With the possibility of Manchester United not qualifying for next seasons Champions League, the effect of this failure will be felt throughout the European game. Along with Barcelona, AC Milan and Real Madrid, Manchester United is one of the most illustrious clubs in world football with a long association with European football. To imagine a Champions League campaign without Manchester United is a surprising prospect, however as the season unfolds it is looking more and more likely that Man United will not qualify.
While most Manchester United fans had hoped that there would be a seamless transition between the retirement of Alex Ferguson and the appointment of David Moyes, this has not been the case. There was a false sense of expectation created after United demolished both Wigan and Swansea in the opening two games of the David Moyes era. However, since then there have been some truly awful displays by this team and when this is compared to past teams, it comes across as a grim story for United fans. This gap in performance was exposed most notably in Manchester United’s 2-2 draw against bottom placed Fulham. While many parts of the display would have been polished off, if United had managed to come away with a victory, it doesn’t hide the fact that United were simply not good enough to win.
The team that David Moyes sent out to play Fulham was very unbalanced in the forward line. In playing Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata, Moyes has created another problem for himself and the team. While many United fans seen the signing of Mata as possibility as influential as Mesut Ozil’s to Arsenal, there is one difference that is been overlooked when comparing the two. Ozil was better than any other Arsenal player in the position behind the striker and so slotted into the team with ease. However, United already have a world class player playing that position in Wayne Rooney so having Mata in the team will not yield the same effect as Ozil. To get the best out of the three players, Moyes must play them in their most effective position. This means that Moyes cannot play the three players at the same time. To play Juan Mata on the right wing is a true waste of his talent. With all the money that United paid for Mata, you would have thought that the team would be built around him but this isn’t the case thus far. Mata doesn’t have the pace to be an effective winger. If that was the case, do United fans really believe Mourinho would have sold him? Mata must be allowed to be played behind the striker whether that would be Rooney or Van Persie. With this sort of conundrum Moyes should be happy to have it because competition brings the best out of players.
David Moyes should take a page out of Brendan Rodgers book. He has all his Liverpool players playing in their natural and most effective positions. This management of players has led to the resurgence in Liverpool fortunes. Look at Jordan Henderson, for example. When he first came to Liverpool, Henderson was played out to the right wing and had some very bad performances and got some slack over it. Now though, after moving him into centre-midfield, Henderson has been one of the most improved players in the premier league this season.
With the exceptional talent of Adnan Januzaj in the United squad, David Moyes should be using him far more frequently than he currently is. He has been United’s most creative player by far this season. He is the most exciting up and coming young player United have produced since Cristiano Ronaldo burst onto the scene in 2003. Replacing Januzaj with the ineffective Ashley Young puts serious question marks on David Moyes’s judgement on players. United fans must ask themselves the question would Januzaj have been given his opportunity in the United team without the injuries to the more experience wingers in the squad? Somehow I doubt it. Where would United be without this youngster who at the tender age of 18 has rescued Manchester United and Moyes many times this season, most notably the 2-1 win over Sunderland when he scored the two crucial goals. Fans of United can be damn sure that Ferguson would have played Januzaj instead of the inconsistent Young and Nani.
The game at the Emirates Stadium demonstrated United’s loss of the mentality to win every game no matter the opposition. With the contest in the depths of injury-time, United were about twenty yards away from Arsenal’s penalty area. Instead of attacking and possibly winning the game, the United players decided to pass the ball back to their defence. The tendency to go for the jugular has disappeared from United’s mentality and this is a severe worry. It maybe demonstrates Moyes’s fear of losing a game instead of taking a risk and winning it. This is shown with United’s lack of ability this season to score goals in the last ten minutes of a match. Instead this United team tends to drop back and defends their lead no matter what the opposition may be.
So with all these problems in this United team (and there has been no discussion in this article of United’s midfield or defence) should David Moyes be given the next two years to rebuild this squad or should United cut their losses and part company with Moyes? The fear and worry for United fans, is how far will Manchester United fall until the board realize that they made a mistake in appointing Moyes? One thing is for sure if David Moyes had performed like this while managing Barcelona or Real Madrid he would have been sacked far earlier. It will be interesting to see over the next month or two how opinion amount United fans about Moyes will be. Will they support him? Will they turn against him? Will they trust his judgement on signing new players after already spending £64 million? Answers to those questions will follow in the weeks to follow but one thing is for sure, a Champions League without Manchester United will definitely be a strange one.