Football

Manchester United manager Moyes must unleash defensive shackles

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After yet another lacklustre display during a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Olympiakos in the first-leg last-16 tie of the Champions League, Manchester United's season looks to have taken another turn for the worse, with their European hopes hanging by a thread.

No one could have predicted the drastic fall from grace that United have had; most of the fans would have been willing to accept a 4th placed finish as the worst it could get.

Moyes' side comfortably beat Wigan 2-0 in the Community Shield to give Moyes his first trophy as a manager. It wasn't much of a task to beat recently relegated Wigan Athletic though, and the new manager himself admitted that victory was down to his predecessor.

"I class that as another piece of silverware for Sir Alex. It was his team that won the league." "So it's his team. The ones going forward will be down to me."

So with that end comment, he cannot have any complaints with the criticism being handed his way if it is indeed down to him.

What is puzzling is that team that Ferguson left, and Moyes has now is more or less the same, bar the recent acquisitions of Maroune Fellaini and record signing Juan Mata. Are the current team simply ageing, or is there a style change?

The whole focus of the team against Olympiakos felt extremely negative, with United looking a shadow of the side they once were. Sure, to be successful in a European away tie you need to be compact, keep the crowd quiet, and take the sting out of the game.

But the way they went about this was all wrong. The majority of passes were along the back 4, with Carrick and Cleverely offering very little support, which amplified the Greek sides highly aggressive pressing.

It also seems that the choice of wingers in this game of Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia (especially the latter) seemed a more defensive option. Valencia offers much more defensively than Adnan Januzaj who was strangely left out of the squad, despite their next game not coming until the 8th March, and by then he would have had 14 days rest anyway due to him not having international commitments.

With Januzaj offering much more penetration and unpredictability, Olympiakos may not have been so comfortable, and United wouldn't have been stuck in their own half for the majority of the game. 

An alarming statistic from the game was that Robin van Persie made one pass to Wayne Rooney all game - from the kickoff.  Van Persie only had 24 touches in the game also. He was a mere spectator in the game because of United's structured and predictable midfield, Carrick and Cleverely were sitting far too deep inviting pressure onto them, so couldn't gain any sort of control on the ball to supply the frontman.

We have seen similarly defensive displays also at Old Trafford in the league this season, with Moyes' side looking to be a counter attacking side whilst soaking up pressure from opposing teams.

The flaw with this tactic is United's defence is simply not good enough anymore to keep out the attacking sides, as proven with a shocking home record this season, with 4 defeats and 3 draws out of their 11 games at the "The Theatre of Dreams" so far this season. Teams used to come to Old Trafford and fear playing the reds on their turf, with players shrinking against the inevitable United pressure.

In the present day, teams seem to do exactly the opposite and believe they can beat Manchester United at Old Trafford. West Brom, Tottenham, Everton and Newcastle have all come away victorious, leaving the Old Trafford faithful’s patience growing thin.

Nemanja Vidic is leaving Manchester in the summer and Rio Ferdinand is ageing and looks like he will be following suit. Patrice Evra is also one that looks to be on the move, and has been found wanting defensively multiple times this season. 

The two transfer windows since Moyes took over have seen his club linked with several replacements for the Frenchman, which obviously isn't good for morale, which could be the reason for his poor performances this campaign.

So while there has to be changes in the summer in this transitional time, it is plain to see that tactics and the mindset that Moyes has established in his reign as the reds' boss hasn't been a positive one. 

He was a hugely successful coach with Everton, guiding them to a UEFA Champions League spot and multiple top half finishes. However in doing so, never once achieved victory at a "top 4" ground, arguably he did so by setting up defensively and playing for the draw.

This cannot be done at United as they are a winning team who should set off to beat the opponent, whoever it is from the start. Moyes thinks too much about who he is playing against, rather than the attacking talent he has at his own disposal.

David Moyes has to change the mentality of this United side. Under Sir Alex they were associated with a never-say-die attitude, aggression, desire, passion to win a game. Under Moyes they have lost all these attributes, never coming from behind to win a game all season, and under Olympiakos they never looked like doing so.

Times are changing for Manchester United, but should Moyes have the time to rebuild the team as he sees fit in the next transfer window? 

If not, who else should replace him?

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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