David Moyes’ and Manchester United’s woes continued this weekend after more
points were dropped at home to Southampton and, surely now, the pressure gasket
is well and truly flaring.
United, though playing markedly better than they did against West Brom, were just not good enough to beat a fearless, well organised and enterprising Southampton side. They were flat, lethargic and defensively suspect for large portions of the match.
Should Manchester United go on to win the Premier League this season, they will have to do something that no team has done in 63 years – win the title in a top-flight season after losing three of their first six matches and here are some reasons why that statistic will hold true at the end of the current campaign.
1. Poor summer - transfer market-wise
United’s failings in the transfer market have already been well documented and this is not another dour serving of the same but rather, a contextualisation of the effect it has had in contrast to other rival clubs.
Against Southampton, as it has been all season, United again looked overrun in midfield and suspect at the back. The pairing of Carrick and Fellaini were completely dominated by Schneiderlin, the brilliant Wanyama and Lallana, who kept drifting inwards into pockets of space in United’s half. Wanyama was a complete contrast to his opposite number Fellaini. He hustled and bustled, broke down United’s forward play, won the ball back and even started attacks of his own. Simply put, he was exactly what United has been sorely lacking since
Roy Keane and as things are, not much has changed.
The defence looked shaky and unsure, perhaps due to the fact that Rafael, Jones, Evans and Evra have never really played together but, conversely, that should not be a considerable excuse since these are all players who have played well over 50 times for the club in the last two and a half years. More should be expected and delivered. United’s backline needs leadership, and in Nemanja Vidic, they have a born and proven leader but his fitness problems persist. Vice captain Evra should be able to fill that vacuum when called upon but he spends
too much time in the opponent’s half and his own defensive failings cannot be overstated.
United needed almost a complete overhaul in midfield and defence. This summer was the opportunity to do that.
2. David Moyes’ questionable substitutions and reluctance to play Kagawa and Hernandez
When Chelsea were drawing away at Norwich with only five minutes of regular time to play, Jose Mourinho made bold substitutions, throwing on Eden Hazard and Willian. It seemed like a gamble, bringing two attack-minded players may expose the team to counter-attacks, but it was a gamble worth taking for any manager who really wants to win. Jose Mourinho is one of such managers. Both Hazard and Willian scored to guarantee ‘The Special One’ all three points and vindicate his decision. He did it again against Cardiff, bringing on first
Oscar and Torres and playing with three at the back. Chelsea went on to score three times and win comprehensively. Exit Jose, enter Moyes.
With United barely leading by a solitary goal, Moyes opted to take off Nani who had created two opportunities for Van Persie and Rooney, for Giggs and if that was not baffling enough, he withdrew Rooney for Smalling with four minutes to go, effectively handing the attacking
initiative to Southampton. Contrastingly, his opposite number made positive changes, taking off defensive-minded Wanyama for Ward-Prowse, who swung in the corner that the combination of Lovren and Lallana bundled in.
David Moyes could have introduced Kagawa who is in desperate need of game time or Javier Hernandez instead of Welbeck who spurned a glorious opportunity to seal the game. Ferguson must have been cringing in his seat when he saw the substitutions board and I am dead sure he did not approve of either one.
3. Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham have better squads
Sir Alex Ferguson proved over and over again that you can win titles without having comparatively the strongest squad on paper. However, that was Ferguson, there is a reason he has a ‘Sir’ to his name. Basically everyone else strengthened well over the summer, particularly Tottenham and Manchester City (well, they always do). Chelsea went out and brought three players, Tottenham almost a gazillion others to replace Bale, Arsenal brought in one world class player and another prodigal son who has a point to prove to supplement their already brilliant midfield and even Liverpool recruited defensively and attacking wise.
United, although having a title-winning squad, only brought in a player who was fourth in their list of targets. Granted they did attempt to address their midfield shortcomings but failed miserably and embarrassingly. Even when you look at their main rivals this season without including recruitments, one gets a feeling that City and Chelsea had better squads. Without Sir Alex at the helm, you find yourself dragging in Arsenal to that list. United have way too
many players who are average and can be referred to as ‘deadwood’. The likes of Anderson, Young, Buttner, (Giggs is past his best), Valencia and Nani have been squad players for a while and Lindergaard has proven to be an unreliable deputy for De Gea. Ferdinand is creaking and Vidic just cannot stay fit enough. When you take out all those players, the squad is dreadfully threadbare.
It will be a near miracle for United to win the title this season. There is just too much going wrong for them at the moment. David Moyes is still finding his feet and by the time he is settled, United may be too far in the log to recover. The players are not good enough and the competition is fiercer now than it has ever been. A top four finish may have to be acceptable even to the most optimistic of United fans.
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