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David Moyes – The predictable one

by Sam Peoples

Let me start with an introduction. I’m Dave. I’m not one who wanted David Moyes from the beginning (although I didn’t oppose it) and once he signed, I looked towards the positives and tried to support him.

Before I dig deep into the failures and playing style of Manchester United under Moyes, I conducted a little survey – describe Moyes’ United in one word.

Predictable. The fact is, as the game against Fulham highlighted, we are far too predictable. The tactics were to pick up the ball and then the ball was sprayed out wide. Pass, cross, repeat. The problem was, once the ball was received on either flank there was only one thing instilled into the mind of all of the players. Cross. Cross. Cross. Once the ball failed to reach a target, send the ball out wide and repeat.

81 crosses. At half time, by which we had recorded 46 crosses, a stat surfaced which said on the opening day of the season (1-4 victory vs Swansea), United had 11 crosses all game and managed to score four goals.

We saw 81 crosses drilled into the box yet the goals came less than a minute a part in the 80th minute and it showed the predictability ineffective attacking threat of the side. Neither goal was even created by a cross.

Balls were being sent in but were rarely reaching a man. For example, Ashley Young attempted 15 crosses and only one reached it’s target. I’ll give Moyes the benefit of the doubt of trying to win the game with crosses but you would expect him, especially after half time when we had seen a failed half with 46 crosses, to attempt to change up the tactics a bit.

Once the second half resumes, our crossing resumed. It took less than a minute after the break for Rafael to attempt cross number 47. It just sums up how predictable United are right now but why are United crossing in the first place? We were aiming our crosses into a crowded Fulham penalty area and 6″7 centre half Dan Burn cleaned up all day long. It was a fight we were never going to win and a tactic that has so far failed us. Our two goals came eventually and neither were from crosses. One was a failed shot turned in by Van Persie and the other a deflected shot. No headers. The only players for us to not attempt a cross were Nemanja Vidic and David de Gea.

We’re used to exciting football, unpredictable football but it’s just not there this season. Games against the likes of Fulham, Stoke, Newcastle, Everton are all examples in which we lacked any sort of decisive final ball.

There’s more – the second survey question asked what was wrong with United under Moyes…

Tactics. Tactics. Tactics. Cast your mind back to Monday last week. Manchester City vs Chelsea. Pellegrini vs Mourinho. Everyone had dubbed City as favourites. They were in good form and even without Aguero, Negredo was firing on all cylinders. Fernandinho’s absence certainly helped Chelsea but Mourinho masterminded the perfect away performance in a game that was all about tactics. City were nullified completely. It ended 0-1 but that was a very generous scoreline to Man City. It could have easily been more and Yaya Toure, Negredo and Dzeko couldn’t get a sniff all game.

That is a department Moyes has really failed in. It seems as if Moyes goes into almost every game with the same frame of mind in terms of his set up, regardless of the opponent. He doesn’t bring the best out of his team how Sir Alex Ferguson used to.

Take United’s performance against Real Madrid in the Champions League last season. He had Phil Jones man-marking Cristiano Ronaldo whilst he had Danny Welbeck dropping deep in order to mark Xabi Alonso out of the game. Had it not been for Nani-gate, United would have won the tie. Against Everton and Tottenham, the same thing happened as Jones marked Fellaini and Bale out of the game. There is no such evidence of similar tactics being used this season.

The Fulham performance does not need to be explained. The week before against Stoke saw tactics that were all over the place – playing a long ball game against the one team you shouldn’t. Another example of Moyes getting it wrong was his use of substitutes against Stoke, where he pushed Rooney deeper into central midfield when he had Darren Fletcher able to play in the same role, just so Rooney could offer more of a threat in the final third.

It is decisions like these where he lets himself and the team down. His stubborn use of the bland 4-4-2 is also a major flaw. Yes, it works for Atletico and for Manchester City, but this isn’t the case for us.

United are direct and we’re predictable. Unless you have the midfield of Yaya Toure and Fernandinho who can run up and down a pitch and not neglect midfield and defensive duties, you cannot play a direct style of football in 4-4-2. Mata is not an out-and-out winger and like Januzaj, he likes to drift inside, so that’s another reason why 4-4-2 should be dead for us.

Last year, Everton were not playing this type of poor, boring football. Even with that big haired fella’ behind the strikers, Everton were not just lumping the ball forward and even with Pienaar/Baines & Coleman/Mirallas combinations, they did not just cross the ball hopelessly into the box. They were not playing this weak strand of football, that’s a new craze created at Old Trafford this year by Moyes.

Something that is worrying is that at Everton, Moyes played without pressure. He was set for a job and wasn’t under pressure to succeed. He now has the money and players any manager in the world would want. The situation is different and he doesn’t seem able to thrive under the pressure. It could be down to the fact he’s not cut out for this level of a job. Many have said he’s a very good mid-table manager. That’s harsh, but is he a United standard manager?

Another problem is our inability to kill off games. As a result, we are giving away cheap points that should easily be ours. When in winning positions, we shouldn’t be doing that. Take Southampton for example. 1-0. With not long to go, Moyes took off Rooney for Chris Smalling and, inevitably, we conceded. The fact we have to sit on a 1-0 lead (or 2-1 with the Fulham game) shows the difference between now and one year ago. Southampton, Cardiff and Fulham are all examples of when we dropped points from winning positions. That’s six points dropped which would move us to within three points of 4th place. Shame, isn’t it?

The killer question – what happens if we do Moyes?

There aren’t many managers available at the moment who would be either a permanent choice or a stop-gap – the only one who does spring to mind is Marcelo Bielsa and he was sacked for a reason. There is a chance of Ryan Giggs/Phil Neville being interim until the summer (or sacking Moyes in the summer) as the likes of Joachim Low and Louis van Gaal would be available after the World Cup but it is hard to see what will happen from the Glazers perspective.

With Sir Alex Ferguson and Bobby Charlton watching on, will they take a risk and sack him or let him stay? Yes, it may not be Moyes’ squad (for argument’s sake) but it is certainly good enough to beat the likes of Stoke, West Brom, Sunderland, Newcastle, Everton, Swansea and Fulham.

It’s a hard one. If there is no progression, then maybe it is time to say goodbye. This season’s been awful and it’s far from over and to potentially make it even worse, we have title-chasing Arsenal on Wednesday to rub our noses into it.

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