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The A-Z of Manchester United's 2013-14 Season

Rob BlanchetteFeatured ColumnistMay 21, 2014

The A-Z of Manchester United's 2013-14 Season

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    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    It was a season to dismiss for Manchester United fans across the world.

    But for the faithful who trudged back and forth to Old Trafford every other week, it was a year that will not be forgotten fast.

    The season started with cautious optimism when David Moyes added yet another Community Shield to the United museum.

    But it all soon started to disintegrate as the club started to fall apart at the seams.

    Here we take a look at an A-Z of Manchester United's 2013-14 season, with all the emotional highs and the difficult lows that the Red Devils and their supporters faced. 

     

    All stats via ESPN FC and Soccer Base unless stated.

A Is for Adnan

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    Stu Forster/Getty Images

    As bad as Manchester United's season turned out to be in 2013-14, there was indeed one bright, shining light.

    The campaign turned out to be the breakout year for Adnan Januzaj, as the talented Belgian wonderkid wooed the faithful with his skill and trickery. 

    With the end of Ryan Giggs' playing career, it seems the young prodigy has the choices of the No. 7 and No. 11 shirts. 

    Whichever number he chooses, Januzaj is on course to have an explosive Old Trafford career. 

     

B Is for Bayern Munich

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    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    When Patrice Evra struck the ball as perfectly as he had ever done in his Manchester United career, Red Devils across the planet were all afforded the chance to dream for a moment as the ball smashed into the back of the net.

    But it was not to be, as the current version of United simply did not have the tools to finish the job.

    The Bayern Munich game may well have saved David Moyes his job, had he managed to go to Bavaria and knock the Champions League holders out of the competition.

    However, as with many of the Scotsman's exploits with the club, failure was ultimately the dish served from the menu. 

C Is for Class of '92

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    Ian Walton/Getty Images

    When Sir Alex Ferguson announced his retirement, many a joke was told about how his fledglings should take over the club.

    And with David Moyes sacrificed as Manchester United floundered, that humourous speculation turned into reality.

    Ryan Giggs steered United through the last four matches of the campaign with Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Phil Neville by his side.

    It was a fantasy ensemble for many United fans, as the club's most loved sons had a go at picking the team.

    And with Giggs as the new assistant manager to Louis van Gaal, the influence of the Class of '92 will remain strong at Carrington. 

D Is for De Gea

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    Manchester United's squad catastrophically failed last season after winning their 20th league championship.

    But one player maintained his very high standards.

    David de Gea was rightfully named Player of the Year after yet another solid season between the sticks.

    The Spanish goalkeeper has improved every season since his arrival from Atletico Madrid and is very much now a part of the top echelon of stoppers in world football.

    United will desperately need De Gea in the years to come. If it means making him the highest paid No. 1 in Europe to retain him, then so be it. 

    Dave saves, and the Red Devils should build their defensive unit around him for the next decade. 

E Is for Ed

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    Jon Super/Associated Press

    As David Moyes found it impossible to follow in Sir Alex Ferguson's footsteps, Ed Woodward has suffered a similar fate trying to replace David Gill.

    The chartered accountant and Manchester United executive vice-chairman has had a horrid first 12 months in his role in overseeing the Glazer family's soccer empire.

    But his swift dismissal of Moyes may yet prove that Woodward has a ruthless streak.

    The 2014-15 will be of immense importance to the Old Trafford club, but Woodward will quickly need to prove that he is the man to take the biggest club in the world forward. 

F Is for Ferdinand

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    Nicky Loh/Getty Images

    When Manchester United signed Rio Ferdinand for a world-record fee for a defender after the 2002 World Cup, the team's defence was in a mess. 

    But the huge money invested in the player proved to be one of Sir Alex Ferguson's greatest decisions, giving the Reds' defence the solidity and intelligence it needed for over a decade. 

