Is there any way back for Manchester United? How Fergie messed up with Moyes, dithering defenders and midfield misfits
Manchester United's season goes from bad to worse after suffering their 11th defeat of the campaign courtesy of a pitiful performance in Greece. Steven Beacom assesses why it's gone so wrong for United and David Moyes... and what must happen now
Published 27/02/2014 | 09:12
When David Moyes took over from Sir Alex Ferguson in the summer, the vast majority of Manchester United fans and football followers around the globe thought he was the right man for the job. Why? Because Fergie said so.
Moyes did a decent rather than dynamic job at Everton, but nobody seemed to care. Sir Alex backed him, so everyone including the Glazer family went along with it.
The longer this wretched season goes on for United, the more it appears that Ferguson got it wrong.
United have now lost 11 games this term. Embarrassing enough for a club of their stature, even allowing for a time of transition under a new boss, but it is the manner of those defeats which are making this one of the most humiliating periods in the history of this proud club.
United used to make rival fans weep with disappointment. Everyone's laughing at them now.
Under Ferguson the Red Devils were never beaten. Even when not at their best technically, the players would show heart, commitment, desire and passion to get over the line.
All those qualities have disappeared with Moyes in charge and never was that more apparent than on Tuesday night when United surrendered to an Olympiakos side, running out comfortable 2-0 victors.
The United stars, many of them knowing they won't be at Old Trafford next season, have given up the ghost.
And Moyes at the moment is incapable of inspiring or motivating them to fight for the cause. They may have cared for old stager Fergie but they don't seem in any hurry to help the new guy in town.
Moyes has not helped himself either. League Champions they may have been when he took over, but it was obvious United needed new blood. Only Marouane Fellaini, good enough for the style employed by Moyes at Everton, but not for United, arrived in the summer. Moyes needed more players than that and with greater quality, who never knew what it was like during the Fergie era and were starving for success rather than full up on medals lacking the appetite to search for more. Juan Mata arrival in January was welcome, but too late to change a calamitous campaign.
United fans have tried to be patient. Tuesday night's appalling effort in Athens however has led to frustrations boiling over.
Moyes (below) isn't just losing games... he's losing support from Fergie's loyal subjects.
The manager looks and sometimes talks as though he is out of depth. Too often he has blamed ill fortune for United's problems instead of coming up with ideas to solve them.
And too many times this season the players have not seemed to know what they are doing. Against Olympiakos tactically they were all over the place.
We always knew what Fergie's teams were about. The current one lacks an identity. They aren't swashbuckling or solid. Not free-flowing either. Failing though, they have become experts in that. From Champions to chumps in just seven months.
Moyes has become the favourite to be next Premier League boss sacked.
Right now, few United fans would be disappointed to see him go. And most would suggest to the Glazers not to ask for Fergie's opinion on his successor.
In Athens, Rio Ferdinand looked shot to pieces. From tackling to tracking, positioning to passing, it was foreign to a player once considered the best defender in England.
He's set to leave Old Trafford at the end of the season and will maybe even retire... on Tuesday it looked as though he already had.
Nemanja Vidic was better. Ditto Patrice Evra but they too are departing in the summer, so it's not entirely surprising that on occasions this season their focus has been elsewhere.
The best defences are those which have a strong and consistent central defensive partnership. Moyes has used many pairings but has yet to find the right one. Jonny Evans, when fit, and Vidic is the way to go. Dropping the error prone Chris Smalling is also a must to gain some stability at the back.
The United midfield of David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Roy Keane and Ryan Giggs was one of the greatest English football has ever seen.
On Tuesday night, occupying the same areas of the pitch were Antonio Valencia, Tom Cleverley, Michael Carrick and Ashley Young.
Even though all four have won multiple titles, which tells you the modern day Premier League is not as good as we think it is, only Carrick has ever truly shone for United, but he was as bad as the rest of them in Greece.
For a side renowned down the years for accurate crossing and creativity, the lack of both this season from United has been alarming. Robin van Persie is supposed to be United's main goal threat yet Cleverley did not deliver a single pass to the Dutchman against Olympiakos.
Carrick and Young only completed a pass each to RVP. Goalkeeper David de Gea delivered two balls to the striker. Maybe he should move into midfield. The current crop, and I include Shinji Kagawa in that, just don't cut it.
ROONEY AND RVP COMBO
Last season, Robin van Persie was the main man and he loved it. Being the figurehead for United's title charge appealed to RVP's ego and personality.
This season with Moyes so keen to keep Wayne Rooney and promote him as top dog, RVP has had to take second billing, which he is finding hard to accept.
The rumours of his dismay at Ferguson's departure, issues with Moyes and a move back to Arsenal refuse to go away. They will multiply after he criticised the tactics following the defeat to Olympiakos.
He'd have been better off taking a golden chance near the end rather than voicing his displeasure in public.
Once labelled Robin van Perfect, he's far from that now.
While RVP wandered around the pitch on Tuesday like a lost soul, at least Wayne Rooney ran about a lot... though worringly for Moyes, with little impact and mostly in his own half. For £300,000 per week, he must produce much more, like goals, assists and leadership in the remaining weeks of the season.
SO, WHAT NEXT?
Well, United don't play again until Saturday week at WBA in the Premier League, so they should get down to work on the training field. Then comes three massive home matches, against Liverpool, Olympiakos in the Champions League return leg and Manchester City.
Talk about a make or break period. Beating the bitter rivals and the Greeks would ease the pressure on Moyes a bit. More defeats though and he may be on his way come May.
United are intent on bouncing back big and winning the title next season and will spend millions on rebuilding the team in the summer.
Unless Moyes can show he really is the man for the job in the weeks ahead, they'll be forced to move forward without him. Desperate times can require desperate measures.