So its January the 6th 2014. So far its not been a happy new year for Manchester United.
Out of the FA Cup in the third round and after losing to Spurs on new years day they sit seventh in the table. They are 11 points adrift of leaders Arsenal and have five points fewer than Liverpool who currently lie in fourth spot.
It’s fair to say that the transition from Sir Alex Ferguson to Davie Moyes hasn’t been a smooth one.
But this story of woe and hardship was foreseen by Fergie himself.
He said this in his farewell speech to the Old Trafford faithful…
“I’d also like to remind you that when we had bad times here, the club stood by me, all my staff stood by me, the players stood by me. Your job now is to stand by our new manager. That is important.”
See we can’t look past the fact a lot of problems United have today were seen by Sir Alex and were in fact papered over. Last season Man United won the title because of Fergie. He used every last trick that he had to ensure that ageing, weakening and some what uninspiring squad finished the season as champions.
Over the course of his final term in charge the Govan boss would have assessed his charges and would have noticed that it needed to be overhauled once again.
Fergie no longer had the appetite to do one more squad regeneration and so decided he would hand over that task to Moyes.
Now six months on, Moyes has realised like Fergie before him that significant changes need to be made.
He wanted to be nice and kept the squad that had won the league pretty much intact. That stay of execution, along with the lack of transfers coming in has cost his side dear so far.
Look at the squad and you can see the obvious weaknesses.
The goalkeeping situation is fine. In David de Gea they have a terrific young goalkeeper who is as good as anyone on his day. Anders Lindegaard is a capable back up keeper too.
In defence, well one of Nemanja Vidic or Rio Ferdinand needs to leave the club. Maybe even both. Vidic has had a couple of bad knee injuries, while Ferdinand seems to have lost that bit of pace that once meant he was world class. With Rio’s contract up at the end of the season it would seem obvious it should be him out of the door.
Both players have been terrific servants at the club but age seems to have caught up with them. Having both at United now seems to have stalled the progress of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones. I think Moyes should stick with Johnny Evans and Phil Jones as his preferred choices at centre back for the rest of this season. See how they get on and have Smalling and Vidic on standby when needed.
I don’t see the need for any new right backs with Rafael at the club. Smalling again can cover if needed plus Antonio Valencia can play there too.
There seems to be a problem at left back. Patrice Evra isn’t everyones cup of tea and looks set for a return to Monaco in the summer. Moyes came in and went after Leighton Baines and Fabio Coentrao, which probably put Evra’s nose out of joint. Although I quite like Evra, over the past few seasons more and more mistakes have crept into his game. I don’t think Alexander Buttner or Fabio have the qualities to become a starter for a ‘Top 4′ Premier League side.
On the wings, Valencia is fine on the right if he can stay clear of injuries. Definitely not as successful or as dynamic as Cristiano Ronaldo (not a lot are in fairness) but no need to tinker with that spot yet with so many other positions needing to be filled first.
Nani hasn’t fulfilled his potential at Old Trafford. Too many tricks and injuries, not enough goals and assists. To be honest though he needs a run of games, he won’t be great if he gets dropped after one or two duff games.
Ashley Young is another that hasn’t really worked out for Man United. He isn’t reliable enough and like Nani, is prone to injuries. The diving storms that he has been involved in have now blighted his United career. Better off seeking his fortunes elsewhere.
I have no idea what the problem is with Wilfred Zaha. Either he has pissed off Moyes or he has trained and been found out as being not very good. Seems odd that this would be Sir Alex’s parting gift and he turns out to be the next Bebe. Adnan Januzaj on the other hand seems to be flavour of the month. The talented wide man still needs to be handled with care and not relied upon too much.
In midfield Tom Cleverly is useful but probably not a player that should be expecting to start week in, week out. A very decent squad player but thats about it.
Darren Fletcher can’t be judged till next season. He will use this campaign to settle back into footballing life and get fitter with each minute he plays. Hopefully by the final few games he can start to dominate midfield battles again with Michael Carrick.
Talking of Carrick, United look lost without him. Not enough has been done to get him a partner that can compliment him like Paul Scholes did.
Marouane Fellaini looks more and more like a panic buy. In fairness the big Belgian needs more time to settle in at the club. The problem is, that at Everton Fellaini was at his best in behind the striker, at United Wayne Rooney has that role. So why Fellaini was bought by Moyes is anyones guess.
Anderson should have left United years back. No matter what he’s like in the dressing room he is a passenger on the pitch.
Like Fellaini, Shinji Kagawa is a number ten and won’t get a proper look in whilst Rooney remains a red. A very gifted player but if you aren’t going to use him then you might as well get rid and spend the cash improving areas of the team that need it.
Ryan Giggs is well Ryan Giggs. No longer the destructive force he once was but a player who can help guide the younger ones. Should seriously think about calling it a day soon!
Up front they don’t seem too bad. Rooney is once again carrying the team and looks unplayable at times. Danny Welbeck has had a decent return of goals which is good for your number three frontman.
Javier Hernandez needs to decide for himself if he can handle being a squad player or should he move to further his own career.
Robin Van Persie is extremely gifted and a top-class finisher. But Moyes has to wonder if the Dutchman really wants to be there and are these wee niggles more to do with the Dutchman wanting away.
So when you look at the job Moyes has to do: Get rid of a host of players like Fabio, Buttner, Evra, Ferdinand, Anderson, Young and possibly Kagawa. Plus those out on loan who aren’t good enough like Federico Macheda and Bebe. Then bring in adequate replacements and get them to settle in. The process may not see any great success until 2015/16.
Will Moyes get that time?
For me you can’t blame Moyes without blaming Ferguson too. He didn’t really handover the best of squads, yes I know they won the league. That is why Fergie issued a plea for time and support from the fans even before Moyes had started.
The main problem for Moyes is that he didn’t start with that ruthless streak that was needed from the beginning. With every bad result and dire display from a squad void of ambition and creativity, Moyes looks increasingly weaker to those teams that once feared going to Old Trafford.
He bemoans the lack of stars available in January but he needed those signings in the summer and couldn’t get them. Now teams see Man United as being desperate and the Glazers will look on and wonder just how much money they can afford to give their new man.
Sir Alex asked for everyone to give Moyes time, little did we know that Moyes may have squandered the best chance he had within one transfer window.