While players like Shinji Kagawa, Nani and Javier Hernandez continue to rot on the bench, disappointments like Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia continue to roam the wings. David Moyes has made some perplexing decisions when it comes to his team building and lineup, but hiding behind the talents of Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie isn’t going to last forever.
Since their season-opening 4-1 win against Swansea, United have gotten a total of three goals: Two from Wayne Rooney free kicks, and one from a Robin van Persie penalty. The match against Bayer Levekusen should count as well, but the Champions League and especially a team with incredibly soft defending is no indication of what Manchester United are about this season.
For Alex Ferguson, there were always matches, specific matches, that turned things around for him in a season, making him have a better grasp of what his team is about and how he should play. In the 2011-2012 season, United were off to a flying start, playing some exceptional football, including the 3-2 win over Manchester City in the Community Shield and the famous 8-2 win over Arsenal in the league.
Ferguson was in his awe-of-Barcelona phase, after being beaten by the Spanish side twice in three years when facing off in the Champions League final. The attractive football phase lasted for about a month, when Manchester City shocked the world by beating Manchester United 6-1, and United went into boring, defensive modes that have hurt them in Europe, but were enough to stay neck and neck with City that season, and win the title in 2013.
The 2012-2013 season was slightly different. Robin van Persie made a huge change, but it was also Ferguson realizing he has no midfield, so he gave up on trying to have any kind of possession, especially against the top teams, skipping over the middle many times. It began in the 2-3 loss to Tottenham at home, and United barely dropped points until the title was well in hand in the end.
Moyes was just hit with the same does of reality in his 4-1 loss to Manchester City. His two midfielders were outplayed by Yaya Toure and Fernandinho, as his lack of creativity as a manager was displayed by his inability to switch tactics after Robin van Persie was declared unfit for the match. It took him four goals worth of punishment to realize his team wasn’t really in a fair fight unless he does something.
Titles aren’t decided on one match early in the season, as humiliating and painful as a defeat to their city rivals might be. Marouane Fellaini might not be as tough as his size suggests he is, but by making the right changes in the lineup and in his formation, Manchester United can still find themselves with the right kind of midfield. It has to do with Moyes starting to forget about Ashley Young, who is in no way someone who should start for the club, as his only contribution for quite some time is winning penalties by diving, and with Shinji Kagawa getting more minutes. Kagawa isn’t the answer to everything, but it’s an excellent start for a team that no longer has the intimidating presence of Alex Ferguson on the sidelines to help them.