Upon hearing that Sir Alex Ferguson had announced his retirement from Manchester United, I instantly began wondering about their prospects for this year. With the announcement of David Moyes taking the reins, my first thought was that “United would not make it in the top four”.
My thoughts weren’t solely based upon Moyes taking over, but rather on the fact that the even though United were Premiership title holders, Manchester United were a very average side last year and it took the will, drive and determination of Sir Alex to lead United to a win, albeit in a weak Premier League.
At the current time, United sit in 9th place, 15 points behind league leaders Arsenal and are in the midst of a four game winless streak, 2 draws and losses to Newcastle and Everton. Regardless of what David Moyes says, Manchester United are struggling.
The numbers and all the stats show their failures glaringly. Their points tally of 22 is their lowest after 15 matches since 2001-02. They have the same number of league defeats – five – as in the whole of 2012-13. Average goals per game have slumped from 2.26 last season to 1.43. And the stats that show possession, cross completion, duels won, shots on target etc, United are far worse this season than last. This year the stats chart look nothing like it.
“Offensively, which traditionally has been Manchester United’s strength, their attack which was based upon ball possession is now significancy more direct and a lot less creative with an increased number of forward passes.
More telling their attacks are now a lot less sophisticated with a slant towards physicality, brawn and industry with a style more focused on the flanks with a higher emphasis on crossing the ball rather than breaking teams down centrally with creative intricate play.
There are numerous explanations for United’s tumble. Some blame the new executive vice chairman Ed Woodward, who was about as successful in the summer sales as a man after a winter coat. Others quite rightly point to the long-term leeching of the Glazers, who have taken £680m out of the club to service their takeover; the failure to sign a single central midfielder between 2007 to when Marouane Fellaini scooted in on deadline day; and the ageing back four. There are also laments for the ones that got away, such as Paul Pogba, as well as the ones who never arrived.
All these reasons are valid, but most are not new: we have heard the orchestra play these tunes a thousand times. But while United have suffered injuries to key players such as Robin van Persie and Michael Carrick, the most substantial change has been to the club’s conductor. David Moyes took over a squad that finished 11 points clear last season. Sir Alex’s shoes were always going to be hard to fill regardless of who got the job, but Moyes might just be the wrong choice.