    Ferdinand left United at the end of the season after an illustrious playing career, joining an elite club of centre-backs who have played for the Red Devils over 400 times, per ManUtd.com.

    The bright lights of America or the Far East should now beckon the legendary former England captain. 

G Is for Giggs

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    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    This year saw the end of Ryan Giggs' historic playing career and the beginning of a new chapter in his life as a coach.

    Giggs showed a good level of competency when he took over from David Moyes at the end of the season, proving he could handle the press and motivate the team. 

    Giggsy will now be Louis van Gaal's second in command as United look to build again and quickly remount the horse of success. 

    The Welshman is the ideal connection between dressing room and the new manager, keeping communication channels open and creating a platform of stability for the squad as things once again change at Old Trafford. 

H Is for Herrera

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    David Ramos/Getty Images

    Ander Herrera was the answer to David Moyes' midfield problems one year ago.

    However, Manchester United and Ed Woodward somehow failed to complete the deal on time, and the player went on to have a great season for Athletic Bilbao.

    Ander went on to feature in La Liga 33 times for Bilbao, providing five goals and five assists, per WhoScored.com. He is now on the verge of breaking into Spain's national team. 

    Guillem Balague of The Telegraph wrote of the player on Monday:

    Ander Herrera has had a storming season for Athletic Bilbao, is already an established Under 21 international and it's surely only a matter of time before he steps up into the full side, although I firmly believe he is already more than ready for an upgrade.

    Herrera is the one who got away. Could he have been Moyes' saviour in a part of the field in which United were so poor?

    We will never know. 

I Is for Injuries

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    Jon Super/Associated Press

    When it rains, it quite often pours.

    David Moyes' luck seemed to have run out completely as he closed the door on his Everton career and took charge of a Manchester United squad that would be hit by a biblical plague of injuries.

    Most notably, United had to cope without the player who had blasted them to the title months before: Robin van Persie.

    Moyes' tactics were questionable during his short tenure, but he was not helped by an injury crisis that did not relent until it was far too late to save the day.

J Is for Juan

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    Scott Heppell/Associated Press

    Has there ever been a nicer footballer than Juan Mata?

    Unfortunately, "nice" does not pay the bills in football, but Mata's undoubted class will be of more use to Louis van Gaal than it was to David Moyes.

    Mata joined United as the club's record signing in the January transfer window. 

    And as exciting as his capture from Chelsea was, most United supporters knew his signing was not addressing the team's core issues.

    But Mata is a world-class No. 10, and his ability to pass and move will undoubtedly have Van Gaal purring at the prospect of playing him. 

K Is for Kroos

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    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    Toni Kroos is the new Wesley Sneijder.

    This means is he is linked to Manchester United on almost a daily basis, as social media dances excitedly with every story, only for Kroos to carry on playing for his club as if nothing had happened.

    The Bayern Munich midfielder is a wonderful player who would revolutionise United's midfield, but whether he will ever eventually arrive at Old Trafford is questionable. 

    A good World Cup for the German international will further enhance his value.

    And it will all probably end with him signing a new deal with the Bundesliga champions. 

L Is for Liverpool

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    It was their year—almost. 

    Manchester United's most bitter foes nearly reclaimed the perch that Sir Alex Ferguson knocked them off so famously, but it was not to be for the Anfield club.

    Luis Suarez and Company were undoubtedly the best attacking team in England this year, but with a paper-thin defence the Merseysiders were exposed and defeated, falling at the final hurdle as they raced away from the field. 

    The fact that it was Steven Gerrard's mistake that was the catalyst for failure will forever please United fans in a "John Terry in Moscow" way.

    And as Liverpool shed tears of frustration at coming so close, United supporters did little to hide the smirks on their faces. 

    Both clubs had hugely contrasting fortunes in 2013-14, but ultimately United did not win a major trophy.

    And neither did Liverpool. 

M Is for Moyes

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    You could write a book on the things that went wrong during David Moyes' 11 months in charge at Manchester United.

