The struggles of Manchester United have been well documented this season, so it’s no surprise the champions have obtained fewer points against the teams they’ve faced this season compared to the last campaign. In total the team have dropped 8 points, most notably against Liverpool, Manchester City and West Brom, and only improved on the results against Swansea (a) and Chelsea (h).
Yet Manchester United only remain 5 points adrift of Arsenal at the top of the league, 1 point behind Chelsea and sit a point above rivals Manchester City who are highly tipped as title winners. Does this mean everything is rosy at Old Trafford? On the face of it, yes. But deeper down beyond the paper and cracks the problems still remain. Can United still win the title? Check out the odds and more at GamblingSites.org.
The Transition Stage
David Moyes would have known the magnitude of replacing Sir Alex Ferguson, who in his leaving speech last season urged the fans to stay behind the manager in the difficult opening periods, especially with no major trophies to his name. After a difficult period where Moyes saw derby defeats to Liverpool and Manchester City, the Red Devils are now on a 9 match unbeaten run and despite that run including some fairly adept performances things are starting to improve for Moyes.
The appointment of a new manager was always going to provide a number of issues in the opening months of their tenure despite the side comfortably winning the title last season. A poor transfer window where no notably areas of the team have been improved hasn’t helped Moyes nor did a drastic change of a title winning backroom staff.
David Moyes Not the Only Arrival from Everton to Struggle
In a summer that saw several transfer sagas at Old Trafford the only one had ended in an arrival was Marouane Fellaini for £27.5m. As of yet, the Belgian midfielder has struggled to replicate the performances that earned him credit at Everton instead of the rather sluggish performances that have seen dribbled past 7 times already when it only happened on 13 occasions throughout the whole of last season. A reason for this could the deeper role that Fellaini occupies in the Manchester United midfield compared to playing behind the striker which saw his best performances for Everton.
In the advanced role at Everton his stature allowed him to win flick-ons or used his strength to dribble past his man which related in Fellaini creating more chances. Last season he created a chance every 70 minutes – with a total of 40 chances – but this campaign created just the 1 chance in 266 minutes. Felliani’s frame also allowed him to be deadly at set pieces with 5 goals scored with his head last season, but United are yet to take advantage.
The heat maps (above) show the lack of time Fellaini has spent in the final third of the pitch, particularly against Crystal Palace at home, and while this continues his performances are guaranteed to be underwhelming.
A Midfield Problem
It was well-known that Manchester United needed to improve their midfield and ultimately failed to do so in the summer. The best central midfield partnership for United this season has been the surprising combination of Phil Jones and Tom Cleverley, who have added a much needed intensity into the middle of the park to hassle the opponents and up the tempo – since the arrival of Moyes Manchester United’s build up has slowed down.
Jones and Cleverley do not offer a major attacking threat from midfield, but that isn’t their role. The two English midfielders are there to break up play and allow the more attacking options, especially Rooney, to focus on events further up the pitch. This has only been used to effect in a small number of games however, such as Fulham and Arsenal. Obviously this isn’t a long term plan for Moyes, who has been reported saying he wants to sign two midfielders in January, with Jones’ future as a centre back and Cleverley yet to convince many people that he is cut out for elite level of football.
This season also looks like the last we’ll see from Ryan Giggs as age finally catches up. Giggs is in the team to be a calm, experienced head and keep the ball moving, but the Welsh midfielder is failing to that. A passing accuracy of 73% is the worst than any outfield Manchester United player and the decreasing mobility is being exposed. For instance against Swansea, where Giggs’ influence on the match was minimal with only 39 touches in 61 minutes.
The Shining Light for United
While this season has seen many struggles for Manchester United, the emergence of Adan Januzaj has been a welcome relief and is one of the best prospects United have had in the last decade. The Belgian midfielder offers the Premier League champions added creativity to a team that has struggled to force itself on an opposition’s defence consistently.
Wayne Rooney has also re-found his regular pre-international tournament form that made Moyes so adamant that he was leaving Old Trafford in the summer. Alongside 5 goals in the league, Rooney has been a key creator with 4 assists and 17 chances created – both more than any other Manchester United player.
We will be unable to evaluate Moyes’ tenure as Manchester United boss for another 12 months when the changes will be firmly settled and another summer transfer window has been completed. For this season however, the title maybe a push with performances still inconsistent regardless of the open Premier League this season. The chance of a Cup run is still on the cards and a trophy in either the League Cup or the F.A Cup will rid Moyes of the no trophy voodoo on his back.