Following Manchester United’s second consecutive home defeat without scoring against yet another side which hadn’t tasted success at Old Trafford in a generation, it hasn’t been really difficult to guess where most of the fingers are pointed at, at least from the majority of skeptics, a substantial amount of neutrals and, by now, quite a few of their own fans.
But is blaming David Moyes justified? I don’t think it is. Even though he seems to owe the fans at this point in time, we should all step back a bit, take our hands off his throat, lift him off the floor, let him breathe a bit and wait. Wait until he stands on his own feet, gets himself at least a coat, a tie, a pair of shoes and then come back to get our dues, because right now, he seems to be in rags. And it isn’t quite gentlemanly of us to hit a man in rags.
Say what? I’ll try to be less cryptic. It’s like The Smiths have said – these things take time. But I understand why it might seem unbelievable to some. Though it is universally agreed that replacing a manager like Sir Alex at a club like United is not the easiest job in football, especially when Sir Alex alone brought 7-8 league points for the club through his unique genius, one still can’t help but feel that things have gone a bit too far. This may not be one of United’s finest sides and it was pretty much vulnerable even under Sir Alex but it still walked the league under him. So given the absence of the great man, at this point of the season, maybe the club being at the fourth or fifth position would be understandable.
But the side which won the league eleven points clear is gasping for breath at home against Newcastle, straight after being under the ventilator against Everton. It’s just the beginning of December and United are already languishing on ninth place but more worryingly, they seem to be slowly getting comfortable there. This manager has managed to drag United, a title-winning team, below the likes of Newcastle, Southampton and Everton while consistently getting schooled by clubs who haven’t won at their home ground in decades. One can only blame the squad so much. Maybe David Moyes has to take the blame now. Maybe awarding Moyes a six-year contract wasn’t the best thing to do. Maybe, David Moyes just isn’t the chosen one.
Stop right there and take a deep breath for I’m going to tell you something wonderful, something ridiculous. Something along the lines of – whatever’s happened with Moyes is just…bad luck. Yes, the man has had dreadful luck. Get off his back, give yourself a hug and tell yourself it’s all right. David Moyes, so far, is still the man.
Last season Robin van Persie played 38 league games for United. In most of those, he ended up scoring and even when he didn’t, he had enough class to be of immense use to the team. So far, he has already missed some vital games and hasn’t been fit enough to start in others. Michael Carrick was available to Sir Alex for almost the entirety of previous campaign. And when he wasn’t around, even under Sir Alex, even against relatively ordinary teams, United had struggled. Rafael da Silva was an integral part of that title-winning squad making 28 league appearances, but for most of this season, he too hasn’t been around. Even if Chris Smalling did his best, the right wing just hasn’t been the same. Rarely have three of Manchester United’s most influential players of last season played together.
Sir Alex had had more defensive troubles at this point in the campaign last season than Moyes has had this season. David de Gea was yet to completely pin his position down (though it was looking more and more obvious) and Nemanja Vidic was out for a while. United were letting in goals like a black hole nabs in matter. However, the brilliance of Van Persie often saw them through, along with the occasional exploits of Patrice Evra and Jonny Evans in front of the goal, who have continued to score this season as well. But Evra, Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, while all being beautiful defenders and brilliant servants of United, have all aged yet another year between this season and last (obviously, right?) and after 30, age usually matters. On Saturday, Evra was left sleeping and gasping twice in the match. With, the lengthy absence of Rafael and age catching up with the three elder statesmen, David Moyes has yet again picked up the short end of the straw, especially with the full-backs.
Now we talk about what everybody talks about – the midfield. Last season, at least they had Paul Scholes and, for a while, Darren Fletcher. Moyes brought in Marouane Fellaini to increase the strength in this department. Fellaini hasn’t lit up Old Trafford by any means and he deserves more time. But then there’s Tom Cleverley and Anderson. Former has regressed from last season and the latter is just the same as ever. After filling in well there last season, Wayne Rooney had already made his disillusionment with the midfield role clear. So with Cleverley’s regression, Rooney’s rejection, Scholes’ retirement, Fletcher’s illness and Carrick’s injury – all of whom played a bigger role in midfield last season than they have this season – it is clear Moyes hasn’t been as lucky in this department as Sir Alex was last season, if at all you can call anyone with such a midfield lucky.
