Why Manchester United Are Having Their Worst Start For 24 Years

“King” Cantona will not be strutting out of the Old Trafford tunnel with all his confidence and swagger this season. David Beckham will not be unleashing one of his trademark free kicks at opposing goalkeepers. Roy Keane will not be leading Manchester United to victory after being down 2-0 like he did against Juventus in 1999. And Sir Alex Ferguson will not be unleashing his “hairdryer treatment” on players when their effort just isn’t good enough.

Those days are gone. Every day is a new day and every match is a new match. It’s that simple.

This current Manchester United squad needs to start forging its own history before this season is a thing of the past. And after early returns (albeit, very early returns), this season could be one of the worst in the recent club’s history.

United are the reigning champions of England. They built up a sizeable lead last season and waltzed through the finish line well ahead of Manchester City and the rest of the Premier League.

But since April 8 2013, United have played 14 matches in the Premier League. Out of a potential 42 points, United have taken 19. Over that span of time, they have lost to Manchester City twice (home and away), drawn and lost to Chelsea (both matches at Old Trafford), lost to Liverpool (away), drawn with Arsenal (away), and lost to West Bromwich Albion (home).

If you believe the press and most English football experts, Manchester United have a team full of veterans with championship pedigrees and they will right the ship well before the end of the season. But United have failed to address inherent weaknesses in their squad (midfield and defense) and have had significant losses over the past six months.

The truth is that United need to start making decisions and playing to their potential every second they are on a field, or this season will be one to remember. And not in a good way.

Mistakes have been made at the club while personnel losses have been monumental.

Manchester United lost arguably the greatest manager in the history of the sport. Sir Alex Ferguson was the individual who envisioned and engineered the Manchester United revival that the world was witness to. He stood in front of the press and proclaimed: “My greatest challenge is not what’s happening at the moment, my greatest challenge is knocking Liverpool right off their f**king perch. And you can print that.” He then proceeded to build a club in his image while also paying respect to United teams of the past. His teams and players grinded out matches. It may not have always been pretty, but United never gave up until the final whistle was blown. And Ferguson was the one pushing them to play to their maximum.

The other huge loss has been former Manchester United chief executive David Gill. Many people may argue this, but Gill was the man working behind the scenes for Ferguson, and Gill had his hand in most of United’s success.

“David has been a magnificent chief executive,” Ferguson said. “Of course, we have had a million arguments, but I have always enjoyed them because I know that David has two great qualities: he is straight and he always puts Manchester United first. No disagreement is ever personal with him. He always wants the best for United, whether it’s the players, the training ground or the staff.”

Ferguson was quoted as saying prior to the announcement of his own retirement that “[Gill] stepping down is a big loss to me.”

With the club facing the loss of those two key individuals, it was important for them to make the right decisions and address any recurring issues on the squad.

To replace Ferguson, United made a safe and solid decision by appointing David Moyes as their new manager. Moyes’s track record at Everton showed that he could have success on a limited budget. He stood toe to toe with the big clubs in England and proved he could handle himself and lead a team. He also shared similar qualities to those of Sir Alex Ferguson: work ethic, appetite for success, disciplinarian, investing in young players.

There are three things a manager can do when he takes over a club:

Blow Everything Up and Do Things His Way — If a manager is confident in his approach and style of play/management, he just says, “Screw what happened before me…I’m going to do it my way.” Paolo Di Canio did this at Sunderland, Brendan Rodgers did it at Liverpool, and Roberto Martinez is doing it at Everton.

Slowly Integrate His Style While Utilizing Methods from Previous Success – David Moyes appears to be doing this at United.

Carry the Torch of the Previous Manager – This has been going on at Swansea for a number of years (Roberto Martinez, Brendan Rodgers, Michael Laudrup).

One mistake Moyes may have made while trying to toe the line at United was firing the previous coaching staff. Veteran players aren’t very good with change. And the staff at United was universally loved by the squad. Robin Van Persie always spoke glowingly of Rene Meulensteen and his ability to break down United’s upcoming opponents. David DeGea was hugely impressed by the efforts of United goalkeeping coach, Eric Steele. Steele learned how to speak Spanish so he would be able to relate to De Gea.

The departure of these coaches will have taken a toll on a squad that was already showing signs of weakness.

Moyes and his new staff are inexperienced at squad rotations prior to UEFA Champions League matches. His first attempt at a rotation (West Bromwich) has ended in failure. His decisions will be compounded should United slip up against Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday.

United are also not showing signs of a Moyes or Ferguson coached team. They are being outworked in losses. Manchester City and West Bromwich visibly played harder and smarter than United in recent matches. At times it appeared that United players were standing still while their opponents ran by them.

Are United player’s reading the headlines? Do they assume that the ghosts of Manchester United will crawl out of Old Trafford and lead them to victory? Or are they going to knuckle down and start grinding out wins like title-winning teams do?

Ed Woodward was promoted to executive vice-chairman at Manchester United and assumed the role of the departed David Gill. His hiring was a bit of a question mark since he hadn’t had any previous success with player transfers.

His first transfer window has been described as “disastrous” by most football experts. He spent the better part of his first transfer window chasing Cesc Fàbregas of Barcelona. A pursuit that no one outside of Manchester United understood since Fàbregas had openly expressed his desire to stay with the Spanish giants. Woodward’s lone signing was pulled off during the dying hours of the window when he was finally able to wrestle Marouane Fellaini away from Everton.

