After suffering back-to-back home defeats in the Premier League for the first time since 2002, David Moyes’ Manchester United side find themselves in a very unfamiliar position.
They sit ninth in the table, five defeats before Christmas, three of which have come at Old Trafford, and a measly goal difference of plus three. Even for a team who are notorious for starting slowly, this has been a very poor season so far.
The team look bereft of confidence and stories coming out of the media about players being unhappy with their new manager are not going to help matter at all.
The Old Trafford faithful booed Moyes and his team off the pitch on Saturday afternoon, but I don’t think Moyes is totally to blame. His predecessor must take his fair share of the flack too.
For the final three years of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign at Old Trafford, it was clear United had some pretty obvious problems with their squad. Cristiano Ronaldo had left, Paul Scholes had retired, Darren Fletcher was struggling with illness and players like Nani, Tom Cleverley and Anderson were clearly not good enough for the first team.
Yet in that season, and the others that passed afterwards, he did nothing. Yes, he brought Paul Scholes back out of retirement, but that was a bit like putting a plaster over a broken leg, it was a move that reeked of desperation.
Between then and last summer, he has had a number of transfer windows where he could have done some serious business, but still he sat back and watched, placing more and more of a burden on Michael Carrick's shoulders, which to his credit, he has coped with extremely well.
All this being said, United somehow managed to win the title in two of the last three years - it could even have been three out of three, if United hadn’t let an eight point lead slip, which lead to City winning the title.
But they achieved this mainly due to the incompetence of their title rivals. Last season they were getting worse, and only won the league due to the incredible impact of Robin van Persie.
Now this summer he stepped down, leaving behind the same problems he could easily have dealt with, for Moyes to handle.
A period of transition was inevitable, Moyes would have to get used to the players and the players would need to get used to him and his new staff.
He would also need time to decide on players in the current squad and identify targets that could make the team better.
Yet, he didn’t start the job until the first of July, then a few days later they were jetting off to Asia, leaving him very little time to do everything a new manager needs to do to really settle into a new club.
When he returned to England the season was about to start, the press was filled with Chelsea’s interest in Wayne Rooney and United still hadn’t signed anyone in the transfer window.
So, is it any wonder, with so many things to distract him, that United have started so poorly? For me, Ferguson is the one to blame.
However, the performances over the last few days really haven’t helped Moyes’ case.
In the first half against Everton, United were on top. They looked balanced, fluent and could easily have taken the lead.
Then at half time, Moyes switched from 4-2-3-1 to a flat 4-4-2. This formation has no place in modern football, none of the top teams use it anymore and it’s easy to see why.
There was no link between the midfield and attack, forcing the defenders to hit long, hopeful balls upfront. The central midfielder’s did nothing to protect the defence and the build up play became very easy to predict.
Everton grew into the game and looked like the only team capable of winning, which they eventually did.
So after this second half tactical blunder, surely against Newcastle, Moyes would go back to the 4-2-3-1 which United had been playing well with recently. That was not the case, he started with the 4-4-2 which had been so predictable against Everton, and Newcastle took advantage.
There was no real point in the game where United were in control, and to be honest, they never looked like winning. Van Persie was clearly not fit and the wide players never got into the game.
Although they have both ended in defeats, these two games have certainly highlighted the weaknesses United have in their squad.
Nani and Anderson are useless, Cleverley hasn’t got the quality to cope without Carrick, and Phil Jones is clearly just an out-and-out defender.
If you compare those midfielders to the Everton and Newcastle central trios that came to Old Trafford, United are miles behind.
I have no doubts that United will spend a considerable amount of money in January, but by then it may be a little too late to rescue the season.
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