So it has come to this – banners. One that won’t be taken down and another that might be seen from the skies. Just when you think this season cannot get any more farcical, this happens.
Only the club can argue that ‘The Chosen One’ banner looks anything but ludicrous right now. A photo can say a thousand words so you only need to snap away at the full-time scoreboards against Liverpool and Manchester City, ensure you include the banner and hey presto, that’s tomorrow’s back page sorted. That security had to be deployed to ensure that the banner remained in place on the Stretford End after the derby says a lot about the ill feeling towards David Moyes right now.
While the club will continue to keep schtum about moving the manager on and insist about a long-term plan only an inspired end to the season can save him now. That is including an extended run in the Champions League which is laughable at best considering the worrying notion of Ribery, Robben et al to come.
There used to be a time when supporters would relish games against the cream of Europe yet right now you would be hard pressed to find anyone who is truly looking forward to seeing how Moyes’ boys can do against the current European champions. The team is suffering from an identity crisis and it goes to show the level of middle table mediocrity in the Premier League that comfortable victories can be secured against the likes of West Ham, West Brom and Crystal Palace. Make no mistake, while Moyes will protest that victories and clean sheets are promising there is a whole lot of dross that will avoid relegation yet again. Dross that make this United team look good.
There used to be a time not long ago when United would attack from kick-off. There was no stick and twist, no settling for a two-goal lead. Teams would be dispatched relentlessly and barely allowed to pass the halfway line. Times have changed yet it would be nice to see at least a few buds of improvement and signs of a recognised playing style but those have been few and far between as the season has endured.
United still cling onto seventh place in the league which is about right for a side that has made inconsistency expected. A £37m Band-Aid cannot cover the cracks for a team that simply does not know how to approach a football match. Against Liverpool and Manchester City you could scratch your head and wonder exactly what the game plan was. Plod through midfield, take a few too many touches, concede possession, run back through an empty midfield, pray that David De Gea comes up trumps and repeat ad nauseam. Against teams with a plan and a recognised tactical approach United have, understandably, failed miserably.
Comparisons will be made about how United would have done with Jose Mourinho in charge and of course they would be higher up the league. There is a coach that has a plan for every game with a team that knows exactly how to eek out results. Of course, the whining and the associated finger wagging would not do for a club like United but talent like that cannot be ignored, not now. Perhaps someone like Jurgen Klopp fancies a new challenge after having his best talent poached by Bayern.
Top class managers give the impression that they know what they are doing. Top class managers do not come out with quotes that confirm that your most despised rivals are favourites for a league game, especially not at home. Top class managers do not claim that your nearest and dearest rivals are playing at a level you aspire to. This is the time of the season for mind games but these are the words of mediocrity. Just looking at David Moyes makes you wonder quite how the manager can inspire performances from players that give the impression of not wanting to play for him anymore. He looks anaemic with the look of a man crushed by expectancy, an analogue manager in a digital age. You’d be surprised how much a simple banner can say.