TACTICAL THOUGHTS: TIME FOR A STOCK TAKE?
There is no doubt that this season hasn’t gone the way United fans would have liked. Of course it isn’t over yet, but David Moyes’ first seven months in charge have revealed enough issues to merit a review, especially as it seems unlikely that we will be looking back at the end of this year with any significant fondness.
It was never going to be easy for David Moyes. Most managerial changes come after a period of turmoil and crisis or at least a failure to live up to expectations, even if many of those expectations are unreasonable. But at United he was following the most successful manager in modern times, someone who had left the job on the back of a Premiership title. That in itself could be seen as a hospital pass, but in this instance Sir Alex had left behind a team which was possibly the least accomplished of all his title winning teams; a team which had triumphed in a period when other Premiership challengers were either underachieving or rebuilding. (We hate the term transition: all teams are always in transition; the passage of time guarantees it).
Over the next few weeks we intend to review a number of pertinent tactical issues which we see as significant issues to be addressed in the coming months. The majority of these stem from the simple fact that our current squad is horribly imbalanced and has critical weaknesses in certain areas. We will start with a general tactical overview and go on to consider three critical issues: the number 10 role, the much discussed midfield weakness and our defensive frailties.
There are also a number of players who just aren’t good enough to form part of a team that can compete domestically or on a wider stage with rivals who are right on their game. That is a key issue. Many people have pointed the finger at David Moyes and said, “Well, Sir Alex won the league with this team,” but that misses the point. Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal have all improved significantly in the last year, as to a lesser degree have Tottenham and Everton. We have not. If those teams had been as strong twelve months ago as they are now, would United have won the league? Almost certainly not. With Sir Alex as manager would we have done better? Probably. Could other managerial candidates have done better than David Moyes? Again, probably, but David Moyes is our manager so get over it. His is a difficult task and he deserves a fair chance. Some of the hysterical calls for his head in recent weeks are unreasonable and unfair.
In terms of a review of individual players we will leave that until our usual end of season review.
Pointing out that Moyes received a hospital pass last summer does not mean that he is above criticism and he has made some errors. We will look at some of these along with a few general thoughts on his tactics so far, and would make the point that, as older United fans will remember, Sir Alex made some significant errors in his early years at the club. But events behind the scenes at that time together with his ability to restructure impressed insiders and arguably kept him in the job. David Moyes is learning on the (extremely high profile) job. It’s fair to say that in this day and age, due to the blanket high profile coverage of Premiership football, the glare of media attention is far more intense than it was in 1986. In view of this we feel that David Moyes is owed a little more time than many seem prepared to give him.
We will start with some general thoughts.