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Manchester United's Biggest Disappointments of the 2013/14 Premier League Season

Rob BlanchetteFeatured ColumnistMay 14, 2014

Manchester United's Biggest Disappointments of the 2013/14 Premier League Season

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    Jon Super/Associated Press

    So, Liverpool did not win the league. Jose Mourinho did not win any trophies. The Glazers saw sense and undid their David Moyes mistake. And the burden of the Europa League (and it is indeed a burden) does not now rest on the shoulders of Manchester United

    In reality, the first season without Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm could have been a lot worse for United supporters. 

    But luckily it was not.

    For the Red Devils in 2014, the word "transition" instead meant "car crash" as the worst season for a generation unfolded.

    So what were the biggest disappointments for United over the past 12 months?

    Here we take a look at the septic recent goings-on at Old Trafford, and the pain that it has caused the fans that follow the club like a religion. 

    There's more to life than football, you know. But not much more. 

Moyes Moyes Moyes

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    Jon Super/Associated Press

    You can only really start with the manager. 

    David Moyes came into Manchester United knowing what he was taking on. However, what was then proved over the next 11 months was that David Moyes is not good enough to manage Manchester United.

    It has been inferred that the appointment of the Scotsman to follow Sir Alex Ferguson was an experiment that tried to clone the success and DNA of one man and replicate it in a younger version of him.

    Yes, Fergie and Moyes have a shared geographical heritage but that is where the comparisons stop.

    Moyes' achievements at Everton turned out to be absolutely non-applicable at Old Trafford and Carrington.

    His skill sets were proven but they were the wrong ones to manage the biggest club in the world. 

    Moyes knew it was going to be a challenge and was committed to travelling down a road of pain and distortion, as he rebuilt United in his image. 

    But his image was Everton. And United fans and the Glazers were not interested in that. 

    Moyes' appointment and failure was the biggest disappointment of 2013-14. However, maybe this should all be laid at the door of Sir Alex? He was trusted to keep the club on the right track by choosing the right man for the job, after his inevitable retirement.

    He could have had Jose Mourinho. He could have pursued Jurgen Klopp. He could have courted Pep Guardiola before the Bavarians got their claws into him. 

    But he went for the guy who lived down the M62, who had won no trophies as a boss and who had no experience in coaching world-class players.

    So in reality, it is Fergie who was one of the biggest disappointments of the year. He let United down with his last direct decision as the manager of the football club. 

    Rather than leave the Faithful with an Eric Cantona in coaching terms, he left them with an Eric Djemba-Djemba.

    Everyone makes mistakes but the damage of this one could have been fatal. 

    But United will now move on with a new and improved leader, and the protracted rebuilding can once again commence in earnest. 

Marouane Fellaini

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    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    Most United fans already want Marouane Fellaini to leave Old Trafford, and in many ways that is unfair on a player who has suffered an injury packed season, in a team crushed by poor tactics and crass decision making. 

    But it is undeniable that he has been a huge disappointment.

    Fellaini shone as an attacking midfielder at Everton and he finally got to play the position for the first time for United, against Hull at Old Trafford. 

    He did not cover himself in glory during the match, but he did get two assists. 

    David Moyes was clear that he bought Fellaini as more of a defensive entity than an attacking one, and the player had also proclaimed it as his preferred role.

    Daniel Storey of Sky Sports had previously quoted Fellaini, while at Everton in December 2012, as saying:

    I think I am a defensive midfielder. But the manager thinks I can play number 10, number eight, number six, so I play wherever he wants and I give my maximum.

    I prefer defensive midfielder because I know my job when I play there. More things are in front of you. It is difficult to play with your back to goal. It is not my position but the manager likes me there and I am happy to do it.

    Whatever his preference, Fellaini has failed to live up to his billing or his price-tag.

    As a midfielder who features in one of world football's most dynamic international sides, Fellaini cannot be a bad player. 

    But perhaps he is not the right player for United?

Two Poor Transfer Windows

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    Jon Super/Associated Press

    Juan Mata oozes class and quality, but when United needed a new left-back, centre-back and a new bunch of conventional midfielders, the signing of a third No. 10 for the club was hardly addressing the issues. 

    David Moyes and Ed Woodward's first transfer window together was nothing more than a tragic farce.

    Many of the world's top names were whispered in a very public way by United, with Woodward dramatically flying home from the Reds' pre-season tour of Australia, per Jamie Jackson of The Guardian, to seal some huge deals—only for nothing to happen.

    The summer was an embarrassment for Moyes and the club. It is difficult to see how his new squad might have viewed the ineptitude shown so early in his tenure.

    United's failure to do any business, to address age old issues in the squad, was crucial in the way the season played out.

    Sir Alex Ferguson could fill holes with his magic and man-management but Moyes did not have such a personal arsenal to call upon. 

    Moyes gambled that he could keep United afloat with what he had been given but that decision ultimately cost him his future at the club.

Failure of Leadership on the Pitch

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    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    Nemanja Vidic. Patrice Evra. Rio Ferdinand. Michael Carrick.

    All of the players above failed to lead on the pitch at times when United needed them most this season.

    Footballers can be delicate and precious souls considering they are hardened, millionaire professional sportsmen. And when the team needed its senior contributors to roll their sleeves up and drive the playing staff forward: They went missing. 

    In general, Moyes refused to criticise his players for most of the turbulent season, and despite his rigid tactics, none of United's gloriously decorated leaders bothered to show up when the chips were down.

    Vidic and Rio have now departed with Evra probably close behind. On the other hand, Carrick is an interesting case:

    Here we have a technically superior individual who, in last season's title triumph, was United's Player of the Year.

