Another setback in a season of utter misery. This time in Europe in a competition where Manchester United looked all comfortable winning 4 out of 6 games conceding just 3 goals while scoring 12 until that night in Greece. Manchester United was well and truly beaten by reigning Greek champions Olympiakos 2-0 in a game that arguably was the worst of all season, in terms of performances both individual and collective. The game was lost well before the teams set out to the pitch in my opinion. That team selection was bizarre to say the least and Moyes while trying to emulate the famous ‘rotation policy’ of his predecessor Sir Alex Ferguson, failed miserably as he’s done for a major portion of this season.
The inclusion of Tom Cleverley who couldn’t pass a ball forward for toffee failed big time again, while a more experienced Fletcher and a rejuvenated/fit Fellaini that had a good game against Palace the other night, had to watch the game from the bench has baffled many supporters and football experts alike. While the inclusion of Tom Cleverley at the expense of Fellaini and Fletcher did come as a shock to several supporters, the exclusion of 18-year old Adnan Januzaj who has been sensational right from his debut brace against Sunderland, did raise several eyebrows. Though that can be due to Moyes’ reluctance to introduce that young and inexperienced a lad to a major European competition in front of a hostile and raucous atmosphere, he would certainly have impacted the game more than Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia combined. With Manchester United set to enjoy another non-premier league weekend – the following weekend, Adnan could well have played a part in the tie. Before someone is imagining why he did not start Juan Mata, let me tell you he’s cup-tied as he’s featured in the tournament donning the blue colors of Chelsea.
After an encouraging win at Crystal Palace, normally a hard place to go and get a win, the fans were really anxious to watch how their team was going to perform in Greece while most of them should have expected a reverse of the scoreline, if I’m not wrong. But then again consistency and commitment are two major issues troubling the Champions, which were the cornerstones of success under the previous manager. We have seen Manchester United teams get away with tight 1-0s and 2-1s several times over the years and normally they are at their peak during this time of the season notching a series of wins to go head and shoulders above the rest. This season has been the exact opposite to what Manchester United were over the years and so far Manchester United has picked up the same amount of points as lowly Crystal Palace this year, winning just 4 out of 12, losing 6.
Though Moyes can’t be blamed wholly on the abject performances the fans have gotten used to and the disappointing season overall, he has to take the major portion of the blame, without a shadow of doubt. If the players are not motivated to play under him, if the players well, don’t think he could be the right person to satisfy their personal wishes, then who is to blame? If you look at it, the same midfield of Young, Carrick, Cleverley, Valencia was enough to beat Chelsea and City away from home last season, two of the strongest squads in the league, hands down. It’s hard to fathom, the same midfield couldn’t string 3 passes together or create a genuine goal-scoring chance against Olympiakos. Who is to blame now? Is it Moyes’ inability to instill the faith and the win-at-all-costs mentality in his players that his predecessor was an expert in, hurting the team? Well, you can say that. If that’s an yes, then why can’t he do it? After all he was handpicked by Fergie. After all, we have preferred this man from Scotland with huge penetrating eyeballs who has never won a single trophy, never managed in Europe, to proven serial winners in Jose and Pep Guardiola. After all, he was cut from the same cloth as Sir Alex.
Most of this season’s performances have generally been attributed to the club’s poor showing in the summer transfer window and rightly so. Well that were a traumatic couple of months indeed. After several unsuccessful pursuits of Cesc Fabregas, Thiago Alcantara, Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo, Fabio Coentrao, Herrera, Pogba, Vidal, Marchisio, Garay, Wesley Sneijder, Sami Khedira (did I miss anyone?) we managed to sign Everton’s Marouane Fellaini on the deadline day while rivals Arsenal managed to secure the signature of Mesut Ozil, apparently a player we missed out on. Manchester City made 3-4 solid signings, notably Fernandinho and Negredo who have been influential in the club’s brilliant season thus far. Chelsea’s signings Willian and Matic (winter) have been brilliant for them. Eto’o has been crucial too. Liverpool’s defensive additions have played a signficant part in their amazing season, especially their home form, which is currently one of the best records in England and Europe this season. Tottenham made several quality signings to replace their star-man Gareth Bale who left for greener pastures. While every other top team in England strengthened, Manchester United underwent a major transition which could have been much smoother if a couple of marquee signings were made.
Failure to sign quality players in the summer when time was available in abundance, the attitude of players – senior players especially, losing key men to injuries for major portions of the season and failure to find the best eleven, playing players out of position and lastly pre-historic long ball tactics can sum up this 2013/14 campaign in a nutshell. Though I for one want him to be given another transfer window and a supposed war-chest to improve the team, get the team back to where it belongs, compete for silverware, above all make the team pleasing to watch, again. But nobody can deny the fact that he is running a race against time, a race which he might well lose if this worrying trend continues.
Out of 2 cup competitions already to lesser teams in Swansea and Sunderland, it seemed Champions League was the only way David Moyes could give something back to the fans for the persistent faith (which is steadily diminishing), to cheer about and it has so far been a disappointment. As qualification to the quarter-finals of the champions league looks bleak, the fans and I would only hope he gets his stuff right in the business end of the season which could at least help see us finish in a better position than where we are at the moment. Before he starts to win games on the football pitch, he has to make sure not to lose the dressing room. Because once he loses it, he loses his job eventually.