To say I am disappointed in how David Moyes has started his reign at OT will be an understatement. His tactics so far suggest he is overawed by the enormity of the task he faces at Old Trafford and that he’s worried about deviating and under delivering on the level of success set by his predecessor over a 26 years period.
United have played three big games this season against Chelsea, Liverpool and City where Moyes’ tactics and team selection have been very negative in all or not as daring as you’d expect from a United manager/team. Whilst it will be easy to say he had at least four (2 strikers and 2 wingers) attack minded players in all these matches, his choice of players exposes his caution first attitude. Over the last two seasons, Ashley Young and Tony Valencia have been really disappointing. They have been even more disappointing this season. Except for the Leverkusen game both players have continued to serve up dire football. Moyes’ insistence on picking these players is worrisome. From the first United match Moyes took charge of, our best wingers have been Adnan Januzaj and Wilfried Zaha. All through preseason and at other times we’ve seen them play this season both have really impressed. By full time, against Palace Januzaj had outshone Valencia even though he only had a 25mins cameo compared to Tony that played a full match. Zaha in preseason was equally devastating on the right wing. So I am surprised that Moyes preferred players that had little to no preseason and certainly didn’t set the pitch alight from the first whistle of the season. Adnan and Zaha in particular must wonder what else they need to do to get a look in.
To further buttress my point on negative tactics, Moyes’ insistence at picking Jones/Smalling at full back over Fabio whilst Rafael is unavailable is completely baffling. Fabio is at worst as good a defender at full back as Jones/Smalling and miles better at offering support going forward than both Jones and Smalling. Against City, playing Smalling for his height advantage was wrong as City all season never played like they depended hugely on set plays. They prefer to keep the ball on the ground and pass. At Everton, Moyes had average height full backs in Coleman and Baines so I was surprised of his fixation on height by selecting Smalling ahead of Fabio. Fabio’s surging runs would have given Kolarov (an average defender) something to worry about especially when it was Nasri playing in front of him, a player that hardly tracks back.
Besides, the negative tilt to team selection, Moyes attacking strategy for his United remains unclear. After the opening 6 games, how United hope to break teams down going forward remains indiscernible. United’s best forward plays this season have come from Rooney’s brilliance as a player rather than an unrelenting attacking team play. Against Liverpool when Rooney was out injured, everyone expected Kagawa to start but Moyes didn’t even include him in the team preferring an ageing Giggs and Nani who had had no preseason up until that point. Besides Rooney, United’s best player at finding spaces and playing behind the main striker is Kagawa. I struggle to understand why Moyes is reluctant to play or start with Kagawa especially when one considers that at Everton Moyes had Steven Pienaar who often played a role similar to Kagawa for Everton. Pienaar and Baines combined well on the left for Everton and I can’t see how Moyes can’t replicate similar with Kagawa and Evra. This is despite not mentioning how much better Kagawa is in comparison to Pienaar and that Kagawa offers so much more.
If Moyes selection is based on merit then it is difficult for me to understand how Young and Valencia are starting ahead of Januzaj and Zaha. Both haven’t only played better but are also not scared about taking on an opponent, something Young and especially Valencia have struggled with so far. Valencia is even more frustrating, unless there is yards of space for him to run into, he’s unable to dribble an opponent. Zaha does this time and time again. Moyes needs to realise that at Old Trafford, we’re not scared of putting kids in the starting XI. Besides, with Carrick & Fellaini in CM and Rooney & RvP striking, Adnan and Wilf will have adequate experience on the pitch to guide them through matches. In fact Moyes and his coaching staff can top up with instructions from the sidelines.
Ferdinand has also been poor this season. This was especially noticeable in the game against Palace, Leverkusen and City. He seems to be losing concentration at crucial times which have led to goals. His pairing with Vidic is still our best CB combination so Moyes could persevere for a few more games before dropping Rio if his performances fail to improve. Rio has pride in his game so I’m sure he’ll be hurting from his bad performances and needs to be given time to make corrections. Besides, Jones, the preferred replacement is out injured.
I’d like to think that most United fans know and expect this season to be a transition one and that a top four finish will suffice. A top four finish with a domestic cup win in Moyes’ first season will be an unexpected bonus. So Moyes should be as courageous and brave as he needs to be without feeling under undue pressure. He should avoid pulling back on any instinct that wants him to not play rampaging and attacking football. He needs to ignore the fact that the team he inherited are the defending champions as that feat showcases more of Fergie’s unyielding desire, will and passion to win than the skill in the team. Of course the drop in standard by other teams also helped.
Moyes cannot allow himself to be overawed by the task in front of him. He must always seek to impose himself and United over every opposition and at every time too. He has the full weight of United’s history, success and global fans behind him. He has all he needs to succeed and that’s all he needs to succeed. Now he needs to show his mettle, and show the whole world why it is them that don’t know it yet – that at Old Trafford, nothing has changed.