There is no one root cause for the problems Manchester United are facing this season. Replacing Sir Alex Ferguson brought with it its own expectations, and whatever David Moyes can bring to the table, it is always going to be well short of what was offered by his predecessor.
But Ferguson made a team with obvious flaws into champions. It’s not just a minority that hold the opinion that this United squad is the weakest in most people’s memory, it’s a view that’s been repeated since the start of last season. And yet Ferguson, through the power he held, and probably still holds, was able to transmit a winning mentality into even those who were clearly below the lofty standards of Manchester United.
Moyes, currently, is being exposed for his lack of experience at this level, and moreover his lack of flexibility when it comes to tactics. He’s evidently brought with him the grit and thunder approach that saw his Everton sides punch above their weight, but what he’s arguably failing to grasp is that setups like that are unfamiliar to the group he’s inherited at United.
It’s interesting that Moyes spent the best part of the past five years training Marouane Fellaini to be a forward or No.10 at Everton, while now expecting him to perform effectively and immediately in a different role further back in midfield. It speaks, on a smaller scale, of the problems throughout the whole United team.
And the problem is that they’ve lacked drive to get the job done. You wouldn’t normally associate managers like Moyes with those like Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp, who do advocate something of an attractive style of playing. It doesn’t matter, though, as Moyes does have players in his squad in Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa who can find that balance between good football and effective football. The issue is, they just haven’t looked capable.
Most are still struggling to figure out the Kagawa problem and why he remains a peripheral figure under Moyes. The manager has rightly been questioned for his grasp of the big time in English football, and yet he leaves an ace and something of a get-out clause on the bench, failing, for one reason or another, to utilise Kagawa’s creativity in his setup.
It’s nothing new. At Everton, the creative players were always pushed to the side, literally, in favour of someone like Fellaini. Prior to the Belgian, it was Tim Cahill who took up the most advanced position in midfield. It’s a sacrifice of incisive football for work rate and at times power. Javier Hernandez, too, an undeniable goal scorer, has been forced to watch from the sidelines while Danny Welbeck, a far inferior scorer, has eaten up the minutes. Again, one offers work rate but through the sacrifice of class.
Yes, this is a weak United squad in some aspects, but it’s far from a cause for great panic. The attack is well suited and well covered for the demands of domestic and European football, so too is the defence. But it’s clearly the midfield which has caused Moyes problems where Ferguson had been able to find other outlets. There doesn’t seem to be any room for compromise from the current United manager, at least not for the moment – and that should fall on him. Why is there a reluctance to work to the squad’s strengths? Perhaps that underdog mentality hasn’t quite left him from his Everton days.
United can go into the next transfer window with the aim of brining in Ander Herrera or a player of similar qualities, but will it make a difference? Will Moyes force tweaks in his system to properly accommodate a creative midfield player?
This squad isn’t completely lacking in quality, they’re still the holders of the Premier League title and they are capable. But for the issues that can be fixed now, the buck does stop with Moyes, and it’s largely due to his own lack of tactical flexibility.
What is the cause for the problems United are facing?
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