Seeing as it is the festive period and the January transfer window is just around the corner, what better time could you find to write up a wish list for the Premier League Champions Manchester United?
Naturally as a fan it is hard to not be disappointed with what has been an under whelming first season under David Moyes domestically, and although I probably should have been writing this after the defeat against Newcastle, I decided to delay it until things started to look a little rosier, which luckily enough happens to be right now.
After the defeat to Newcastle everything was doom and gloom, the league was a mere pipedream and the good times were a distant memory. Probably the most daunting stats that you can pick up from that spell were Utd’s poor goal difference (which I think was about +3 after 15 games), Utd’s lack of open play goals at Old Trafford (which I think was 3 as well) and the fact that no midfielder had a league assist to his name. This wasn’t and isn’t the Utd way, and I think the most embarrassing stat of the lot is the goal difference one. This is Manchester United we are talking about, and we had only outscored teams by 3 goals in 15 matches? That was why we were lounging about in a position which was totally foreign to us.
After the Newcastle result and the run of four games with 2 points (when I thought we would have won at very worst 10) I finally came to the realisation that the title was no longer viably defendable. That was until pretty much every other title contender fluffed their lines and opened the door to Utd once again. Thankfully Utd walked through that door and have won three on the bounce (albeit against teams you’d expect to beat) and are looking in a much healthier position than just a few games ago. So onto the wish list.
Oh God, if there is something that Utd are desperate for it is a midfielder. It is hard to describe how important it is for Utd to get Darren Fletcher back, but it can is like having the major signing that will shore up the midfield. Fletcher gives Utd not only an extra body, but before his illness he was one of the best midfielders in the world at breaking play up, and that just happens to be exactly what Utd are lacking in midfield. As a Scot and as a Utd fan I am delighted to see the best Scottish player of his generation and the best Utd academy player of his generation back in the team. It is the much needed boost that the team, the manager and the crowd needed.
Despite my delight at Fletcher’s return to the squad, the midfield is still woefully lacking in talent. Don’t get me wrong, the widemen are starting to play much better (namely Young and Valencia) and Adnan Januzaj is an incredibly special talent, but there are still major doubts out wide. That however isn’t where the real problem is.
Utd’s central midfield is woefully inadequate, Michael Carrick is one of the best midfielders in the league, but he has had injury problems and there is too much reliance upon him. Fellaini can only be described as a major disappointment so far and now is also injured. I think people are overly harsh on him because he has had cruciate damage in his wrist which must hamper his play, and with him being the only transfer this summer extra pressure was added and he hasn’t done very well (I do think he will improve). Tom Cleverley is improving but should be at best a squad player at Utd and he is actually more than that. I’ve talked about Fletcher coming back and how I think that will be huge for Utd if he can stay healthy, but he is still a doubt. Ryan Giggs shouldn’t be having the impact on the first 11 that he has actually had this season; it shows Moyes doesn’t trust his other central midfielders and that is a major indictment on their quality. Who knows what is wrong with Anderson, if he is actually fit (a rarity) he is overweight and when he gets an opportunity he inevitably doesn’t take it. It says a lot when Moyes trust a centre back with no passing ability (Phil Jones) and a man in his forties more than a midfielder who should be playing at his peak. If I were to rank Utd’s central midfield against the other teams in the Premier League I would say they rank out around fifth best, but the gap between Utd and Arsenal, City and Chelsea in central midfield is absolutely massive.
Anyway this was meant to be I wished United would get a midfielder rather than let me sit and bitch about how poor Utd’s midfield is. So here is a list of central midfielders I think would be perfect at Utd; Ilkay Gundogan, I think we should have bought him in the summer as he is exactly what Utd are missing. He can pass the ball, he has bags full of energy, can tackle and is box to box, plus he isn’t cup tied for the Champions League and is young at 23. Only problem being whether he wants to leave Dortmund and that he has struggled mightily with injuries this season. I’d also love to see Lars Bender join Utd, but think it is less likely due to him being cup tied in the Champions League and due to that think he would be a better summer signing (same could be said with Marco Reus). I also think Ross Barkley would fit in well at Utd despite thinking it is unlikely he will join. So the other guy that I would like to see Utd sign is Morgan Schneiderlin from Southampton. He would fill the holding midfield role that Utd have been ignoring since Roy Keane fell from glory and pissed off to Celtic. Schneiderlin can tackle, has discipline and is only 24. He would give Utd the much needed defensive protection which has been missing all season and very much explains the high quantity of goals Utd have conceded so far this year. Give me Gundogan and Schneiderlin and I’d be a happy boy.
Retire Rio, Just Retire
It is never a good sign when an old player begins to criticise how the new manager is handling the club, it is a sign that he is on his way out and based on his play it should be sooner rather than later.
Get Rid of Deadwood
It is unusual to sit as a Utd fan and talk about deadwood, sure it happens all the time but there isn’t usually this sort of vast quantity at the club (must be a fire hazard). Guys who could leave Utd and you wouldn’t even notice are Rio, Anderson, Nani (why did we give him a new contract?), Fabio and Buttner (not a left back).
