It’s common knowledge this season; Manchester United are underperforming. Lying 7th in the league table, some 11 points adrift of fourth placed Liverpool, the likeliness of United qualifying for the Champions League, is the same as a child asking his parent if he can open his Christmas present on Christmas eve, chances are it isn’t going to happen. Yet there is still a glimmer of hope, this is Manchester United after all, the club that have defied the odds on a number of occasions over the years.
The recent draw with Fulham was a heartbreaker for all involved with the Red Devils. In a seemingly mis-matched game United struggled to overcome a resilient Fulham side, which had nigh on 11 men behind the ball for the entirety of the match. It was brick wall that even Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney struggled to break down. Perhaps the tactics were wrong, maybe the team aren’t good enough, or it is just real bad luck. Any of the three could attribute to this. Let’s rewind to November, and United’s make or break home game against the league leaders Arsenal. On the day a 1-0 victory, courtesy of ex-Gunner Robin Van Persie, kept United within five points of the North London club, and with a real chance of clawing back the point difference, yet a week later the opportunity they had made for themselves was very quickly wasted. In a daunting away game to Cardiff, United led up until the 90th minute where, in injury time the Bluebirds were able to grab an equaliser and the game finished 2-2. Now this may well have been that season defining moment for United. For me they have never truly recovered from that moment; yes they had already had poor results before but I honestly feel this took the wind out of their sales.
Since that day in Wales, United’s form has been patchy, with only two wins in 2014 that also include defeats in the FA Cup and Carling Cup. Juan Mata was the only highlight of January, as injuries to strikers RVP and Rooney have really taken their tool on this struggling side. The need for a squad overhaul is obvious; the 07/08 Champions League winners, to an extent, still make up the backbone of this side; Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Carrick, Nani, Anderson, Giggs, Rooney and Welbeck (he only made the trip to Moscow), were all a part of the side that beat Chelsea; that was six years ago. The reason for stagnation can be attributed to age amongst other issues; Ferdinand and Vidic are now the wrong side of 30, Giggs is now 40 and cannot be expected to continue much longer whilst Nani has never been Mr Consistent and Anderson has had many problems. Only Carrick, Rooney and Evra have been a consistent feature throughout the last two seasons. The issue then is that the players that have begun to age have not been adequately replaced.
For fans that thought Moyes would come in and be an instant success, well then the expectations placed exceed that of sense. Whilst his style is somewhat different to that of Sir Alex, Moyes’ continued use of wingers, that is apparently part of the United tradition (ex-Red Gary Neville has mentioned this), circa, Beckham, Giggs, Ronaldo, Kanchelskis, even Lee Sharpe, all famous during the Fergie era, has been met with utter disgust and disappointment. Fair play to the majority who have continued their support to David Moyes, don’t expect United to be rash and dispose of him quite so quickly.
I’m sure there are plenty of questions as too why certain players aren’t playing more regularly, (for the life of me, I still don’t understand Kagawa’s omissions, fair he hasn’t performed every time when given the chance but he is a confidence player and needs regular games. I’m hoping we don’t see another Veron, a truly gifted player who failed to make the grade at OT), or a change in actually shape of the side, it seems like there is no risk being taken. Why not push Rooney alongside RVP or even have Kagawa, Rooney, Mata combo in behind RVP? It would seem Moyes prefers harder working players in attack or defence, something Kagawa and Mata are not, and one of the reasons the latter left Chelsea.
With 12 games left to go United can gain a maximum of 36 points, this would make their final total 78 points, a total that you would think, would guarantee Champions League qualification. With their “harder” games at Old Trafford, City and Liverpool to be exact and a trip to Moyes’ old stomping ground Goodison Park, it is understandable that United fans should at the very least expect a further 27 points, and that is catering for defeats in those more difficult games.
Let’s not forget that they are still very much in the Champions League, and many would expect them to see of the challenge of Greek Champions Olympiakos.
The season for Manchester United is not over yet……. Not by a long way.