Football

Manchester United are breaking tradition with terrible wing-play

The old school (©GettyImages)
The old school (©GettyImages).

Deeply buried in the mantra of Manchester United is the tradition to attack teams utilising width and relying on the quality of the men on the flanks to create and score goals.

Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and George Best are men whose names on the team-sheet were enough to induce fear into an opponent before the ball even touches the grass. These are stellar characters were loaded with quality and suitable to build a team around with the knowledge they could deliver the goods.

In contrast, Antonio Valencia, Luis Nani and Ashley Young underwhelm to say the least. Comparable with Manchester United teams of the past, the current crop of wingers are not so nearly as influential.

Valencia puts in a solid shift, but 20 league appearances returning two goals and two assists is poor for a player who was named Player of the Year in 2011-12. His indecision and hesitance have blunted his threat. 

With regards to Nani, it now appears to be made out of glass. But, even when fit he epitomises the inconsistent nature of the most bog-standard winger. Bags and bags of talent but he can frustrate players and fans with unparalleled ease. Perhaps the constant comparisons to Ronaldo have hindered his progress. Nevertheless, it's difficult to see just how he managed to get a new five-year contract.

Ashley Young on the other hand is too easy to defend against. You can put your house on him cutting back on that left-hand side and delivering a ball to the back post. Defenders know what's coming. In fairness, his form has flirted with improvement recently but it's hard to be convinced by a player who many believe hasn't been good enough for Manchester United since the day he signed for the club. That's not to mention his diving exploits, something that has done little to endear him to the Manchester United faithful. 

Other options include Adnan Januzaj, a bright silver lining in the ever-present Manchester overcast, but surely one for the future who cannot be relied on entirely. Ryan Giggs just doesn't have the legs to operate out wide anymore. Juan Mata's arrival is the best wing option for Manchester United, but it's not his most effective position. 

The current ensemble leaves a lot to be desired. The lack of quality leaves the Red Devils with two options: bring a winger of high-quality in over the summer or break the traditional approach of Manchester United and change the formation.

A narrower system would allow United to get the best out of it's major attacking talents, the forgotten Shinji Kagawa so often ostracised out wide and a more central Mata and Januzaj may offer something a bit more appetising than the current microwaved ready-meal being forced down our gullets week after week. It's dull, unimaginative and devoid of any serious punch.

While temporarily ignoring the glaring central midfield presence that he is lacking, David Moyes could try and inject some fresh impetus into the side going forward. A more fluid approach may be the answer.

Whatever Moyes needs to change the fortunes of his team, he better discover it fast because the performances have not been up to the standard of one of the biggest football clubs in the world. You can only work with what you have got and a circular peg doesn't fit in a square hole. 

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Topics:
Luis Nani
Antonio Valencia
Cristiano Ronaldo
Ryan Giggs
Ronaldo
David Beckham
Manchester United
Shinji Kagawa
Valencia
Ashley Young
Nani
Football

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