Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse for Manchester United and David Moyes, it did, as their formerly "noisy neighbours" Manchester City romped to a 3-0 victory at Old Trafford on Tuesday night.
While we’re not at the stage of season where tickets are being torn to pieces and prices are being put on Moyes’ head, it’s still clear that United need to dig deep if they’re to return to the impenetrable force that Sir Alex Ferguson forged them into.
It’s not as simple as sacking the manager, though, despite what nearly every United fan thinks. Manchester United are a club that builds squads from their very foundations and lets them grow into something spectacular, and that’s where Moyes needs to start.
Despite the current climate of sacking managers before they have even found the comfiest seat in the dugout, managing in the Premier League is a marathon, not a sprint, and the Manchester United powers-that-be know that.
Where would Fergie have been without the Class of ‘92? None of those players—be it David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes or Gary Neville—were world-beaters the second they put in a United shirt; they were raised to be the players that they became.
That era has undoubtedly come to an end now, and you’d be a fool to think that Sir Alex didn’t know that before he made his decision to retire—as Martin Lipton of the Mirror backs up:
The Laird of Old Trafford hand-picked his successor but left him with an ageing, unbalanced squad living on past glories. Ferguson was only really interested in his going away present of United's 20th title, not the future.
Moyes inherited the fifth-oldest squad in the Premier League when he took to the United hot seat, with an average age of 27 years and 112 days—per talkSPORT. It’s also no coincidence that the four clubs with older average ages than United, including Fulham and Crystal Palace, are struggling at the wrong end of the table.
Adnan Januzaj has arguably been United’s player of the season this year, with three goals and four assists to his name despite playing a bit-part role at times, and where did he come from? The youth set-up.
Moyes must instil his faith and time in the young United stars to bring back the glory days at Old Trafford. While millions of pounds are thrown around like they’re pennies in the Premier League, you still have to start from the bottom, but when you are forced to bring in a big-money signing, don’t play him out of position.
Playing Mata on the wing is like the Germans using Per Mertesacker as their 100-meter sprint representative at the Olympics—it’s never going to work.
So why play him out of position? The way I see it, you have to play every player to his ultimate strengths. Is Wayne Rooney’s style of dropping deep to dictate play getting in the way of his United progress? I’d say yes.
Rooney is one of those players who's like a spoilt child in the park—he simply has to have the ball and be involved with everything no matter the situation. But in reality, when he plays in a more advanced role, he’s absolutely lethal.
Playing as an out-and-out striker in the 2011/12 campaign, before the arrival of Robin van Persie, Rooney chalked up 35 goals in 44 appearances in all competitions for the Red Devils—absolutely staggering statistics, via ESPNFC.com.
If Moyes can play Rooney in a more advanced role, where statistically he is best, then that clears the way for Mata to finally do the business in a United shirt.
With that in mind, it’s impossible to say that Moyes isn’t totally at fault for United’s downfall this season; and even he, speaking to BBC Sport’s Phil McNulty, said that he’s to blame:
I am the one who picks the team. I take responsibility and always will do. It is disappointing. I thought it would be a tough year but I hoped it would be more competitive.
But if the Scot can take his focus away from how he’s going to clean his desk out at the end of the year and concentrate on the areas that matter, then he will turn things around.
United won’t be in the Champions League next season, that much is guaranteed, but with a quarter-final tie against the current holders on the horizon, they can have a good go at this season’s competition.
As Sir Alex tried and tested several times: To be the best, you have to beat the best.
United have a generous set of fixtures to come as we enter the winter of the Premier League season, giving them plenty of time to prepare for what’s coming their way next year.
Will United take back the Manchester bragging rights any time soon? Probably not, but building for the future is job one right now; and though it could get a lot worse, if Moyes employs the right tactics, then it definitely will get better.