Having seen Manchester United struggle this season, plummeting from champions to 7th place, I have been wondering whether the squad that Moyes left (his low-budget Everton side) is actually superior to the United side he inherited from Sir Alex Ferguson. Looking at this year’s league table, you would say that this is the case, but I’ve decided to look into it further and compare the two squads position by position.
A fairly easy choice for me. De Gea is probably one of the best shot-stoppers in the league, if not the world at the minute. Add that to his cool distribution and you have a young ‘keeper fully deserving of his place in last year’s PFA team of the year. However, Howard is still a reliable, experienced player, so the difference in this position is not as much in other positions across the pitch.
This is probably the area of the pitch where Everton are strongest – perhaps among the best in the league. We all know Baines is a top-notch left back, sturdy in defence and creative going forward, as well as a set-piece master, but Seamus Coleman has emerged as a fine talent too at right back. Like Baines, he seems comfortable in his own half and can punish teams in their half, with the Irishman scoring 6 in the Premier League this season. On the other hand, the form of Rafael and Patrice Evra seems to be fading, with the pair looking fragile defensively this year. It is telling that Moyes tried to recruit Baines again to replace the ageing Evra. In addition to Everton’s first team strength in these positions, they have young talent in Bryan Oviedo and John Stones who can fill in as full-backs, whereas United have Smalling and Buttner.
Again, I think this is a position where Everton are stronger. Under Moyes and still this season, the partnership of Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin has blossomed. They have looked far more secure this season than the likes of Vidic, Ferdinand, Jones, Evans and Smalling. It doesn’t help United that all of these men have struggled with injury this season, so there has been a lack of a consistent partnership. So far this season, Everton have conceded 7 fewer than United, and are the 3rd best defence in the league on paper, after Chelsea and City.
For me, this is a tough one. United have Carrick as their reliable midfield man, and although his form has dipped, he is still a top-class player. However, the lack of a midfield partner makes me edge towards Moyes’ old central midfield partnership: Leon Osman and the powerful Marouane Fellaini, who both significantly improved during Moyes’ time at Everton. It is obvious to say that Fellaini’s performances in a blue shirt were much better than those in a red shirt. As well as these two, Everton had the rising star in Ross Barkley, who seems to have much more potential than the out-of-favour Tom Cleverley. Slightly further up the pitch though, it would seem United have the better quality, with the creative minds of Shinji Kagawa and the late acquisition of Juan Mata.
On paper, United’s wingers should be far superior, with the likes of Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young, Nani and Zaha. But these dwindling wingers seem to be well out of form, and usurped by the recently unheard of Adnan Januzaj, whose powerful running at defenders has caused havoc in the Premier League this season. You’d have to say that he is likely to be the best winger out of both teams. But perhaps Everton have a more complete pair of wingers, in Pienaar and Mirallas. The defensive work of Pienaar is balanced with the attacking flair of Mirallas, and their form is probably a little more regular than that of United’s winger group.
The easiest decision of the lot. Moyes’ inherited squad relied on the clinical finishing of Robin van Persie and the skilful genius of Wayne Rooney last season. Welbeck and Chicharito are not bad replacements either. Few could argue that this group was better than the likes of Jelavic, Anichebe and Naismith.
Combined Team: 4-4-2
GK – De Gea
RB – Coleman
CB – Jagielka
CB – Distin
LB – Baines
RM – Mirallas
CM – Carrick
CM – Fellaini (Everton)
LM – Januzaj
ST – Rooney
ST – RVP