There’s something to be said about a manager, David Moyes in this case, who has months to prepare in his head for the biggest match Manchester United have this season, and he decides to go with a lineup and especially a midfield combination that he knows is his worst. You can field all the Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney type players in the world up front, but when the rest of the field is in shambles, the result will be like the one we’ve come to expect from this side this season.
After losing 2-0 to Olympiakos, a match that Manchester United were clearly outplayed in for the first 75 minutes and managed to create their one and only real chance with 8 minutes left in the match (similar to their 1-0 loss at Anfield this season), Moyes didn’t have his usual answers ready: No talk about being unlucky, no word about playing well and not scoring, nothing about the referee.
But it doesn’t really matter what Moyes does – it’s what he says. The defense is always a mess with injuries and suspensions, so using Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic could have been explained. However, while Vidic played one of his best matches this season, Ferdinand was absolutely horrendous and it was his direct fault that Joel Campbell scored the second goal, with Ferdinand not even trying to disturb the Costa Rican talent.
The midfield is usually what dictates a team’s style. All through this season we’ve seen that a two-man midfield for Manchester United and especially the one with Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley side by side simply doesn’t work. It easily turns the ball over under pressure and it lacks any form of speed, mobility and creativity. This forces Manchester United into one style that completely takes away their greatest strength – their two forwards.
Instead of this being a team that is led by Adnan Januzaj and Shinji Kagawa, creating for Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, it comes down to Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young touching the ball more than anyone else, and pulling off that usual cross with an overlap by a full back (both Chris Smalling and Patrice Evra were horrendously weak). This wasn’t record breaking like last month, but the result was the same – long balls, crosses, with no one actually connecting on the other end.
David Moyes doesn’t learn, and that might be the biggest shame in all of this. He has talent to do more than what we’ve seen from Manchester United so far. Robin van Persie shouldn’t be complaining after the match about players filling up the spaces he loves to play in. Wayne Rooney shouldn’t be forced to help the midfield out just because the tactics Moyes is throwing onto the pitch are collapsing. It simply looks like Moyes came from Everton with a pattern, and no matter who badly this scheme and football philosophy does at his new workplace, he’s not changing, and actually believing his words of just having to win the next match.
This was the night that turned a lot of believers and hopefuls into realists. Give him time, be patient, let him build his own team. Maybe David Moyes didn’t inherit the most stellar of squads, but the players he has are still much better than what he’s producing with them. Sometimes, more time isn’t the answer to a struggling team and manager, and a clean break will be beneficial for everyone.