    But all you need to know is that one year on from his appointment, Moyes was playing golf on a tropical course, no longer the manager of the biggest club in the world.

    If something could go wrong for Moyes, it did, and his players never bought into his tactics or game plan.

    Moyes will go on to be a very good coach at another club, but Old Trafford was just too big of a stage for an act like his. 

N Is for Nike

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    Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

    It seems that Nike and Manchester United are standing at a crossroads, wondering if it is time to hug one another, have one last glass of Sir Alex Ferguson's wine and say their goodbyes to each other.

    Matt Lawton and Charles Sale of The Daily Mail report that Adidas are in pole position to become the club's new kit manufacturer, ending a long association with Nike. 

    It appears that United have agreed a world record £60 million-a-year deal with the German company, per Lawton, ending a 10-year relationship with their current principal commercial partner.

    United are tied to Nike until 2015, but a deal will surely be announced soon, and we will discover whether the Red Devils will stick with their current sponsors or not. 

O Is for Old Trafford

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    Old Trafford was a miserable place to be this past year.

    First we saw Sir Alex Ferguson say goodbye on the pitch as tears streamed down the faces on the Stretford End.

    And then United went on to lose seven Premier League matches, per PremierLeague.com, only scoring twice during all of those defeats. 

    The Theatre of Dreams has always been a fortress for the Red Devils and a reliable venue for capturing points.

    But under David Moyes it all went horribly wrong at home. It is the first issue that Louis van Gaal will have to fix with immediate effect. 

     

P Is for Philip

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    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    The return of Philip Neville to Manchester United was universally welcomed when he left Everton with David Moyes to take control at Carrington.

    However, 12 months on, the Class of '92 member has been stained by the hand of the outgoing managerial administration. 

    Whether Neville can cut the mustard and be a coach at a club like United is yet to be known.

    But unfortunately for him, he has failed the theoretical test at his first attempt. 

Q Is for Qatar

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    Will Manchester United follow the lead of the blue half of the city and end up in the hands of the super-rich from the Middle East?

    At the end of March, David Pilditch of The Express claimed that the Qatari royal family were to bid to wrest control away from Malcolm Glazer and his family with the help of David Beckham and the Class of '92.

    Pilditch claimed that the Qatar consortium were willing to put up £2 billion to buy the club, using Beckham's contacts and influence to broker the deal.

    Nothing more has come from the claims as yet, but if the Glazers were to ever sell United it would come at an extraordinary cost for any buyer. 

R Is for Rooney

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    Jon Super/Associated Press

    As a Manchester United supporter, your opinion of Wayne Rooney normally falls into one of two categories.

    Firstly, you either think that he is a god who has magic in his feet and runs around as if his engine has been supercharged with several turbo boosters.

    Or secondly, you think he is not worth the extraordinary money he is paid and that he has the first touch of a mid-table footballer.

    Wayne Rooney splits opinion.

    What we do know is that David Moyes gambled on Rooney being his talisman in his incarnation of the team.

    And Moyes no longer has a job.

    Rooney is without doubt a very effective player, and his statistics back that up. However, he might find life under Louis van Gaal significantly more difficult than he did under his previous Evertonian boss. 

S Is for Sir Alex

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    Sang Tan/Associated Press

    The season went a bit like this:

    Manchester United play a football match. Manchester United then lose that football match. 

    And then the camera pans to Sir Alex Ferguson high up in the stands, looking very glum indeed.

    Anyone who has any aversion towards the Red Devils will have had many a laugh at the expense of Fergie and his ex-players this year.

    If David Moyes was the nail that split the wood in 2013-14, then Sir Alex was the carpenter.

    Though not directly responsible for the team's poor performances in the last year, it was the great man who appointed a manager who was not fit to carry the torch. 

T Is for Tactics

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    Scott Heppell/Associated Press

    4-4-2 is dead. 

