Blog by: The VerdictDavid Moyes gave a firm, concise and robust response to criticism of his early reign as Manchester United manager after his side’s 1-0 win over Liverpool in the Carling Cup, with the ominous words of: “I’ll fix it” but his supporters are looking for a spark of innovation from the man who replaced Sir Alex Ferguson.
The 2013/14 Premier League season has failed to light up with the goals, magical moments and controversy that many hoped for in a season where change at the top was believed to be a sign for realistic heightened expectations.
Moyes, who as he likes to remind the press-pack from time-to-time, started his job officially on July 1st and like any other new manager, will take time to get accustomed to the new role. A role that encompasses not only managing the current league champions but also the demands results from supporters across the globe.
He was faced with a fixture list he described as the toughest in Manchester United’s history and so far, in the league, results have been slightly below par. And to compound his woes, a heavy 4-1 defeat against neighbours Manchester City and an underwhelming performance at Anfield where they lost 1-0, brought on the first raised eyebrows amongst the club’s supporters.
The reason for those eyebrows being raised wasn’t as much for the result, or the performance but it was the sense that in the early days of his reign, Moyes hadn’t moved out of his comfort zone and shown the fans that he was willing to inject new ideas into the side straight away.
In both games, Moyes played individuals whose performances did not merit their inclusion and that other more exciting options were left to warm the bench.
Two players under the microscope were wingers Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young, both who started and overwhelmingly failed during the derby defeat when Manchester City’s wingers showed how to penetrate in attacking positions and doing a defensive job without the ball. Valencia seems far from the player who scooped club awards in 2012 for an outstanding season where penetrating the opposition’s wing positions was a norm, not the exception. The cameo performance against Bayer Leverkusen where he was menacing was replaced by the meek winger unable to take on his man and resorted to making easier passes. Young, despite having a positive start to his United career, due to injuries and lack of form has been shown up to be too one dimensional in his play and offering not much else.
Last night suggested Moyes’s decision to bring in Nani and Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa to replace Valencia and Young respectively showed, although not fluent for the whole 90 minutes, that playing those two players alongside an in-form Wayne Rooney in the middle, could be the answer to United’s issues in turning possession in the final third to scoring opportunities.
After signing a new five-year deal, it is hoped Nani will recreate the form that saw him pick up the Players’ Player of the Year award in 2011 where his goals and assists were crucial in United winning the league that season and with no contract issues, all focus – if given the successive run of games by Moyes – should bear fruit with results.
Despite signing with a huge amount of expectation on his shoulders, Kagawa’s first season proved unsuccessful owing to injuries, lack of form and more importantly, unable to play in his favoured position behind the striker.
His plight so far this season has already seen him joked as “United’s Mata”, referring to the Chelsea playmaker Juan, who has been left out by returning coach Jose Mourinho. Things have been muddied further by miscommunication issues between Moyes and Kagawa whether it be in the media or by the former Borussia Dortmund man’s lack of playing time.
Yesterday, he showed glimpses of what he could offer: nimble ball control, lovely weighted passes forward and an ability to be able to roam more freely and have an impact. He was left unlucky in the second half as his long range effort hit the crossbar but was bafflingly, substituted near the end of the match. Something that Ferguson did also, a sign him and his successor feel that Kagawa has stamina issues?
United fans will continue to be patient because they understand the enormity of the job Moyes has but that doesn’t mean a reluctance to criticise or put forward suggestions.
The supporters will be enlightened to see highly rated youth prospect Adnan Januzaj coming on during the second half last night adding to his Premier League appearance in the 2-0 home win over Crystal Palace; Chris Smalling made a positive contribution in his preferred role as a centre-back; Rafael made his first appearance of the season and more importantly, Rooney has shown a great example of putting aside uncertainty to perform to his highest level as a footballer, something other colleagues of his in the game are at times, unable to do.
These are the inventiveness that United fans hope Moyes will be able to continue. They saw at times Ferguson resisting the opportunity to blood promising players (Paul Pogba a striking example) and sticking with players who were failing to perform.
After a tough beginning in the defence of their crown, United’s next league games are against teams where anything but maximum points will be expected and it is hoped that Moyes will be able to get to know the talents of his squad and adjust the line-ups more appropriately. One of his errors was to continue to play experienced defender Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic continuously for the opening games of the season, an unprecedented act in recent years owning to both players’ injury history. But with a solid performance by Smalling and Jonny Evans, it gives Moyes the chance to rotate comfortably.
It was a six-year deal that Moyes penned a few months ago, and he has ample of time to improve his decision making but he’d be better off starting that now to provide optimism within the ranks for a tough first season at the club.