Manchester United find themselves in 9th place in the Premier League and already 12 points off league leaders Arsenal after just 14 games this season. It’s an amazing reversal of fortunes after running away with the league last season and sweeping all before them. Most football fans expected a period of transition for United after the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson but many wouldn’t have foreseen the dramatic slide in form that has seen the reds loose to both Everton and West Brom at home. Despite this, I’m still not writing United off in the title race just yet; here are 3 areas they need to drastically improve to mount a title challenge.
United’s title successes of past seasons have been built on strong home form. They had not failed to score at home for 4 years in the premier league until the 0-0 bore draw with Chelsea in September and United were lacking in any attacking outlet apart from Rooney that night. Contrast this to previous years when United would intimidate teams and rip them apart at Old Trafford. The fear factor of Ferguson is now gone and teams now come to Old Trafford and think they can take all 3 points. To restart their season the champions need to ramp up the tempo during home games and play more attacking free-flowing football. It would also help if the crowd would lift their game too. A fan base brought up on success after success is now struggling to get behind their team during tougher games and this is adversely affecting United’s home performances.
Throughout the summer the transfer talk was that United were hoping to sign Leighton Baines, and while I agree that Baines is a quality full back, he’s not what Moyes’ team need. They already possess two of the best full backs in the premier league in Patrice Evra and Rafael, and Chris Smalling looks more at home on the right than in the centre of defence. This is without mentioning the promising Alex Buttner, who it is hoped will fill Evra’s boots. United’s trouble lies in the centre back positions. Their usually watertight defence has been extremely leaky this season shipping 4 goals to Man City and 2 apiece to Spurs and Cardiff in the last 2 weeks. While Ferdinand and Vidic are still a class act, they can’t be expected to play more than 15 premier leagues in tandem in recent years as age and injury take their toll. United’s cover in this area is poor, Evans has not progressed as hoped and Phil Jones looks increasingly out of place in defence. I think that United need to sign a quality centre back in the January transfer window to have any chance of a top 3 finish.
The third issue is that Moyes needs to decide on his best combination in midfield. He has tried Carrick, Valencia, Cleverley, Jones, Fellaini, Nani, Anderson, Giggs, Januzaj, Kagawa, and Young. That really is quite a list, especially only 14 games into the season. Moyes need to work out how best to support Rooney and Van Persie while also shielding an ageing defence. Michael Carrick is the only obvious starter and his consistency over the past 5 seasons has held united together but others such as Januzaj and Kagawa need to be given more freedom to allow United to play their attacking game of old. He needs to try and strike a balance between 2 holding players and 2 exciting creative players. A major issue has been the poor start from Fellaini, he has not reproduced the box-to-box energetic performances that saw him become a fans favourite at Goodison Park. Moyes needs to decide on 4 or 5 core players and give them a run in the side and allow them to gel.
My United team: