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How Manchester United and David Moyes Can Restore Premier League Title Hopes

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04:  Manchester United Manager David Moyes looks on prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Everton at Old Trafford on December 4, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images
Rob DawsonManchester United CorrespondentDecember 5, 2013

The table doesn't lie. Especially in December. 

It shows Arsenal are genuine title challengers and West Ham could go down.

After their fourth defeat of the season this week, Manchester United are ninth, behind both Southampton and Newcastle. They're 12 points behind leaders Arsenal. For context, they're also 12 points off the relegation places.

Almost halfway through the season, United are a mid-table side. David Moyes knew it would be difficult to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson, who is seemingly irreplaceable. But he wouldn't have envisioned this.

There are positives for Moyes in his first season at Old Trafford. United have made smooth progress in the Champions League and the Capital One Cup. It will, though, concern fans that Moyes' Premier League ambition is gradually shifting from winning it to finishing in the top four.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 17:  Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on during the UEFA Champions League Group A match between Manchester United and Bayer Leverkusen at Old Trafford on September 17, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Mich
Michael Regan/Getty Images

After all, Moyes took over a team that won the league by 11 points last season. There have been big changes, true, but the biggest change has been in the results on the field. For that, Moyes must take responsibility.

He knows that in this of all seasons, things can change very quickly. United under Moyes are capable of recording significant results, like beating Arsenal, and of fantastic performances, like the one against Bayer Leverkusen in Germany. The issue is that they've done neither consistently.

Moyes must now focus on putting a run of results together. 

After Ferguson's darkest day, the 6-1 humiliation against Manchester City, United won the next three Premier League games 1-0. They weren't results achieved thanks to thrilling displays. But the wins helped restore the confidence and belief that had been shattered by City.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04:  Bryan Oviedo of Everton celebrates with team-mate Sylvain Distin at the end of the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Everton at Old Trafford on December 4, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Moyes can help by showing consistency in his team selection. He hasn't been helped by injuries to key players like Michael Carrick and Robin van Persie, but he has to find a formula to deal with their absence. 

Already this season, he's used seven different centre-half pairings. That doesn't breed defensive stability. 

Everton arrived at Old Trafford on Wednesday looking balanced and solid. They have a settled centre-back pairing of Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka with plenty of protection in front of the back four in Gareth Barry and James McCarthy.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04:  Manchester United Manager David Moyes looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Everton at Old Trafford on December 4, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Im
Michael Regan/Getty Images

It has made Roberto Martinez's team extremely hard to beat—they've lost just once this season—with responsibility falling on the front four to win games. And at Old Trafford, they did just that.

Each of Martinez's XI at Old Trafford were playing in their preferred position. United, in contrast, had both Danny Welbeck and Shinji Kagawa playing out of position at different stages of the game. Square pegs in round holes has been a feature of United's season so far.

West Brom, Southampton, Cardiff and now Everton have destroyed the aura of invincibility that surrounded Ferguson's United. Teams now arrive at Old Trafford looking to win instead of simply surviving.

Newcastle, who have won four of their last five games, will be the latest to have a go on Saturday.

Ferguson will be remembered for the trophies. But his greatest attribute as a manager was his ability to batten down the hatches and fight back in times of crisis. Battered and bruised after defeat to his former employers, Moyes must show he can do the same.

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