Time for Moyes to start answering the big questions.
What a time for a break. You’d certainly forgive David Moyes for taking some time out to enjoy some rest and recuperation following a suffocating opening few months to life as manager of Manchester United. The old adage that ‘everyone thinks they can be manager’ was traditionally aimed at the national team job but in today’s globalised world debate on who should make up the first eleven of Manchester United rages untamed. Southampton at home should represent the most routine of fixtures yet given the contrasting fortunes of the two sides thus far it has emerged as the pick of the weekend fixtures at betting sites like news.coral.co.uk.
Rather than engage in some downtime, it is far more likely that workaholic Moyes spent every waking hour wrestling with the challenges he faces over the next few weeks, months and even years. Whereas Ferguson became an expert at managing in the face of restriction from above, his successor has found himself roundly criticised for attempting to manage expectations of a manically demanding fanbase. The facebook and twitter mafia might be expected to hit the panic button more readily than the wise old match goer; but both sets of fan groups have legitimate concerns which need to be addressed over the coming series of fixtures.
So what are these challenges that Moyes needs to approach head on?
Proving the Doubters Wrong
Twelve points. Not since May 2001 has the gap between the Premiership leaders and their nearest challengers been so gaping. Manchester United have garnered the highest points tally (65) after 26 games than any other outfit in the Premiership era.
Yet this is a side which receives very little love from the media. Every journalist or pundit stresses to clarify that this is far from a vintage Manchester United side. They’re not blowing teams away every week and their level of performance is far from spectacular. They will go out of the Champions League to Real Madrid and any domestic success will be as a result of the perceived low standard of the competition.
Now, I’m old enough to remember back to May last year. Manchester United ‘blew it’ in ‘the most exciting title race ever’. Manchester City had a seemingly endless chequebook, and by all accounts had a far superior starting eleven and greater strength in depth. Radio phone-in’s across the land and internet football forums were gleeful that not only were United no longer the biggest club in the world, but they weren’t even going to be the biggest in their own city. Then there was Chelsea – European champions and ready to launch a fresh assault on the Manchester dominance.
#54 Manchester United Mid- Season Review
After earning 10 points from 12 over the festive period, this week’s Can They Score podcast looks back at how we performed over the tough Christmas schedule and takes a wider look back at everything that has happened this season so far in our mid season review! We pick our player of the year, goal of the year, disappointment of the year and much more. Joining me in the studio today is Tom and we would both like to wish all our listeners a Happy New Year!
Jonny Evans- The Finest Centre Half in the Premier League
Despite always being a prodigiously talented home-grown centre half, it is only recently that Jonny Evans has finally got the last few doubters off his back after a succession of simply world-class performances. A rock at the heart of Manchester United’s defence during this calendar year, Evans is now legitimately (during Vidic’s recovery from injury) United’s first choice defender.
Commonly labelled a liability in the past and unfairly blamed for United’s 6-1 humbling against City, the Northern Irishman is now showing a confidence and maturity that few suspected he was capable of. Alongside any of Vidic, Ferdinand, Smalling or Jones, Evans has shown himself to be a versatile defender equally capable of dealing with balls in front of him and, unlike John Terry and Nemanja Vidic, behind him. Like Kompany and Ferdinand, Evans is an intelligent defender who has great athleticism and reads play well as shown by the infrequency of fouls that he commits nowadays (even though there is an element of fortune in it- like all impressive stats).
2-5-6-3. Back line Brilliance from United.
Last week, our back four was seriously at fault as Spurs cut through our defence like a hot knife through butter. This week, they turned it around and delivered a clean sheet which brought with it our first victory at St James Park since March 2009.
Amazingly, they did not just reply with a clean sheet but they also produced goals from Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra as the Red Devils took advantage of the Toon’s disorganisation at set pieces. Overall, it was an exciting display from the team as a whole who pleased Sir Alex with their play.
Where Does Chris Smalling Stand Next Season?
Despite having his season severely interrupted by a succession of injuries last season, Chris Smalling still managed to make 31 appearances for Manchester United and establish himself as a firm favourite of Sir Alex Ferguson, Fabio Capello and Roy Hodgson- who admitted he’d have been in the squad were it not for the unexpectedly severe injury he picked up against Swansea.
A tall, athletic defender, Chris Smalling is a 22 year old centre back with a bright future ahead of him. Originally catching the eye with his superb (but unlucky) debut against Chelsea for Fulham, Smalling secured a £10 million move to United, ahead of Arsenal, and has often been described by the lazy journalist as the next ‘Rio Ferdinand’ due to aesthetic similarities.
Stats Zone: Jonny Evans Shines in 1-0 Victory Over Fulham
After Manchester City dropped points against Stoke City during the weekend, United’s opportunity to open up a three point gap at the top of the Premier League table emerged with the visit of the Cottagers to the Theatre of Dreams. With the joint worst away record in the whole league (11 points from 15 games), the football betting tips were always in United’s favour. However, the match was no where near as easy as many predicted.
Pre Match Interview with Holtamania: Lambert’s Got a Flexibility Rarely Seen in the PL
In preparation for Sunday’s PL fixture against this season’s surprise package, Norwich City, I talked to Canaries blogger, Holtamania, to discuss the importance of Paul Lambert to their success, the performances of Holt this season and the way in which they’ll approach this weekend’s game…
Full Time Thoughts: Man United 2-1 Liverpool
In a game where incidents before kick-off and after the final whistle have grabbed the spotlight, it has been almost forgotten that a dominant United team sealed a return to the top of the Premier League.
Two well taken goals from Wayne Rooney cancelled out Luis Suarez’s efforts at the other end and ensured United earned the three points.
Let’s Not Risk 19/12/09 All Over Again
Following the recent departure of John O’Shea and Wes Brown, who should both be credited for their incredible contributions to the club, I must confess to a great deal of worry for next season, if we do not strengthen at the back this summer.