Lay Off the Manager
Whether you think that Utd are doing well or not this season, all the blame should not be on David Moyes. There wasn’t a harder job in football than replacing Alex Ferguson, so there was always going to be struggles regardless of who the manager was. Yes the struggles have been greater than many would have assumed, but he has been dealt a duff hand. I get the feeling Fergie left because he could see that there was a distinct lack of class in the squad which wouldn’t be fixed in one season, and wanted to go out a winner, which is why his departure seemed so abrupt. I also think that Moyes had little to no support from the board in the transfer market; how could the board manage to sign no players that the manager asked for and the only player that they did get to sign ended up costing them more than he would have a month prior? Moyes is not the problem at Utd currently, it is the board’s lack of willingness to go out and get the signings the squad requires and being left a squad which quite simply was not good enough and had gaping holes in midfield.
For those fans who are calling for Moyes to go, I could only recommend that Manchester United probably isn’t the club you should be supporting. There are only a handful of clubs where a manager could struggle as Moyes had, yet not really be under threat to lose his job. It is one of the reasons Utd are such a special club and are not in need of your supposed support.
Some Proper Journalism
It is often the case that a team which is struggling will complain about bad press, but the press that Utd and especially Moyes have received is ridiculous. Yes some of it is well deserved but a lot of it is just typical anti-Utd garbage. It seems that despite City having major problems this season away from home that nobody actually told the press because they seem to think they can do no wrong. On the other hand Utd go to Donetsk and get a solid draw only for the press to talk about Utd choking in Ukraine, but wait a moment…is it not the case that no English team has ever won in Donetsk? The answer is yes, but you wouldn’t know if you read the papers. I’m not here to defend Utd’s bad play or form because on the main it has been pretty poor and if you think I’m biased I couldn’t really care less because I am doing this for free and for my own enjoyment, but I shouldn’t have to sit and read PAID journalists write blatantly biased articles just because they despise Manchester United and are loving this seasons struggles, it is pathetic.
This really bothers me about David Moyes’ Utd, not only do I think that Utd have lacked creativity going forward, look weak defensively (both personnel issues) but worst of all Utd often look like they lack urgency. This really bothers me because not having good enough players isn’t really Moyes’ fault, not having the players be urgent when the team is behind, level or just ahead is unforgivable. Too often this season I have watched Utd go down a goal and still look incredibly sluggish, or equalise and then not go for the killer winning goal (Spurs, Hull & West Brom plus many others). At times Utd look lost as teams defend heavily against them and they lost for ideas as to ways in which they could score goals. It all stems from a lack of urgency and it is something that I really think needs to improve in the second half of the season.
Winning Games By More Than One Goal
Utd have won seven games this season by just one goal, that doesn’t sound so bad when you consider they have won about seventeen for the season, but in three games (by my count [Donetsk, Southampton & Cardiff]) Utd have drawn instead of winning because of conceding late goals after settling to win by just the one goal. How many games have Utd went through this where it is become too tight towards the end of the match? The answer is too many, with matches which should have been long dead dragging on and allowing opposition teams to hang around like a bad smell. Utd have struggled to consistently score this season but there is no excuse for sitting back and thinking that a one goal lead is good enough to beat any team.
Play Phil Jones at Centre Back
The guy’s a centre back and he has potential to be one of the best in the world at that position, so why the hell is the second best centre back in the team constantly playing in midfield? Play him at centre back and reap the benefits.
Play Shinji Kagawa
I think Kagawa is an excellent player, but he has been disappointing at Utd so far. To be fair to Shinji he hasn’t really been played in his natural position (off the striker) consistently since joining the club but he is a good enough player that he should be forcing his way into the team in some manner. When RVP goes out it should have been Kagawa who came in to replace him, instead it was Danny Welbeck. Why? Clearly Moyes does not trust him to do a job, and that is sad to see as a Utd fan because Utd lack creativity and Kagawa is a magician. It is hard to not think that Kagawa’s time at Utd is running out, but without giving him a true chance of a run in the team at his position, Utd would be foolish to let him go.
Obviously I’d love to see all of these things happen, but am not going to kid myself into thinking that they are all likely to happen. If even half of them happen I would be fairly happy, although I think some are more important than others.
So here’s the big question, can Manchester United still win the Premier League? The answer is yes, although it is probably unlikely. I still think that City are the best team in the league and are the team to beat, so being only 7 points behind them at this stage of the season after how poor Utd have been is actually quite an achievement. For those who think Utd won’t make the top 4, all I can say is that you should probably stop taking those pills immediately and consult your doctor. At very best there are three teams that will finish above Utd; City, Chelsea and Arsenal, and even then I doubt that too. I think Utd are still the second best team in the league and that is probably where they will finish at the end of the season.
So leave a comment about what your wishes for Man Utd are for the rest of the season and how you think the season will go as well. Plus find all the latest bm23sportsreviews updates on Facebook and Twitter.