Well, firstly let me offer my sincerest apologies for just disappearing a few months ago, personal problems and all that, but all behind us now and I am back.
It has been a very disappointing season for me as a Manchester United fan, 27 years of being spoilt by constant silverware and success, finishing 2nd in the league was considered a failure at Old Trafford so you can imagine how a large number of supporters are feeling this year. The Ferguson to Moyes transition has proven to be more difficult than anyone could ever have envisaged, maybe 4th place would have been acceptable to most this season.
The squad is in dire need of an overhaul, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra and Giggs are now players whose best days and form are behind them. Vidic has already confirmed he is out of there in the Summer with Evra expected to follow suit and Rio and Giggsy expected to hang up their boots after amazing careers.
The defence looks vulnerable to worrying levels, shown this past Sunday against Liverpool. I have never seen a United side defend so poorly. If Liverpool were at their best, because to be honest they weren’t and didn’t have to be, the score line could have been disastrous. We are talking 6’s and 7’s here.
3 penalties, although one was a blatant a dive as possible, one that should have been given against Michael Carrick and a Red Card escape for Rafael in the first half combined with a slightly misfiring Suarez and Sturridge saved them from utter embarrassment.
Jones and Smalling were touted to be the next Vidic and Ferdinand, Jones may get there yet, I still have high hopes for him but Smalling I am afraid needs to improve dramatically. Jonny Evans looked like he was about to step up and be the next Gary Pallister last season but so far this term he has been a long way short of that kind of form. Rafael seems to have taken a step backwards as well after coming on in leaps and bounds in the previous campaign. Only De Gea has really shown he is United quality at the back.
In midfield the story is the same. Carrick after years of being told he wasn’t good enough really upped his game over the last couple of seasons but this year similarly to Evans seems to have taken a step backward, his usual control of midfield has gone, he is caught out of position far too frequently. Fellaini I still have high hopes for. For 5 years at Everton he was the scourge of many of the top teams, that just doesn’t disappear overnight, he will come good I am sure of that.
Lets get to Tom Cleverley. I am so disappointed in his lack of progression. When he was on loan at both Watford and Wigan a few seasons back he looked like he was going to be the real deal, he had vision, power running, great energy, good in the tackle with decent passing ability which all seems to have deserted him. The petition to get him out of the England team was harsh, absolutely can’t condone it but I can understand it. I personally wouldn’t want it to ever be that he is the first choice midfielder at United, he would be more suited to a mid-table / Europa league chasing club such as Newcastle, Everton etc but he just isn’t good enough for the United shirt.
Nani, where have you gone man? I would always prefer a Nani on the field than a Cleverley, yes he might spoon a simple cross straight into the Stretford End, and then trip over a paper bag blowing around the pitch but then a moment of brilliance, he will smash one in from 30 yards, he will leave a defender stood with skill and you remember why Sir Alex stuck by him for all that time. Which brings me nicely onto the other two wingers currently in the squad. Young, also in the Cleverly bracket, not good enough. Valencia, better than those two but so inconsistent and useful to have in the squad as his power and pace can cause a problem against a tired full back.
When Sir Alex signed Shinji Kagawa the football world was in unison in thinking this was an excellent signing and couldn’t wait to see him don the red shirt and grace the Premier League with his brilliance. Well that worked well didn’t it. Beyond disappointed in Kagawa’s lack of impact since joining from Dortmund in 2012 as the expectation was so high. He occasionally, and it is occasionally, will show a flash of pure genius but it is only isolated incidents in matches rather than a match here and there. I think the time has come to say goodbye to what could have been an amazing fixture in the team.
Adnan Janujaz has a very bright future ahead of him. I liken him to Cristiano Ronaldo in many ways. I was at Old Trafford the day Ronaldo made his debut against Bolton Wanderers in 2003. It was exciting, every time he got the ball no matter where he was on the field the entire crowd stood up in anticipation. He had raw talent and you could see him becoming something special, no one expected him to become the absolute personification of a perfect professional footballer. He has everything, you couldn’t build a more perfect model. Now I am not saying Januzaj will become one of the greatest footballers to ever play the game but he has the potential to be special. He has just enough arrogance to go with his undoubted ability to not be afraid to try something. I isn’t over-awed by playing at Old Trafford infront of 76,000 people, he believes in himself and his ability. Hopefully with experience United can have something really special with this boy.
Juan Mata will come good, it hasn’t quite clicked just yet but his quality is undoubted, just watch this space with him, he will become a United legend of that I am positive.
