Manchester United endured their worst season in the last 25 years, as they finished outside top four for the first time in over two decades in their first season post the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson. The season also saw David Moyes get the sack just 10 months into his 6-year contract and rightly so. There is a long list of things we could look back and point our finger at, as to what went wrong at this football club and how startling the drop in performance level was, but the first individual that should, and did take the blame for all the mess was the ex-manager David Moyes.
David Moyes – The ‘Wrongly Chosen One’?
David Moyes was handpicked by Sir Alex Ferguson to take the club to new heights (if there’s any) which was unanimously given the nod by the board and the Chief Executive Edward Woodward who himself was replacing a man-that-knows-what-he-is-doing David Gill. So basically Manchester United started their title defence with a new manager and Chief Executive replacing a very successful duo. This transition proved costly, as the club failed to land any of those ‘big name signings’ in Ronaldo, Fabregas, Bale, Thiago and had to settle with Marouane Fellaini on deadline day. One could say Moyes was overly concerned about sorting the Rooney issue out, which he successfully did, but he should have managed to bring in a big name or two which could have done a world of good to the morale in the squad.
The reasons for Moyes’ sacking need no explanation. He failed to drive the team forward, his press conferences were uninspiring and dull. He ‘tried to’ win the big games, and the fans did appreciate and ‘try to’ stand by him until the very end but it was one defeat too many. Time and again, he proved the job was too big for him and the results were doing no favors as Manchester United was knocked out of both the domestic cup tournaments by February, out of the title race by January and failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in two decades. You could argue he was given a weak squad that could not score goals from midfield but then one should not forget he was inheriting the champions that had won the league by 11 points. Ironically, his Manchester United contract was terminated after the defeat against Everton, a ship he steadied over the years making them a consistent top 7 side.
Broken records and embarrassing lows
Manchester United at Old Trafford used to be a worrying fixture for every other team in England, and sometimes even in Europe. Yes, it used to be. But now, Old Trafford is where the lower mid-table sides and relegation candidates can have a go and come away with valuable points. The Theatre of Dreams hosted several nightmare games last season, so much so that the team lost 7 of its 19 home games and the last time they lost 7 games at home, they found themselves heading to the second tier of English football. A damning statistic, to say the least.
It all started with the home loss against West Bromwich Albion, a game that signalled the end of Rio Ferdinand’s illustrious career. A win at Old Trafford after 26 years, a game they even made a DVD of, opened the floodgates as several other teams tried to exploit the situation the Red Devils were facing at home. First home defeat to Newcastle since 1972 and the first ever defeat to Swansea came in the FA Cup as they bowed out of the oldest cup competition in the world as early as the third round, something that happened only once under the previous manager.
The club suffered three straight losses last season, for the first time since 2001 and the season even saw Manchester City and Liverpool do the double over United – two of their fiercest rivals, since the inception of the Premier League. To cap it off, Manchester United ended the season with their lowest points tally in the Premier League era, finishing 7th in the league table.
Mata, Adnan and the Away form
Juan Mata was brought in by Moyes and Woodward to fill in that creative void that always existed at Manchester United. He turned out to be the record signing at the wrong time. By the time he walked in and started creating goals, the team was already out of title race, the chances of finishing fourth were slim and the manager had already lost the dressing room. He still managed to create 10 goals in total – 6 goals and 4 assists in 14 games, clearly showing what a quality player in midfield can provide. He is the parting gift from David Moyes and he could play a central role literally, in Manchester United’s hopeful revival next season.
Adnan Januzaj, needs no introduction. The skinny kid reminded everyone of how Ronaldo was in his early days – exciting, raring to go at full-backs and creating something out of nothing. One could only hope he would evolve into a similar player because this boy has the potential. He did have a few dull games during the course of the season, like any other 19-year old but then he did light up the stadium, getting the fans to the edge of their seats, whenever he was in the mood. He’s managed to find the net 4 times in his first season that included a memorable debut brace against Sunderland. A total of 31 chances created that includes 3 assists with a crossing accuracy of 32% – the highest of all wide players at the club, plus 51 of 96 dribbles attempted are pretty good numbers for a 19-year old in his first season.
Talking about the away form, Manchester United would finish third in the away table with 10 wins and 4 draws, which looks pretty solid on paper for a team that finished 7th in the overall league table. This is kind of interesting but one could reason this out by deeming David Moyes’ defensive approach suitable for the away games better than the corresponding home fixtures. This would also explain the club’s better run in the Champions league.
End of an era – What next?
The season would see the exit of several high profile players, players that have been the cornerstone of success in the last decade. Nemanja Vidic, the no nonsense skipper that wore the armband for the last 4 years, has left the club to join Inter on a free transfer. His partner in crime Rio Ferdinand has also said his goodbyes, which mean United have to base their next 5-6 years on a new centre-back partnership. Finally, the season even saw the ageless player turned interim manager Ryan Giggs hang his boots to take up a coaching role at the club, which marked the end of an unbelievable career and the end of a glorious era.
Last season has been such an eventful season for the players and fans alike. The club has made a shrewd appointment in Louis Van Gaal, a proven winner with a dominant attitude and a shrewder one in Ryan Giggs to assist him, as someone like Ryan who has lived his life kicking a ball at Old Trafford would come in handy at times as hard as these, with his knowledge of the game and the football club.
Everyone at the club, and the fans outside of it, will be expecting a strong response next season as the only way now, is up.