United have suffered a series of dire results this season, the latest of which saw them concede a last-gasp equaliser at home to bottom-of-the-table Fulham.
Since breaking the club’s record transfer fee for Juan Mata, United have picked up four points from a possible nine against teams in the lower half of the table, yet Moyes insists his players have been “great”, per the Mirror’s David McDonnell:
We’re trying to see how our results have not been as good as they have been. They should be, and we will continue to look at that. There’s no one person or one thing [to blame]. There are several different things that we’ll look to change or alter, but there’s no one thing.
I think the players are doing great. I think I’ve got a great group of players. I’m very fortunate I took over the champions and I think the players have been terrific.
While Moyes’ words are likely to be an attempt to protect his players ahead of such a big game at Arsenal, they still ring extremely hollow after a disastrous campaign to date.
United are currently nine points adrift of the Champions League spots, a gap that could extend to 12 as Liverpool visit strugglers Fulham on Wednesday.
|Champions League hunt|
In cup competitions, the Red Devils have been embarrassed twice on their home turf by Swansea and Sunderland, and only the Champions League remains a realistic chance of silverware as they prepare to meet Olympiacos in the last 16.
For Moyes to claim his players have been “terrific” represents a seismic leap from the standards set by former boss Sir Alex Ferguson.
Against the other nine teams in the top half of the table, United have won only once, when they beat Arsenal 1-0. They have been beaten eight times already this campaign, and rarely have those results been harsh on the champions.
Their most recent conquerors, Stoke City, were deserving winners at the Britannia Stadium, while statistics told a misleading story in the 2-2 draw against Fulham. United, despite loading the box with crosses against the Cottagers, were largely toothless and easy to defend against for large chunks of a game they dominated.
The Guardian’s Daniel Harris certainly was not impressed by United’s display against Fulham:
For Moyes to label his players “great” when they have the second-worst defensive record in the top eight teams of the division, raises questions of the standards he demands. For any midfielder—bar Michael Carrick—to justify that label is another stretch of the imagination.
The Scot’s own tactics can also be deemed anything but “terrific”. Having signed Mata, he has so far played the Spaniard out of position in a 4-4-2, a formation that will never get the best out of a player who likes to play between the lines.
Adnan Januzaj, one of United’s only bright sparks of the campaign, has so far been sacrificed to make way for Mata, yet another highly questionable decision by Moyes.
United’s season has seen their ambitions fall from title contention, to Champions League qualification, to now battling to achieve European qualification at all.
A squad that was crowned champions less than 12 months ago is now producing mediocre football on a regular basis.
If Moyes truly believes the players have been “terrific”, the spotlight must be turned on himself as the reason for the club’s spiral into crisis.