The decline in form of Robin Van Persie is worrying. His whole demeanour and body language shout out that he is not a happy man, blaming his team mates for his failings since his return from injury before the Christmas period. On his day he is as good as striker in Europe but just recently he looks a shadow of the player who was rattling in goals for fun last year. To drop in a very tired and old cliché “Form is Temporary, Class is Permanent” is lazy writing but in this case all United fans are grasping onto it in the hope that he re-discovers his golden touch.
Rooney is probably the only player this term who looks like he gives a damn, his workrate is still as high as it ever has been. You can just see the determination in his body language that he isn’t going down without a fight, if everyone else had this attitude United wouldn’t be in the postion they currently are now. I take back what I said earlier in the season that it was time he went, I for one am happy to have been so wrong.
Hernandez barely gets a game and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him leave in the summer. He is better than sitting on the bench match after match and looks completely disillusioned at the moment. The clinical little Mexican cant seem to make the same impact this year after being so reliable for the past three seasons. If you needed a goal send on the “Little Pea” and there was every chance that it would come. That confidence has gone, can it be restored?
Welbeck has been a much improved player throughout the season. One thing no one could ever dispute was that he worked his arse off. Chasing down lost causes, hassling the defence and keepers but he was missing the vital ingredient of a striker, goals. He is into double figures this time round and the general feeling is that when you need someone who will work tirelessly for the cause Danny Welbeck can be relied upon.
Looking at that is worrying, there are far too many negatives in there. I look at this team and try and put them one on one against the top Premier League teams we currently have and try to see whether they would get into the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea Arsenal and Liverpool’s starting XI.
I think De Gea could slot into those teams and not look out of place but none of the back four would get in on current form, Mata might get into Liverpool and Arsenal as could Janujaz. Rooney could get into Chelsea and Arsenals line ups as they are a little short up front but City and Liverpool have an abundance of talent in front of goal.
Against Liverpool David Moyes selected his strongest individuals possible. One that on paper should have been able to do a good job but it was woefully short of the quality the fans are used to seeing at Old Trafford. I am not going to play armchair manager here but after 35 minutes Gary Neville on commentary nailed it. The midfield was getting over-run and van Persie needed to be replaced by Welbeck, push Rooney up top with Mata behind, Janujaz on the right Welbeck on the left to tuck inside and break up the play. It was too easy for Allen, Henderson and Gerrard to look up and find space in and behind the United midfield leaving Jones and Vidic far too exposed.
The big question now, is David Moyes the right man to do the rebuilding job that is so desperately needed at United? A lot of people are calling for his head and if the media are to be believed he has 3 games to save his job starting tonight against Olympiacos. No, the team isn’t as strong as it has been in previous seasons but with the players at his disposal they should be in the top 4 pushing those around them to the limits. People like to bang on about Fergie was given time to prove himself but those same people are forgetting that Ferguson didn’t inherit a championship winning team when he took over.
Reports in the press yesterday of a rift between Ryan Giggs and the manager were quickly squashed by the club which actually leads me to believe it is true. United aren’t a club known for getting involved in media speculation and rumour mongering. The fact they involved themselves in the story leads me to believe they panicked at the story getting out and with all the negativity around the club at the moment didn’t want another reason for the fans to clamour for Moyes’ head.
I was one of those even when the results weren’t going particularly well that said just give him time, give him time. My tune has changed in recent weeks. The draw with Fulham at Old Trafford was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me personally. As a fan you can accept a loss to Chelsea, a loss to City and Liverpool, they are the best teams in the country right now and in transition it is understandable to be second best to those teams. However, losing to West Brom, Newcastle, Stoke and Sunderland is not.
The match against Fulham showed Moyes’ lack of tactical nous. Just throwing cross after cross into the area in the hope that someone would get onto the end of one of them was clearly not working but there seemed to be no plan B, nothing. It was the same against Liverpool, no plan B even though it was obvious to every single person watching the game it was not working. A lack of ruthlessness as shown by managers in the past was sorely missing. Mancini and Mourinho have been known to pull a player off after 20 minutes when they had clearly gotten their tactics wrong. That is what makes a successful manager, knowing your strengths as well as your faults.
Moyes either needs to get a grip with his team, his self or his tactics soon before this becomes even more a disaster of a season than it already is.
Follow me on that twitter thing @CravoTJRSports for many uninsightful opinions and musings.