Sometimes in football you have to hold your hand up and say, yeah, they’re better than us.
– Sir Alex Ferguson
While that would seldom have been the mantra under the unflappable SAF, it seems to have become the new heartbeat at Manchester United under David Moyes.
The transition was always going to be a testing time, especially with the recent record as impressive as it is at Old Trafford.
Given the huge foray into the transfer market by fellow rivals Manchester City and Chelsea, not many Manchester United supporters would’ve honestly anticipated an easy ride in their quest of retaining the Premier League title. In fact, most would’ve settled for a Champions League berth under their new manager.
The pre-season gave some early warning signs, with the Red Devils failing to impress against teams of a considerably lower pedigree.
However, all that would soon be forgotten as graver problems lay around the corner. The new tactics employed by Moyes were bound to take time to blend into the way that the team played. Only the naive would be ready to believe that it would be smooth sailing from the word go.
Come the beginning of the season, all the doubts that seemed to have surfaced during the pre-season were put to rest with a comprehensive showing against Swansea as well as a hard-fought draw against Chelsea.
However, the following month helped give a better picture of things to come, with the Men in Red only managing a solitary win out of the four fixtures played. It wasn’t the fact that they lost which would’ve disappointed the faithful, but more an absolute lack of direction and conviction to their gameplay.
The team under Ferguson was all-conquering due to one simple reason; everyone knew what they had to do. Whether it would mean no nonsense defending and hoofing the ball clear to grind out a win, or attacking with full menace when the scoreline was not in their favour. In either case, you could see the determination in the eyes of everyone who wore the coveted jersey.
The fear factor, or “Reign of Terror” under Ferguson has been well documented in the past, and it got the best out of his players. Although it’s not every manager’s way to throw tea pots around, David Moyes has recently painted a picture of being like a timid schoolboy in a class full of jocks. Can’t imagine that instilling a lot of confidence amongst the beleagured bunch of overpaid professionals.
What has really compunded Moyes’ problems is the ridiculously poor form of Maraoune Fellaini, as well as a merry return to the injury table for Robin van Persie. On top of this, when players like Phil Jones and Raphael start getting singled out as the team’s best performers, any top side has the right to feel very disturbed.
The current scenario sees the red side of Manchester sitting closer to the relegation zone than the top of the table, a place where many feel that they belong. And there really aren’t enough signs to suggest that things are going to change anytime soon.
Moyes was understandably dejected following the latest loss at the hands of Newcastle United, and said that “a lack of creativity” was one of the major reasons for dropping more points at home.
Even a layman who has no coaching experience knows that Manchester United are extremely handicapped when it comes to possessing players who can make a difference, the guys who can split defenses consistently in the final third.
Rooney was largely tipped as a player who could do that, which explained his move from the focal point of attack to an advanced midfield role under Ferguson. But, with the striker adamant on playing as the focal point of attack, and a serious lack of competition in that department following the injury of Robin van Persie, Moyes faces a huge conundrum.
Kagawa provides the only naturally creative central midfielder at the disposal of the manager, and the fact that he is being made to play out wide is nothing short of bizarre, especially due to the fact that the team already has an abundance of options out wide.
While United do tend to pick up steam around this time of the year, they are already in far too much trouble to get to any position of respectability. Or paradoxically, maybe a top half finish would be considered a satisfactory result considering all the events that have prevailed this year.
This brings me to the question as I started this piece- is mediocrity the new face of Manchester United?