With the attacking riches at his disposal, and his experience of getting teams organised defensively, David Moyes has everything he needs to secure Manchester United a top-four finish this season.
If Moyes fails from here, serious questions have to be asked of his credentials.
United have Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Shinji Kagawa and Adnan Januzaj to produce going forward. We're all talking about Manchester City's prolific form, but those United players mentioned are every bit as good as Edin Dzeko, Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Alvaro Negredo at City.
What's lacking for United is defensive shape. And what they need is for Moyes to lean on what he does best and show his team how to defend in different formations. If Moyes tightens them up, the rest will look after itself—with Mata and Co. free to turn on the style.
First of all, he needs to decide on a lineup and stick with it. There should be less tinkering and United need to rely on a core of 15 or so players from here until the end of the season. This is especially true of the back four, where a settled unit is required for United to put a run together.
Though he's not United class in my opinion, Rafael is the best option at right-back. I'd go with Jonny Evans and Nemanja Vidic as the central pair, with Patrice Evra at left-back. David De Gea is, of course, the only choice as goalkeeper.
In front of the back four, Michael Carrick and either Darren Fletcher or Phil Jones can provide the stability Moyes needs. One of those would be charged with protecting United's left, which will be vulnerable with Evra and Juan Mata in operation there.
Many will argue for Mata playing centrally, but he has to start out wide for me. Jose Mourinho was right to question his defensive credentials—he's a liability. Mata is not a ball winner and he doesn't tackle. That doesn't mean he's not a great player; just that he needs cover.
I'd play Rooney centrally, behind van Persie, with Antonio Valencia out on United's right. That means Januzaj on the bench, which is another point many will question. My thinking there is Januzaj can have a big impact coming into games later, and also that having both he and Mata in the same team makes United weak defensively.
Danny Welbeck and Kagawa are others I would use mostly from the bench.
And there you have it—a team I believe should put United back inside the top four. There have been many questions asked of whether Moyes can manage an attack-minded side, but what's needed now is for the former Everton manager to return to his comfort zone and stress defensive virtues.
In that sense, he's perfectly suited to the task at hand. And if he gets it right, United could find themselves in the mix sooner rather than later. They play Stoke and Fulham in their next two Premier League games, with a huge trip to Arsenal following that.
The time has come for Moyes to do what he does best. If he can't do that, then you really do have to worry for his United future.
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