Great managers make the difference, whether it’s during the 90 minutes or over the course of a season. They add that extra 10 per cent when it’s clearly lacking on the pitch.
No one could seriously argue that Manchester United’s squad last season was great, because it clearly wasn’t. Alex Ferguson won the Premier League title in his final year in management, but the team were not up to the high standards set by those in Europe – and that’s completely dismissing Nani’s sending off against Real Madrid. If it wasn’t to be the Spaniards, then one of the German teams would have ended United’s European campaign.
So it was for good reason that David Moyes dove into the transfer market in search of a player who would compensate, who would add that extra 10 per cent that is evidently not present in much of the current United midfield. Cesc Fabregas was more than just a star name, but one who would have legitimised the team’s place in the race for the title. The football community may joke that no great player will want to play for David Moyes, but that humorous shot at the former Everton manager is based on a truth: Moyes is inexperienced at this level and may not have the tools to compensate.
[cat_link cat=”manchester-united” type=”list”]
And who can really argue that Moyes isn’t experiencing a tough time? There was a naivety about his team selection against Manchester City. Instead of crowding the midfield – incidentally the Robin van Persie/Wayne Rooney/Shinji Kagawa problem solved itself – Moyes opted for two strikers, with little to no supply line to either of them.
This Manchester United group isn’t great, but it is capable of far, far better than what we’ve seen. Ferguson was not in the business of buying big, star names in these final few seasons, bar van Persie. There was a leaning towards developing younger talents and offering chances to those he deemed good enough for the step up. If some of the players weren’t technically up to standard, the fear he generated among his team was more than enough to force them to raise their game in another manner. But there isn’t that fear factor now. We don’t know how David Moyes handles his team behind the scenes, but he doesn’t have the reputation of his predecessor.
Both Antonio Valencia and Marouane Fellaini offered weak performances throughout the game at the Etihad, both culpable for a City goal each. You have to ask whether such half-hearted defensive work would have been on display if Ferguson were in the dugout.
And much of the same can be said for the entire defence. Again, this isn’t a bad squad, and it shouldn’t be forgotten that a largely unchanged team still went on to capture the league title last season. Sure, other contenders were the architects of their own downfall, but United could have gone down a similar path and didn’t. A lot is owed to Ferguson, but the team were still efficient if not always attractive.
United’s form, and the one that is a far more accurate representation on them this season, is echoing the shambles of a summer the club had. If there was £28 million to spend on a player who clearly wasn’t deemed a high priority, why wasn’t there means or action taken to address the weakness in the squad? Wide play, creativity; do United even need Fellaini?
United’s current form and displays speak of the manager at this time. Why, when the game looked up and a gamble needed, didn’t Moyes throw on Kagawa? It’s a question that deserves greater discussion and it’s certainly one that was asked by many on Sunday. Why is this team looking so lifeless and uninspired, even overwhelmed? A win against Bayer Leverkusen in midweek should have been the perfect precursor to the derby, so what went wrong? The squad isn’t great, but this one is on Moyes.
Do the problems at United lie with the squad or the manager?
Join the debate below