Posts Tagged With: David Moyes

How David Moyes Can Salvage Man United’s Season

By Mohamed Boru

I realized at some point last year that I’d been writing predominantly about football, Man United to be specific and decided to diversify and cater for the non-football audience as well. Given how shitty United have been since then, it seems a timely decision in hindsight. But things have deteriorated so drastically that writing about United seems one of the few cathartic avenues left to relieve some of the angst.

The transition to new management has left us in an unfamiliar position of strife and a plethora of reasons have been given in an attempt to explain the sudden mediocrity. Of these reasons – poor squad made worse by lack of signings, the leeching Glazers, lack of motivation among the players et al – I believe that it’s the manager’s tactics that are largely to blame for the poor performances and results. Allow me to explain.

Whereas United has always been a team that likes to move the ball wide and whip in crosses, Fergie has always mixed it up ensuring that we also create chances through the middle. It would be a stretch to claim United have been entertaining for the last three years but the football was bearable and challenged for trophies right until the end of the season. Under David Moyes, our idea of attacking play has been to get the ball out wide to Evra and Valencia for them to cross it in. Not occasionally but almost always. We’ve largely avoided attacking through the middle as though there’s some magical crater that suddenly appears outside the opponent’s box when in possession to suck in our players and the ball. This is bad enough without factoring in Evra and Valencia’s poor crossing. The result has been limp performances from United where we create very little in games.

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Down but not out: United can yet steady the ship (c/0 ndtv.com)

You may say that the lack of midfield options has forced this archaic style of play on Moyes but Fergie managed the same players to the league championship a few months back. And it’s not like anyone told Moyes to dither with signings in the summer anyway. But looking back, you notice a clear pattern where Moyes’ teams almost exclusively attack through the wings. It’s no surprise that Leighton Baines was one of Everton’s best players last season and explains Moyes’ desperation in trying to sign him in the summer.

The easiest solution to the dearth of options in midfield would be to sign players that would see us change our style of play but let’s face it, that’s not going to happen. Moyes was brought in primarily because he was consistently ‘successful’ without spending much at Everton. Since we probably won’t be signing anyone as Moyes himself admitted and the Glazer’s won’t sack him for the poor results, it’s time the manager stops sulking and makes the most of what he has got.

One way to steady the ship would be to ditch 4-4-2, not because it can’t work but because we don’t have the players for that system. Man City play with a 4-4-2 but they’ve got two dynamic central midfielders and effective wide players. At United, we not only lack good central midfielders but wingers as well. What we have are a number of good defenders, world class attackers and fullbacks who are arguably better at attacking than defending.

A good system that would maximize on this squad imbalance and possibly bring out the best in our players is 3-5-2. We have five central defenders and of these, Evans, Vidic and Smalling deserve to be starters at center back. Phil Jones can arguably be added to that category as well. Playing three center backs – with one playing as a Sweeper – would in one move guarantee playing time for our good young defenders and shore up the defence. Since Moyes must get his crosses, Evra and Rafael can play as wingbacks sans the priority to defend that fullbacks have. I’ve got no doubt that Rafael would absolutely kill this role. Valencia can deputize for him with Buttner as Evra’s understudy.

In midfield, the problems we’ve faced have been lack of dynamic midfielders to allow us to play two in the middle as we’d like to and finding a position for Shinji Kagawa. Playing three in the middle would allow us to have a double pivot of Fletcher and Carrick with Kagawa playmaking ahead of the duo. The extra player in the middle would see us win the midfield battle. Kagawa would also create chances from the middle and reduce our over-reliance on wing play. Adnan Januzaj has also indicated that he sees himself as a playmaker in the long run and depending on form, he’d share this position with Shinji.

Upfront, Rooney won’t have to drop deep as he’s been doing, with a playmaker tasked with creating operating behind him. Essentially, this would leave us with two world class out-and-out strikers whose sole aim is to score goals. Having Rooney and RVP stay high up the pitch will force opposing center backs and even fullbacks to drop deep and hand us territorial advantage. Kagawa would keep their defensive midfielder busy denying the latter a chance to assist his defenders. To add to the numerical advantage, Fletcher can join in attack safe in the knowledge that Carrick and three center backs are covering him. United would thus line up as shown below:

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How United would line up in a 3-5-2 formation (Excuse the numbers :o)

All this seems a long shot though, but if our form is to improve, something has to give. Moyes could do worse than try out this system until the end of the season when he’ll presumably buy players and build the team to his liking. Juventus are successfully implementing the 3-5-2 in Serie A where Pirlo, Vidal and Marchisio/Pogba provide technique, industry and creativity as Lichtsteiner and Kwadwo Asamoah bomb up and down the wings. There’s no reason why the aforementioned trio of Carrick, Fletcher and Kagawa can’t replicate this for us. If anything we have better strikers and potentially better wingbacks. Add the good form shown by Moyes’ teams in the second half of the season and we might just salvage a season that is slowly turning into a tragicomedy.