    Yet this season he has offered nothing. He has looked a shadow of himself, and he has deservedly been punished by his omission from England's World Cup squad.

    On ability, he should be on the plane to Brazil. But on form, he should be on a beach in Barbados. 

    United's new boss will need to buy leadership into the club, the way Manchester City did when they targeted Vincent Kompany. 

    Both Phil Jones and Jonny Evans are the most likely captaincy candidates to take the club forward but both have injury issues they must first conquer. 

Not Seeing Shinji Kagawa at No. 10

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    Jon Super/Associated Press

    United fans were jubilant when the club signed one of Europe's hottest No. 10's: Borussia Dormund's magnificent attacker Shinji Kagawa.

    It can take some time for new signings to settle in at Carrington, so there was not much pressure on Kagawa in his first year, especially after he suffered a twisted knee that kept him out of action for two months.

    But toward the back end of last year, Kagawa scored his first hat-trick for the club, against Norwich at Old Trafford. And with Wayne Rooney looking likely to join Chelsea it seemed that the Japan international's time was about to arrive.

    But it did not. 

    Kagawa remained maligned under Moyes until the end of the season where it seemed that the manager was starting to gain faith in the player and his ability. 

    However the 25-year-old still only managed 14 starts in the Premier League, providing three assists and no goals, per WhoScored.com

    Hardly the kind of return you would expect from such a playmaker.

    Kagawa's luck might be about to change if Louis van Gaal takes the reigns at United. Van Gaal favours a 4-3-3 and Kagawa might just fit into the system comfortably. 

    A 4-4-2 is not a formation that exploits Kagawa's array of talents, and if United were to carry on playing the tactic, Kagawa might as well jump on a plane back to mainland Europe. 

    Kagawa's future will be decided on the roll of a dice. The World Cup has come just at the right time for him, to remind United fans of the player they have. 

Injuries Galore!

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    Jon Super/Associated Press

    For all of the criticism levelled at David Moyes, what could have United achieved if they had managed to keep their best players out of the treatment room?

    The Red Devils suffered an injury crisis of epic proportions during the 2013-14 campaign and they never found a way to dig themselves out of the quicksand. 

    Robin van Persie, a man who had fired the club to their 20th league championship in his first season, spent months out of the side.

    The striker managed just 21 league games during the whole season, with a return of 12 goals, per Squawka, being absent for over three months cumulatively.

    With that kind of luck United were likely not to retain their title, but few saw a slip as far as seventh place in the Premier League.

    A fit squad will make a huge difference to any new manager next season. Moyes' regime might have somehow been responsible for the fitness issues in the team but when you lose your best players to injury you always struggle to compete at the highest levels. 

The Midfield

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    Michael Regan/Getty Images

    Manchester United's midfield is poor and it has been for years.

    But Sir Alex Ferguson had a system that allowed his central men to be pragmatic in possession and left all the flair and creativity to other positions. 

    This was a facet David Moyes could not get his head around. 

    Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley, Anderson and Marouane Fellaini failed as a collective unit this season, with their soft core and lack of function. 

    Carrick once had the safest pair of feet in the United side but his influence has eroded. This had a knock-on effect for the other central midfielders and we did not see a comfortable or consistent pairing this year.

    Despite Moyes knowing this, he trundled along with 4-4-2, rather than reverting to a 4-2-3-1, which might have offered his team some increased midfield control and counter-attack potential. 

    And as a result United lost a lot of matches. 

    United must address the issue of replacing some fantastic central defensive servants in the next few weeks but the conundrum of the midfield is one which must be solved immediately.

    Otherwise, United's winter of discontent could last well into a second season. 

Wayne Rooney

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    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    You may ask: "How on earth can Wayne Rooney be considered a disappointment?"

    Rooney was the horse that David Moyes bet his mortgage and house on. And now the bank have repossessed the property.

    Of course, it is vital that we highlight his statistical contribution to United this season: 

    The 28-year-old captain-in-waiting hit 19 goals in 38 Premier League and European matches, providing an impressive 15 assists along the way, per WhoScored.com.

    It is easy to argue that without Rooney the end result of seventh in the league, and a Champions League quarterfinal, could have been a lot worse.

    But Rooney was the problem that Moyes and many United fans did not anticipate. 

    Once again, pre-season was all about whether Rooney would stay at United, and the emotional energy invested by Moyes to keep his boy wonder was clear. 

    However, Moyes got his tricky kid to stay and everyone in Red rejoiced. 

    But Moyes also clearly planned to build his side around the Merseysider's talents and it backfired, even with a squad who know how to make Rooney tick intricately. 

    Despite Rooney's figures, the insistence on making him the celestial body of the team contributed toward United's downfall in 2014. 

    Sir Alex Ferguson read the situation correctly, and he took the emphasis off Rooney and on to players who eventually won him his 13th league championship.

    But Moyes switched Fergie's recent philosophy and as a result failed to qualify for Europe. 

    Rooney is not a bad player. He is a very good one. But he is not world class. Robin van Persie is a world-class striker and Juan Mata is a world-class No. 10—Wayne sits somewhere just behind this. 

    He is a company director rather than chairman of the board and Moyes promoted him above the station that suits him. 

    At 28 years old, Rooney still has a very average first touch and until he improves that (and at his age he probably will not) he cannot be the creative central figure in a team like United. 

    He needs to be part of a stellar supporting cast and this way United's strength in depth can shine. 

    Rooney is not a skipper and he is not a leader. But he can contribute heavily to the reemergence of Manchester United as a force in English football. 

    If he is not happy, not being top dog, in the coming years then maybe it is time for both parties to hug and say their goodbyes. 

    No one player is bigger than Manchester United. This is a fact Wayne Rooney should heed. 

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