David Moyes plays down talk of crisis but admits slow start damaging
Manchester United closer in points tally to the relegation places than Champions League
Manchester United manager David Moyes during Saturday’s match against Southampton at Old Trafford.
There is little need for a reminder of how quickly times have changed at Old Trafford. After all, Manchester United are closer in points tally to the relegation places than the Champions League positions this morning.
But if any were needed it will be served at a London book launch tomorrow morning when Alex Ferguson’s keenly anticipated autobiography is released.
As if the shadow of the great manager were not cast wide enough over his successor, David Moyes, here comes Ferguson in person, to break his low profile in order to publicise his book.
Of course, Ferguson cannot be criticised for doing so and he would presumably not have been alone in thinking last summer – when publication deadlines were discussed – that as November fast approached, his former club would not be trailing Southampton and Everton in the Premier League table, level on points with Hull and Newcastle.
But the fact remains: even if it is premature to discuss a “crisis” at Old Trafford in these early days of the Moyes reign, it is certainly valid to examine whether he has a squad capable of continuing Ferguson’s record of finishing in the top three in every season for the past 21 years and, of greater concern, continuing a run of Champions League football that dates back to 1994.
“The players here are good enough and come the end of the season is when you have to be in your best form,” said Moyes, bristling slightly when asked about concerns over missing out on Europe’s top competition after another disappointing result, Saturday’s 1-1 draw at home to Southampton. “Over the years Manchester United have been slow starters quite often.
“We have been a little bit slow in the way we have gone about things at the start but hopefully that will improve.
“We knew we had a difficult opening period and we knew the games we were coming into, in lots of ways, looked as if they were more winnable but we have to try and do it. We have got to do it. We lost two points today.
“Do our job”
“We will pick ourselves up. We have to make sure we do our job. We can only try and win our games now and then concentrate on the other matches later on. It is a slow start but I am sure we will improve.”
Those difficult early fixtures are long over, defeats by Liverpool and Manchester City gone, if not forgotten, but it is precisely this kind of performance against the Saints, following on from a defeat by West Bromwich on United’s last Old Trafford outing, that raises major concerns.
United have now scored only four home league goals this season and the way in which they failed to build on Robin van Persie’s first-half opener, superbly created by the teenage winger Adnan Januzaj, was just as alarming as the appalling set-piece defending that gave Dejan Lovren a late chance that flew in via Adam Lallana’s knee.
The evidence of the opening eight league fixtures – no small sample, it should be said – suggests that United will struggle to catch Manchester City, Chelsea or Arsenal and need now to be casting an anxious eye towards a fourth-place finish that is no formality, given the impressive early form of Liverpool and Tottenham, to name but two.
“At the start, everyone thought it would be a Premier League season which might throw up a few different things,” added Moyes.
“But I can now only start looking at us. Now I am needing performances and results to get a little bit of consistency.”
Four home games
At the start of a period in which United play four home games in 11 days, across three competitions, this latest fixture seemed ideally positioned to offer Moyes respite, especially given the presence of Januzaj who, the club announced before kick-off, has signed a new five-year deal.
But it is hard to escape the feeling that, short-term at least, Southampton’s future looks far brighter than United’s.