    David Moyes proved this time and again as he let tradition override logic.

    United's preferred formation has destroyed many an opponent over the years, but the world has worked out how to nullify this tactic.

    Moyes had a very good 4-2-3-1 at his disposal but never had faith in sticking with the formation.

    The uninspiring tactics eventually exposed Moyes as not being a top-level coach, and it was no surprise to see him dismissed for his lack of acumen. 

U Is for Under-21s

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    As Manchester United's senior side flattered to deceive, the under-21s once again proved what a strong setup they have.

    Having already produced Adnan Januzaj, the youth sector saw James Wilson and Tom Lawrence make the first team.

    Andreas Pereira could also force his way into Louis van Gaal's plans next season, if the young starlet continues with his strong development.

    Things are looking good for United at youth level, and with a host of hot talent for the new manager to run the rule over, the traditions of the football club appear to be protected for the near future. 

V Is for Vidic

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    All great players come to their inevitable end. Nemanja Vidic may well be joining another football club but is finished as a top-class centre-back.

    Still a match for many an attacker, the injuries have caught up with Vidic, and now the issue for him is keeping up with the very best goalscorers.

    Playing week-in and week-out is no longer an option for him, and Serie A's slow pace will suit him in his twilight years. 

    The veteran Serbian defender is undoubtedly a Manchester United modern legend and will never be forgotten by the faithful.

    Having been signed for the same price as Bebe, Vidic ranks as one of Sir Alex Ferguson's greatest captures at £7 million. 

W Is for Wilson

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    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    The 2013-14 season was all about Adnan Januzaj. The 2014-15 season may well be all about James Wilson.

    Knowledgeable Manchester United fans have been waiting for the prodigious Wilson to make his debut for the first team for some time.

    And when he finally got his chance under the stewardship of Ryan Giggs, the boy did not disappoint.

    Wilson is a goal machine blessed with electrifying pace. There is a touch of a young Michael Owen about him, and do not be surprised to see him represent the senior England side in the near future.

    The appointment of Van Gaal is perfect for Wilson, because if he shows his quality in training he will be allowed plenty of opportunity in a red shirt. 

X Is for Xavi

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    Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

    He was the boy discovered by Louis van Gaal and thrown into the Dutchman's Barcelona team as a teenager.

    Now it seems as if the Spanish Paul Scholes could be about to end his career at Old Trafford.

    Rumblings about Xavi's future have be spoken of in the final weeks of the season, and now Paul Hetherington of The Daily Star writes that Manchester United may be about to move for the veteran.

    At 34 years old Xavi has certainly seen his best days, but he would be an excellent squad addition as Van Gaal looks to reinvent his midfield. 

    Sir Alex Ferguson was always a great admirer of the Barca legend, and with the club losing the experience of Vidic and Ferdinand logic would dictate that United could use a wise head in the dressing room. 

Y Is for Yaya

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    Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

    He may play for the other club in Manchester but Yaya Toure has shown the way forward for United.

    Yaya is the archetypal modern-day midfielder: something the Red Devils do not possess. He can score goals, pass the ball, burst through central defences and be a match-winner. 

    If Manchester United want to be successful once again, they must indeed find their own Yaya. 

Z Is for Zaha

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    Jon Super/Associated Press

    A picture tells a thousand words.

    But what is for sure is that Wilfried Zaha's first season as a Manchester United player did not go to plan.

    When you sign for the greatest British manager in history it would surely be a huge disappointment to turn up for your first day at work to find David Moyes laying out the cones on the training pitch.

    Zaha is probably not ready for the United first team just yet but will get his opportunity.

    In a 4-4-2, there will undoubtedly be issues for the young England player, but if Van Gaal reverts to an attacking 4-3-3 Zaha could explode into the first team.

    He may yet end up on loan for another season to gain Premier League experience, but if he can impress the manager early on, it is safe to say that Zaha will be going nowhere. 

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