The naysayers are getting more and more confident by the day. The vultures at Stamford Bridge, the Emirates, Etihad and Anfield are already circling. There has been a sea change at Manchester United Football Club, and Chelsea, Manchester City and the rest of United’s rivals are rubbing their hands in glee at the chance of putting United’s nose out of joint after two decades spent in the shadow of the current Premier League Champions.
With Sir Alex Ferguson having ridden off into the sunset, his successor, David Moyes has already faced a baptism of fire. A debacle in the transfer window was compounded by an incredibly tough start to the league season.
If the 4-1 thrashing at the Etihad was presumed to be the nadir of United’s start, it got worse with a loss to West Brom at Old Trafford. What was disconcerting was the manner of the defeat.
Teams visiting Old Trafford in recent years have feared the Red Devils. Some were defeated even before setting foot on the pitch. This was different. West Brom played with great abandon and fully deserved their victory. What was even more jarring was to see the lack of energy, even after the irrepressible Wayne Rooney had equalised for United.
Then came an inept first half display against the Premier League’s bottom side, Sunderland. The defence was at sixes and sevens and the attack looked alarmingly static and out of ideas. United were lucky to get to half time just 1-0 down at the Stadium of Light. Second half, United finally started to click a little. About half an hour later, they had the lead. An 18-year old kid had taken the game by the scruff of the neck with two well-taken goals and David Moyes had his own ‘Macheda moment’. The relief was palpable.
Adnan Januzaj’s precocious display at the Stadium of Light should give some pointers to the club about the path they should be treading in the post-Ferguson era. People are raving about Adnan, but there are a whole bunch of youngsters at the club waiting to announce themselves. Future stars such as Nick Powell and Jesse Lingard are both acquitting themselves well on loan.
Manchester United’s era of dominance was punctuated greatly by academy graduates forming the cornerstone of the great United sides in the mid to late '90s. The number of world-class youngsters reduced a bit in the 2000s so the club took a new approach. They signed the likes of Rooney and Ronaldo at young ages and developed them into world-class players.
David Moyes needs to blaze the youth trail again if he wants to continue Manchester United’s dominance. He needs to place faith in the club’s academy, and if it isn’t producing enough players, he needs to gamble on the best young talent in the world rather than try to sign superstar players.
The club’s talk about making marquee signings and making a statement seemed very un-United like. Ed Woodward seemed to be the source of the grand proclamations of superstar signings and strangely enough Moyes also encouraged the prospect. The club ended with egg on its face after several embarrassing public failures in the transfer window.
Red Devils fans around the world hope that David Moyes continues from where Sir Alex left off. But what is more important is the hope that club continues to believe in its ethos and principles. A commitment to attacking football, patience, loyalty and most importantly faith in youth. Forget the marquee signings.