The results are stacking up, the critics are racking up. Manchester United’s ‘Theatre of Dreams’ just witnessed a bitter nightmare in the making. A nightmare that haunts the brave and lambastes the frail. The ever-so-proud United faithful are not just fazed, but also dazed, by the unpredictabiltiy of times. After two and a half decades of unimaginable ruthlessness, fate has finally lend them a cold shoulder.
If making the worst start to a Premier League season ever was not enough, add to it yet more lowly milestones. Manchester United have lost two games in a row at Old Trafford after 11 and a half years, which ends Newcastle’s winless run that started 41 years ago at the fortress, that used to be. United find themselves hanging by a thread at the 9th position in the league table. With 15 games played, they have managed to gather only 22 points from a possible figure of 45.
With things not going their way, the fans and the management are bound to wonder what exactly is going wrong. To facillitate with them some insight, here are the 5 reasons that are causing Manchester United look ordinary.
1. Fractious fans:
It was 12th May 2013 when a very emotional Sir Alex Ferguson came up with these words – “Your job now, is to stand by our new manager. Have patience, that’s important.”. 7 months on, these words still resonate in my head. It’s easy to ask the fans to be patient, it’s easy is to hear the man and simply nod the head, but, what’s not easy is to abide by everything he said.
The problem lies in the way they have been fed in the past. Man United fans of the present generations have only seen their team win and only win. With every game that passes by, the expectations among the supporters is sky high. You will rarely see an United supporter content with a draw or a marginal win. “Not arrogant, just better” – the banner gives you a good sneek peek into their conscience. They love winning.
But with time changes destiny and the 3-time European Cup winners were no exception. And as they progressed with David Moyes, the time factor played it’s part. With results going wrong, the fans went wild. No, not “wild wild wild”, just wild. Such has been the nature of the fans that every time the Red Devils play, there’s a hint of negativity that starts pouring in, which is not doing the players any favour.
With everything changing at the club, they need to help the players to cope with the new atmosphere. Booing the players and continually tweeting #moyesout doesn’t help the cause.
2. Mushy Midfield:
Every time you look at the United’s midfield, ‘mediocre’ is the word that will come to your mind. Since Owen Hargreaves, they have not bought any central midfielder, be it novice or marquee. With Michael Carrick out till Christmas, Phil Jones, a centre back, has taken the job of manouvering in the centre of the park. Every appearance made by Tom Cleverley and Anderson end in dismay. Marouanne Fellaini has been clumsy to say the least and has not justified his humongous 27 million price tag just yet.
The wingers seem alright, but nothing more than that. If you ignore Antonio Valencia and 18 year old Adnan Januzaj’s usual exuberance along the touch line, there’s nothing worth noticing. Luis Nani has been one of the biggest disappointments and Ashley Young quite simply doesn’t deserve wearing the red of United.
The midfield problems are not something that came out of the blues all of a sudden. Remember the humiliation United were subjected to against Barcelona in 2009 UEFA Champions League final? The blame’s will be on the midfield they had. And if they thought that nothing could get worse, they were greeted by another defeat in the final against the Catalans in 2011.
2 years on, United still have the same midfield minus the legendary presence of Paul Scholes, who they had to call out of retirement due to their glaring ordinary displays. With January approaching, David Moyes must make sure that he acquires 2 or 3 marquee signings who fit right into the first team.
3. Shambling Self-belief:
The very sight of Red Devils reveals how their confidence is hitting new lows and how digressed they are. Just like the supporters, the players leave the pitch with their heads hanging. If they want to play like ‘Fergie boys’, they’ll have to behave like ‘Fergie boys’. The swagger of the champions needs to be rebuilt. Even David Moyes looks disgruntled and the fact that his team is not performing has been exasperating for both him and the supporters alike.
United have been subjected to immense torture when it comes to conceding late goals.For a team that is renowed for scoring goals in ‘Fergie time’, this is a bit of a gaucherie.The players look dejected every time they concede. They give up believing that things are not meant to work out. It’s as if they are seeking sympathy from the fans.
Defending deeper down the pitch, getting midfielders back to defend on wings and fluttering at counter-attacks is not a good representation of the much cliched yet rejoiced ‘United way’. If the players really want things to turn back in favour, they will have to make some serious ammendments to their lowly confidence. If the things are alright in the background, there’s no reason why the fans should not know it.
4. Besotted Backroom:
When David Moyes arrived at the club, there was a lot of speculation about the sacking of the backroom staff. It was clear that Moyes was adamant about his own ways, which is a good thing. But what’s not good is to believe that things won’t work out with the old staff. With the former Everton man imposing his ways onto the much experienced and decorated staff, things were always destined to take the highway.
When assisstant manager Mike Phelan left, not a lot of people really cared because a very capable Steve Round was coming in to replace the man. But the heads started to turn when first-team coach (and now Fulham manager) Rene Meulensteen drafted his resignation. His presence was something that was relished by the players. Even Sir Alex Ferguson spoke highly of him. When asked for an explanation, Rene replied, “I sat down with Moyes and said that the way he wanted me to work under him would lead to frictions”.
The zeal and enthusiasm went missing since. The boisterous atmosphere that surrounded the dressing room went missing since. The very ‘United’ factor that had set them a cut apart the rest over the years went missing since. If changes are to be made, backroom staff would certainly be the one to run the scissors over. It’s important for players to feel home.
5. Grouchy Gaffer:
Tagged as ‘The Chosen One’ by the Stretford Enders, David Moyes has been too fearful since taking on the job. His squad selections are cautious, his activity on the touchline is minimal and most importantly, he is starting to respond to media’s ‘fuel to fire’ questions which he handled ever-so-well in the past. All of this only goes on to suggest one thing, the gaffer’s under pressure.
When Moyes arrived at United from Everton, many dismissed him straight-away. But thanks to Sir Alex’s emotional farewell speech, he was backed heavily by the supporters. But as the things progressed, these very harbingers of motivation turned into his biggest enemy. Majority of the fans have profoundly, yet prematurely, written him off. If he wants things to get back on track, he needs to win the fans over.
Another thing that makes one believe that he is not a good fit are the tactics. 4-4-2 has never exactly been United’s best friend. Passing in the final-third epitomised the United style of play. Sadly, we don’t see that in them anymore. They look too defensive and Moyes’ insecurity makes them look even more timid.
David Moyes signed a 6-year-contract when he joined Manchester United. He is a manager of a club where stabilty comes first. He won’t be getting sacked from the office just yet, but the sacking from the hearts and minds of the people won’t take much time if the results don’t show up. Sure the pressure on him is immense, but then who said managing the greatest club in the world was an easy task.
With media and the fans speculating, the problems only seem to become more and more intimidating. The position they find themselves in is questionable indeed, but because it United, they’ll believe until it starts to bleed.