What a year 2013 has been for Manchester United. A 20th league title, robbed in a Champions League quarter-final, a less than impressive FA Cup run and the retirement of the greatest manager to ever live and the appointment of a man who many call ‘Fergie’s apprentice.’ It has not been your average year.
News of Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement was soon followed by the appointment of David Moyes and the move was greeted with a mixed reaction from the United faithful. Some believed that Jose Mourinho was a stronger candidate but when news filtered out that it was Sir Alex’s decision, United fans were put at ease.
The Moyes era got off to a good start with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Wigan Athletic in the Community Shield. The good form continued when United dismantled a strong Swansea side in South Wales, a place where a lot of the big teams have struggled since they gained promotion a few seasons ago. The 4-1 victory was seen as a near perfect start to United’s first Premier League campaign under a new manager.
Chelsea were the first visitors to Old Trafford this season and matched United in a game which ended as a less than exciting 0-0 draw but it was after this when things began to unravel.
After losing away to Liverpool, United were cut open by Manchester City at the Etihad. It was a humiliation and, as if it couldn’t get any worse, six days later West Brom travelled to Old Trafford and claimed three points in a dismal performance. The less optimistic reds started to question Moyes’ ability but anyone in their right mind would have known prior to the start of the season that it wasn’t going to be all plain sailing.
This season was only ever set to be a learning curve for the clubs officials, coaching staff and most importantly, the fans.
But just as Moyes’s management ability started to be questioned, United bounced back with 15 points from the next seven games including wins over Arsenal and Sunderland and away draws to Spurs, Cardiff and Southampton. Things were on the up.
Then, the pendulum swung again.
Two home losses to Everton and Newcastle in the space of three days shocked everyone and left fans fuming at how poor our home form has been this year. The losses saw United drop to ninth in the table and by now, the ‘Moyes out’ brigade had started printing off their petitions. Hatred for Moyes off United fans on social networks hit its highest point as a lot of fans labelled him as ‘not good enough’ and ‘not the man to lead United to a trophy.’
But prior to the loss against Spurs, United had won six games on the bounce including a 1-0 win against Shakhtar Donetsk which sealed qualification for the Champions League knock-out stages with ease. There was plenty to be frustrated with but in equal measure, there were some real positives.
Renowned for their form heading into the New Year, there is no reason for anyone to write United off yet despite the disappointing FA Cup exit at the hands of Swansea yesterday. It’s only a matter of weeks ago that we were 12 points and eight places behind Liverpool, now we’re five points behind. Things can change in the blink of an eye.
Even against Spurs, we dominated until their breakaway goal and when we were 1-0 down, Moyes went 4-3-3 and put a right winger at right back. Yes, Spurs got a second soon after but we clawed our way back into it and probably should have got at least a draw. Ferguson always said he’d rather lose 2/3-0 and chase the game than rest on his laurels at 1-0 down – that is exactly what Moyes did.
Moyes is learning. He’s new to this situation and becoming accustomed to the pressures of being the manager of one of the biggest football clubs on the planet. This season was only ever set to be a learning curve for the clubs officials, coaching staff and most importantly, the fans.
It took Sir Alex three years to win his first trophy. Unfortunately, modern day pressures of being a Premier League manager doesn’t give that amount of time but if you had to be realistic, a top four finish, a good domestic cup run and anything more than a Champions League Quarter-final would have to be classed as a very good season for the situation that we were in at the end of November.
One of the biggest lessons learnt each year by fellow teams is to never write United off and even though we’ve changed the manager, that ethos should always be in the back of everyone’s mind when United go through a bad spell. Remember that.