Red decline

It’s almost thirty years since I first saw Manchester United play and so began a lifetime of following the men in red. For most of this time I have been extremely fortunate that we have enjoyed fantastic success under the expert tutelage of Sir Alex Ferguson. And this year we find ourselves for the first time since Ron Atkinson contemplating a life at Old Trafford without the red-nosed Scotsman at our helm.

The loss of Sir Alex after 27 years was always going to be a blow but a blow that was inevitable failing the physicists at CERN unlocking the secrets behind Fergie Time. How do you plan to replace the irreplaceable, potentially the greatest manager to grace club football? The answer, most would say, is with time, patience and resources.

In the appointment of Moyes, United identified a long-term prospect, an uncut diamond that had not had the opportunity to shine at Everton. United also had to acknowledge that the first task facing the incoming United manager is renewing a tired and aged squad that in reality – despite winning the Premier League last year – was on the wane. A number of key players were due to retire or leave and with the (second) retirement of Scholes United’s inability to sign a decent, creative midfielder since 2009 was showing. This was the dying embers of Fergie’s final title-winning squad and a substantial rebuilding exercise was required.

The appointment of Moyes last summer showed a shared vision and a long-term plan. A six year contract to show the clubs intentions to rebuild and recognition that this was not going to be an overnight transition. I wasn’t a massive fan of Moyes but had a great deal of respect for his abilities to get the most out of a limited squad and with limited resources.

His selection wasn’t exciting but it showed vision and audacity rather than a knee-jerk appointment expecting instant results. However early signs were not promising. The foundation of recent successes – Sir Alex’s coaching staff – were shown the exit and Moyes oversaw some weak performances in an overseas tour, the few highlights being some of the performances from younger players like Lingard and Januzaj. Worse still was Moyes’ efforts in the transfer market.

This was a chance for Moyes to make his mark on the squad and step out of Sir Alex’s shadow. Sadly the only outcome was a last-moment panic buy at a ridiculously inflated price for one of Moye’s own players from Everton, Marouane Fellani. Fellani was undoubtedly one of the outstanding players for Everton under Moyes but was he quite what United needed?

Early results were promising – a dispatching of Wigan in the the Community Shield with a brace from Van Persie followed by a 4–1 away thumping of Swansea. However the team failed to keep this early momentum and – with perhaps the exception of some good performances in Europe – the season has seen a steady decline in results. We’ve had a record number of home defeats in the league, FA and League Cup exits to Swansea and Sunderland, and in the last few weeks an embarrassing away defeat to Olympiakos in the Champions League and a humiliating home defeat thrashing to local rivals Liverpool.

All this season despite the resultsm I have given Moyes my support. I felt despite results there was a long-term plan and that despite clearly failing to qualify for European competition next season we should take this opportunity to rebuild a tired squad. Foremost David Moyes is the manager of my football team and I owe him my support.

However, in the Liverpool display he has clearly lost the team. The players looks tired, frustrated and out of shape. I have never seen as many players’ heads down as I did against Liverpool this weekend. There is no pride amongst the players and no fire in their belly. The only leader on the field is Rooney and that is a man who spent most of last season trying to fight for a move away to Chelsea.

Moyes’ has shown a frustrating lack of tactical depth and variety. He has one formation which has clearly not worked – his obsession with 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 has played quality players out of position, got the worst out of our forwards, forced us into an over-reliance on sub-par wingers, and exposed our back line. On the receiving end of a record 81 crosses, Fulham manager Rene Meulensteen said that United were dull and predictable and on the evidence of this season it is hard to disagree.

Moyes seems reluctant to mix things up when it is required – exemplified by waiting 70 minutes against a comprehensively superior Liverpool at the weekend before making a substitution. Worse still, when things haven’t been working Moyes has overlooked the quality he has on the bench. Players like Hernandez, Wellbeck and Kagawa have been beyond the fringe whilst Zaha – impressive in pre-season – has failed to get any time on the pitch. Furthermore, Moyes reluctance to take off players who are under-performing seems to show a man bereft of confidence and authority within the dressing room.

United has always been a team built on a simple philosophy: attack is the best form of defence. Yes, our best teams have had a solid backline (think Schmeichel, van der Saar, Stam, Bruce, Vidic, Ferdinand) but our foremost aim has always been to attack. Sadly this current United squad seems terrified of running at defenders. We have some of the most creative forwards in the League and they are reduced to chasing crosses. With a lack of tactical variety, weakness at the back and a shortage of goals … where to now?

Finally, Moyes has shown a complete lack of strength when facing the media. Repeated phrases like “I have heard” and “we were unlucky” have shown a man reluctant to face up to results, take responsibility for performances or offer any constructive solution.

Since the summer I have backed Moyes against a backdrop of increasingly despondent results and performances. It is becoming harder and harder to see responsibility for the downturn anywhere but squarely at the feet of the manager. Tonight remains our last chance of getting any pride from this season and I find myself in two minds. Of course I want victory for my team but I don’t want a good result for United to paper over the cracks of a dismal season. And in the case of a defeat I can’t find any reason to continue supporting Moyes.

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As a gooner, I have to say I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this season watching Moyes fumble around in the dark. It’s not that he’s a dreadful manager, he’s perfectly competent – at a certain level – and it appears that level isn’t ever going to be managing one of the biggest footballing brands in the world.

He’s entirely out of his depth, that much has been clear from pretty early on and I’m honestly a little puzzled as to why the board don’t just cut their losses now really and play out the rest of the rest of the season as best they can while getting in someone/anyone else short term.

You’re lucky that the job is appealing enough on a global scale that you could still get someone top notch in the summer and with the benefit of whoever it is coming in not having to follow Fergie in the job. Moyes has at least done the next person a favour in that respect.

The players need to take a good look at themselves too as well, this is the same team pretty much that won the bloody title last season, the only time they seem to have put in any effort (as usual!) has been against Arsenal. This sharp a decline is not just because a manager is out of his depth, the players are hugely responsible too.

Anyway, it’s great to Man Utd suffer, for too long they’ve been too bloody good!

#MoyesIn :D