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David Moyes and Manchester United’s Era of Uncertainty

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by Mike Njoroge

The departing master left one final instruction. As Sir Alex Ferguson held the microphone and addressed the Manchester United community in his last game at Old Trafford, he gave them one final command. The words that echoed provided a truism to his retirement. He commanded that now, everyone had to stand by the next United manager.

Of course by then, he had already known that David Moyes would be that man. Ferguson had already rang up the former Everton manager, invited him to his house and told him what his immediate future was. Further confirmation would prove it. That, alongside Jose Mourinho to Chelsea, Carlo Ancelotti to Real Madrid and Gareth Bale’s world record transfer would compete for 2013’s version of football’s worst kept secret.

As such, the chosen apprentice now finds himself in the shadow of the irreplaceable master. For a long time, the thought of Ferguson departing Manchester United had seemed false. A whole generation has grown up knowing nothing other. His influence reached mythological proportions that seemed to create a false sense of eternity. He is most definitely gone now.

And nothing proves this more than the surreal uncertainty that his absence now provides. The Manchester United community finds itself in a state of never before experienced dubiety. Ferguson had enough triumphs behind him to mask any blips. He continued to provide triumphs that justified his supposed mistakes. Trophies were won because of him. Challenges were overcome in spite of him. Despite anything, Ferguson occasioned the wins.

Ferguson’s imperialistic manner means Moyes has a near impossible act to follow. As Mourinho once said, Ferguson’s whisper makes the whole Premier League shiver in fear. Such a statement now quantifies a past that has now ended. A new era has begun.

Robert Greene’s 41st Law of the 48 Laws of Power speaks of the avoidance of stepping into a great man’s shoes. If such is the case, then Moyes finds himself in the shoes of more than just a man, but an icon who was massively influential. But Moyes would hypothetically counter Greene’s advice with a question of his own – what was he meant to do when an opportunity of such grand stature as managing United presented itself?

Indeed, Moyes never ticked all the boxes, but he ticked enough that Ferguson himself was willing to recommend him as his successor. A recommendation that was very well a decisive stamp of approval. In turn, it provides Moyes with further quest for ambition. An ambition to grow his managerial career and make a name of it.

That means that he must now further follow Greene’s advice. If one finds himself following a great man, they must not get lost in that shadow or remain stuck in that glorious past. One must establish their own name and build up their own identity. The best way of doing this is slaying the overbearing father, disparaging his legacy and shining on your own.

If this is the case, then a horrible transfer period has done little to work towards that. Missing out on targets with the public nature not usually accustomed to has put a glaring dent into Moyes’s already difficult start. As such, it has also put a dent to the reputation and aura of a post-Ferguson Manchester United.

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All the misgivings are of course not of Moyes’s sole doing but in a football world where constantly the buck stops with the manager, they will be held as such. An indifferent start to the Premier League season also points to this further perceived ineptness.

Because a win against Swansea City, a draw with Chelsea and a loss to Liverpool point to only four points being registered. As such, the underlying question has been – ‘if it were Ferguson…’ Yet, it was Ferguson whom in those same games last season oversaw a loss to Chelsea at Old Trafford, a draw to Swansea at the Liberty Stadium and a win against Liverpool at Anfield. The same four points from the same four games mirrors itself. But even though the contexts of those seasons are entirely different, the difference will relate as much with the times as they will with who was the manager at those different times.

That shows that the overbearing absolute faith placed in Ferguson has been lost with his departure. In place, a shaking incertitude has replaced it. As such, questions are bound to always arise as the impossible attempt at comparing the two manager’s reigns inevitably continues. Ferguson’s incomparable shadow will — unless Moyes steadies the ship very quickly and delivers a trophy; and until he finally departs – forever linger above the new man’s head.

For whereas Ferguson’s presence provided guarantees and sureties – his absence opens doors of uncertainty. It is this, more than anything else that Moyes will have to battle against most.

Mike Njoroge writes FutbolTriangle

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