Sir Alex had both Van Persie and Rooney at his disposal to choose from and even if Rooney wasn’t this good then, he was still extremely good. His 12 goals and 10 assists in the league attest to that. Combined with a Van Persie firing on all cylinders (something lacking in this season, relatively), Sir Alex had somewhat better options.
Van Persie has struggled so far
All this, combined with the extra points Sir Alex managed to win through his genius, and the outrageously difficult start to the campaign, paints a clearer picture about the misadventures of Manchester United and Moyes. The gaffer has had it rough.
Although it isn’t as exciting as making a top-10 list about reasons to sack a manager, we will now look at things that Moyes has done well. (Yes, he can do good things too!)
Tony Valencia, who was abysmal last season, has been better this time around. He might never reach the level expected of a Manchester United winger but Moyes has managed to ignite something in him that was missing. Nani has been his usual – delight and outrage served together between two slices of bittersweet bread but he still offers more in attack than Tony Valencia ever can. Sorting his contract out was crucial. Moyes has boldly given Adnan Januzaj a chance to shine and the young lad has done well. He knows a thing or two about young players which is why I lay my full trust in him regarding Wilfried Zaha. As was evident from whatever we could see on Saturday, Zaha isn’t as ready as Januzaj.
Now the cherry on David Moyes’ merry cake – Wayne Rooney. Managing to hold on to him, when almost nobody, including me, thought he was donning a red shirt again at Old Trafford, then firing him up, was a masterstroke.
But I don’t mean to say Moyes has done nothing wrong. Shinji Kagawa isn’t the greatest fit in England but he excels in the wing for Japan and is still better than most of United’s wingers. He hasn’t exactly lit up Old Trafford when he has played but none of their traditional wingers have either. I’d play him ahead of Valencia, Nani and obviously, Ashley Young. The other thing Moyes gets consistently wrong is his decisiveness with the substitutions. Whether he wants to attack or defend, he leaves it a bit too late for the subs to have much effect. And sometimes, he gets them on too early. That’s about it, regarding his individual failings.
David Moyes has a long way to go, will probably make a lot more mistakes than he has so far and United can still fall deeper than they are used to, but he isn’t all that bad. He was given a six-year contract for a reason. He might still succeed, he might still fail, but today isn’t the day to judge him. Nor is this season. Let’s give him a couple of transfer windows to get his coat, tie and shoes in order, let him dress up and see how it goes. Only after that is it all right to get the knives out. He may be a bit too clumsy and he may be a bit too straight but given two, three seasons, if not five, he might still turn out to be a Walter White.
Welcome and thank you for joining us for the 75th episode of the Can They Score podcast. During this week’s show we will be looking back at United’s hugely enjoyable victory against Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday night before discussing the match against Cardiff and fixture against Spurs . Providing a detailed and holistic review of Manchester United’s ramblings over the last couple of weeks, be sure to listen in to the podcast now!
Well that was fun. That’s right – fun. A word we’ve very rarely, if ever, associated with anything to do with Manchester United this season. Dinks were dinked, flicks were flicked, and it all felt like finally the genie was out of the bottle.
Misery has cloaked the club in recent times. Failure to win has been greeted like relegation, whilst the biggest positive of the season – Wayne Rooney’s resurgence – has been easier to acknowledge than celebrate. Our Club’s over-enthusiastic efforts to welcome back the black sheep into the #MUfamily has left our manager appearing more like Winston Smith than Alex Ferguson. Even our triumph over the league leaders was achieved through gritty character than superior play. Functional football was here to stay.
