see that the most successful managers are those who have time, Moyes needs to establish his core of players, instil his own style of play and build his team up. It’s clear United need better players but do not expect an overhaul; it creates so much instability in the club. Instead he’ll build around players like Januzaj, RVP and Rooney. At the time of writing the Mata deal has gone through so one more acquisition on the left could catapult United up the table. I wouldn’t expect Moyes to be going anywhere soon.