Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Manchester United confront home truths

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 01: Wayne Rooney of Manchester United and his team-mate Jonny Evans react after conceding a second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford on January 1, 2014 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

The Theatre of Dreams has become a place of nightmares for Manchester United this season, leading defender Jonny Evans to suggest that more patience is needed at Old Trafford.

On New Year's Day, United lost 2-1 to Tottenham making it FOUR home Premier League defeats since David Moyes took over from Sir Alex Ferguson in the summer.

Under Moyes United are actually stronger on the road – 20 of their 34 points have come away.

The Old Trafford woe has left them in seventh place, already a whopping 11 points behind league leaders Arsenal. They are 10 and nine adrift of Manchester City and Chelsea respectively.

With just over half the season completed, United's hopes of retaining the title won in Ferguson's final campaign in charge look doomed.

Even finishing in the top four and qualifying for the Champions League next season will be a struggle with Liverpool and Everton in fine form and Spurs showing improvement with Tim Sherwood now at the helm. United are five points behind fourth placed Liverpool.

It had appeared as though the Red Devils had turned a corner with Moyes as boss after a run of six wins in a row.

Four of them came in the league, though only one was in front of their home fans against West Ham, who right now would find it tough to triumph playing Maguiresbridge let alone Manchester United.

Moyes had cause for complaint on Wednesday when referee Howard Webb refused to give a penalty when Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris fouled Ashley Young near the end but, ultimately, not for the first time this season, United weren't good enough as they slumped to a sixth league defeat.

"It is hard to explain," said Evans, who then tried to come up with some solutions.

"Spurs caught us on the break a little bit for the two goals so maybe we need to be a bit more patient. Away from home, you tend to be more defensive in your set-up.

"Maybe at home we are leaving ourselves a bit too open. We want to entertain our fans and score goals but that is to our detriment a little bit."

The result against Spurs extended a disappointing sequence against the Premier League's top eight sides with United collecting a miserly five points.

"It is disappointing but we will keep plugging away," said the Northern Ireland defender.

"We actually played quite well in the previous six games but we have started the New Year on a bad foot and we need to get positive results again."

It is not the transition envisaged following Ferguson's retirement, underlining the enormilty of the Scot's exit, which even Evans did not truly appreciate.

"As a player I probably didn't realise the magnitude of it until I stepped back and looked at it from the outside," added Evans.

"Some of the results have not gone as planned but to be fair to the manager and coaching staff, they have never been down in the dumps. They have always tried to improve us and I definitely think they are improving us in certain aspects of the game where we are lacking."

United, at home to Swansea in the FA Cup third round on Sunday, could do with getting Robin van Persie back from injury to help the overworked Wayne Rooney.

They need to make signings in January too. Moyes would love to recruit Everton's Ross Barkley and Leighton Baines, but that won't happen before summer at the earliest. They are also interested in teenage Dinamo Zagreb striker Robert Muric, though that's one for the future.

Moyes needs help right now, especially in midfield which is why he has been strongly linked with Arturo Vidal from Juventus and Atletico Madrid's Koke.

A better bet would be making a move for Chelsea's Juan Mata, on his way out of Stamford Bridge.

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