Then came last night’s tricky trip to Deutschland. The signs were good when Moyes finally listened to the people ‘telling him how good a player he is.’ A specialist restored to his rightful place at the controls; soon we were treated to the sight of Shinji sharking through Teutons trudging through treacle. Flanked by wingers reborn, the repetitive model of get-it-wide, get-it-in was reborn as we attacked from a multitude of angles seemingly at once. Giggs guided proceedings; at his best in a side set up for cavalier counters. It was something of an injustice for praise of the man to be constantly accompanied by references to his age. Last night was a masterclass in intelligent movement, crisp passing and limitless stamina and would be worthy of acclaim regardless of the years of the exponent. At the focal point of attack was a Rooney on the rampage. Love him or hate him (and we all know where I stand) on this form he is as devastating as all but the very finest earning a living from the sport.
The defence was okay too; coping admirably despite the handicap of a centre back who looks depressingly ready for pasture. Paddy and Jonny rediscovered their scoring touch and even Big Chris the non-fullback fullback found himself amongst the goals. Before the game I had accepted that a defeat was in the offing. One does not simply go to the second placed side in Germany without the spine of your team and expect to return with anything to show for it.
From the lowest of expectations came the most exhilarating of victories. It was the first time under Moyes we have looked brimming with menace and a force beyond taming. Let’s hope it’s the start of something special.
Welcome to the 74th episode of the Can They Score podcast. During this week’s show we will be looking back at our unimpressive yet incredibly important 1-0 victory against top of the league Arsenal before previewing the two upcoming games against foreign opposition: Cardiff & Bayer Leverkusen . Providing a detailed and holistic review of Manchester United’s ramblings over the last couple of weeks, be sure to listen in to the podcast now!
After a turbulent start to his Old Trafford tenure, David Moyes would have been mightily relieved to overcome Liverpool in the Capital One Cup this week and will be looking to build on that victory with a much needed three points against West Bromwich Albion. Having picked up only 7 points from the first 5 games, this match brings around a winnable run of 6 Premier League fixtures that could easily propel United towards the top of the table. A table which is looking remarkably unpredictable, similar to a PokerStars table, as the movers and shakers play for position at the top.
During the 68th edition of the Can They Score podcast, we reluctantly analyse the 4-1 defeat to Manchester City in the local derby, before moving on to previewing yet another derby against Liverpool and the upcoming Premier League fixture against West Brom. Listen to this week’s Can They Score podcast to get our full analysis! Read more…
During the 67th edition of the Can They Score podcast, we mull over a rather successful week for the Red Devils on the pitch and a rather awkward moment for Rooney behind the mic, before moving on to an interesting and insightful analysis ahead of the Manchester derby. Listen to this week’s Can They Score podcast to get our full analysis! Read more…
“I don’t know what Jose’s thoughts were, but I know what ours were- you could tell by the team we picked.”
-David Moyes, post game Chelsea v Manchester United, August 26, 2013
The newly christened “Chosen One” has now managed, and survived, the first ‘real’ test of his managerial career at Old Trafford. After the match David Moyes took a jab at Jose Mourinho- the undisputed champion of verbal pugilism- when he intimated that perhaps the Portuguese manager did not show as much interest in scoring goals as he did in keeping them out. Read more…
Building a football team from scratch is hard. It requires close analysis of the players who are available; how did they perform last season? Can they repeat the success? Will they adapt well to new surroundings? Are they within the agreed transfer budget?
This of course is Fantasy Football. The reality for football managers is they already have players. For most new managers it poses a problem; a dressing room packed with players who need to be moved on or reinvigorated. For David Moyes it doesn’t. He has inherited a group of players who comfortably secured the league title last season. Select additions are desired – freshening up even the most impressive squad is important to sustain appetite for success – but wholesale change is quite frankly not needed. Read more…
At the dawn of a new era, as David Moyes begins his tenure at Old Trafford, this week’s episode discusses the first few weeks of the new Scotman’s tenure. High on the agenda is Wayne Rooney, following his recent shenanigans so listen in to this week’s Can They Score podcast to get our full analysis! Read more…