David Moyes said after the latest unpredictable game at Old Trafford that it was ‘as bad as it gets’ – just a few days after saying he ‘didn’t know what he had to do to win’, understandably, even those who were certain he was the right man for the job at Manchester United are beginning to have their doubts.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ll be backing David to see this through until the end of the season at least, and there are so many contributing factors that there is nothing in the way of a simple solution. I’m happy to say I was one of those backing David to get the job when Sir Alex retired. In fact, I was one of those who said David should be the successor even before it was announced that Fergie was retiring.
He’s eight months into the role and there are worrying signs all over the place – no-one said transition would be easy, and people have to expect that United might have a couple of years where they aren’t contending, but what has gotten supporters most upset is that they not only aren’t contending, they seem to be throwing the towel in – but worst of all, they are not playing with a style that is identifiable with the ‘United way’.
There are a number of factors that are beyond David’s control. The state of the squad he inherited. The fact he wasn’t exactly helped in the first transfer window.
But there are a growing number of things that David is responsible for and that he alone can change; saying he ‘doesn’t know what they have to do to win’ is alarming. He was always going to take some time to get to know the squad but he should have done by now – he is experienced enough to not only know the value of a consistent and settled defence, but to know the problems it causes when you don’t have one. David is making an average of at least three changes every game and this is having a destabilising effect on an already demoralised squad.
The number of crosses put in against Fulham said to a lot of supporters that his plan ‘A’ isn’t good enough. When you look at how the game shaped out, and Fulham’s open attitude with defending in the game, then you might even argue that it was more through fortune that it finally brought the breakthrough. That game should have been dead and buried but they didn’t know what to do to close the game out and once again a visiting team got a late goal and took a deserved result away from Old Trafford. How many times?
Juan Mata was used as a right winger and Ashley Young as a left winger. This kind of tactic is one that I enjoy – as a plan B. It should only be a plan A to use these inverted wingers if they are unstoppable, but this isn’t Messi and Ronaldo we’re talking about. Use them on their natural sides, if that isn’t working, try the switch. £37.1m on Juan Mata and he’s already not being allowed to demonstrate his value.
I know some United supporters were upset with me when I said this was a mediocre team a few weeks ago but the results are not lying – five defeats in nine games since the New Year, only two wins from six in the league. Defending the league title is a distant memory, qualification for the Champions League is pretty much a pipe dream now and there are supporters wondering if, with the arduous qualifying campaign that’s involved in the Europa League, whether it would be better off if they didn’t get into Europe next season.
For some to really wonder if it would be good for Manchester United – the biggest club in the world – to not be in Europe, no matter what? Now that really would be as bad as it gets.