David Moyes could be facing into long road as rebuilding is inevitable
Manager admits that United may not win the European Cup because he lacks ‘five or six world-class players’
Manchester United manager David Moyes during Saturday’s Premier League match against West Brom at Old Trafford. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA
The David Moyes mantra was that Manchester United’s opening five matches of their title defence were an unfair initiation as the new manager. To have to play Swansea City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Crystal Palace and Manchester City by mid-September was “hard to believe”, a claim that forced the Premier League into defensive mode regarding its fixture list process.
What Moyes never countenanced was the next outing after this sequence ending as a 2-1 humiliation by West Bromwich Albion in front of the United congregation. This consigned the champions to seven points from six games to stand 12th in their worse start since 1989 that also features City’s 4-1 demolition of United in the derby.
As the sense grows that United’s real fight could be to claim a Champions League place, which they have never failed to do, Moyes has real problems.
1 Is this squad only of average quality?
The manager admits that United may not win the European Cup because he lacks “five or six world-class players”. A further truth is the one he acknowledged privately when taking over from Alex Ferguson in July that the group of players he has been left might have been better. Major surgery is required.
2 Experience is vital, but too many key players are over 30
A corollary to the above is that although Moyes’s A-list core of Wayne Rooney, David de Gea, Robin van Persie, Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidic, Michael Carrick, Rafael da Silva, Ryan Giggs and Rio Ferdinand looks strong, only three are under 30.
The defence is particularly creaky because, in Evra, Vidic and Ferdinand, three of Moyes’s first-choice back four are 30-somethings. Every player has forgettable days but Ferdinand has returned two in consecutive league games, following the positional mistakes he made against City by allowing Morgan Amalfitano to nutmeg him as the Frenchman skated on towards the West Brom opener.
3 Questionable cohesion - they aren’t playing as a unit
When in a dogfight, do United look like a band of brothers? Even on Saturday there was surprise when, after going behind, Rooney equalised. That the striker’s fifth goal of the season required fortune – everyone including Boaz Myhill, the visiting goalkeeper, missed the ball – sums up how United are in sink-or-swim mode.
4 No goal from open play in 450 minutes is worrying
Since Danny Welbeck scored in the 4-1 win at Swansea on 17 August, United’s league strikes have all been registered from dead balls. “We should be scoring more from open play,” said Moyes after seeing Rooney’s goal against West Brom derive from a free-kick.
5 Is there actually any real money to spend?
An ongoing query from fans is what happened to the £80 million yielded from Cristiano Ronaldo’s sale to Real Madrid in 2009 as they question if United can really compete for the game’s aristocrat players.
6 Things could become a lot worse before they improve
Next is Wednesday’s tricky trip to Shakhtar Donetsk for a Champions League group game. With Moyes admitting progress is “not guaranteed” in the competition, the spectre is raised of United playing Europa League after Christmas.
Moyes had hoped the 1-0 League Cup win over Liverpool at Old Trafford might kickstart the campaign but after the humbling reverse to West Brom, he has to start all over again. It could be a long road.