So United have failed to address key concerns in their squad. They have had significant changes in their on-the-field and off-the-field management. And their opponents are showing a greater hunger and focus during matches.

Those are the facts. This is the state of the current Manchester United team. They just aren’t good enough to beat West Bromwich at home.

United have seven points after six Premier League matches. Fortunately there are 32 more matches left in the season. “There is still plenty of time left in the season” (You will hear this a lot in the coming days).

There is no Alex Ferguson, David Beckham, Mark Hughes, Denis Law, Steve Bruce, Eric Cantona or Roy Keane to come off the team bus and inspire a win. The current United team is David Moyes, Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Antonio Valencia, Nani, Michael Carrick, Patrice Evra, and Rio Ferdinand. There is quality in this squad. But they had better not be relying on past successes because the times have changed.

This manager and these players had better start forging their own history, before they create something forgettable.

27 thoughts on “Why Manchester United Are Having Their Worst Start For 24 Years”

  1. The fact remains that Sir Alex took this crop of players to the title. Now, Moyes is struggling with that same squad. It’s similar to what happened with Leeds under Clough, except Clough had WON TROPHIES. Success to back up his methods.

    Moyes has none. Managing Everton to the top 10 consistently doesn’t really count as success. In 11 years he should’ve won something. He didn’t. He’s not used to consistent winning because he never had it. Unless he changes and changes fast, Man Utd could very well finish 5th or lower this year.

    Bringing in his own coaches is something you’d expect any new manager to do, but in this case, the backroom staff at Utd had been there forever and were part of the club’s DNA at this point. He should’ve kept a few of them on.

    Sometimes the “safe and solid” choice isn’t the right one. In this day and age, clubs can’t afford to give a manager loads of time, what with the TV money that qualifying for the Champions League brings. In my opinion, Moyes was and is the wrong choice to manage Man Utd. They chose him because they saw a guy who would put his nose to the grindstone and work. I think the voices in the Utd boardroom calling for Ancellotti and Mourinho were right — go for a proven winner. Even if it isn’t long term, you know he would be used to WINNING and inspiring players. Giving Moyes this sort of baptism of fire could go wrong spectacularly.

    It’s still very early days, but if Man Utd are still out of the top 4 by Christmas, questions need to and should be asked about Moyes’ suitability for the job.

  2. Moyes didn’t fire Meulensteen he offered him another position in the club but Meulensteen decided it was in his best interests to move on.

    Eric Steele was the keepers coach who learned Spanish to make it easier to communicate with De Gea not Chris woods.

    Moyes will get two years minimum and if the team aren’t showing signs of progressing by then he will be forced out by the end of the third year. Other than that you pretty much nailed it with your assessment.

    1. Absolutely right about Eric Steele. My mistake.

      And you’re right, he didn’t “fire” Meulensteen. But something went on there and Meulensteen decided it the offer wasn’t good enough to stay. I would assume his role would’ve changed or been diminished.

      And I think you’re right that Moyes will get time. I think he should. But mistakes have been made and this team could finish out the Top Four.

  3. If you are going to lose at home to West Brom, a good weekend to do it is when none of your rivals too maximum points. Nobody except Wenger expects Arsenal to be there at the end. United were very poor today no doubt. Moyes seems to be giving everybody a game to see what he’s got. He quickly needs to find his starting eleven and stick with them. But to paint him as some clueless idiot after 6 games is ridiculous. Early days. Nobody is running away with it. Relax.

    1. I don’t think the article painted him as an idiot. It pointed out some mistakes he may have made and that the club has made. It also mentioned the effort and execution of the players in the early part of the season.

    2. Sure, but does he need a billboard to see that Anderson and the diver aren’t United material? He may not be a clueless idiot, but he shows a very good impression of one, so far.

  4. No-one is harping on Pelligrini and Mourinho’s lackluster starts. Man Utd (and Everton under Moyes for that matter) always started of slow so there is no need to panic just yet. Given Utd’s transfer signings, I’d be happy if they finished top four and have a go next season with some new talent. They are still one of the top clubs in the world.

    1. People actually have been harping on Pelligrini and Mourinho. Mourinho actually was facing serious questions last weekend. But since then he has a home win and an away draw at Tottenham (in a match they could have won if Torres wasn’t shown a ridiculous second yellow).

      Truth is though that United are a bigger club than City and Chelsea. The scrutiny is going to be greater.

      They are also the current champions of England. A club that won the league by double digit points last season. Now they are sitting on seven points after six games.

      Their lack of activity in the market, changes in coaching staff and team personnel have made it very hard for anyone in charge to come in and continue to be competitive in the Top Four.

      My opinion is I am behind Moyes as a manager because I always liked his Everton teams. I can give him time to learn his way at United. I didn’t expect him to win the league this year, but I didn’t expect to see United 12th place at any point of the season.

      My opinion on Woodward is “wtf?” I didn’t understand the appointment at the time and still don’t. He has no experience. His inactivity and/or inability to land transfer targets have made Moyes’ job harder.

  5. It seem to me david has hiden agenda against some player but he might end up at losing side his starting line up always look shaken unles he do away with that hiden agenda he will not get to the end of strugle world david safe my club by do away with hiden agenda select compactable player for us. united till enternity!

  6. Whether United supporters accept it or not, United are in transition. With a new manager trying to figure out who his best players are and their roles it is going to take time.

    A lot of United supporters are complaining that United didn’t address their needs adequately in the summer. Moyes needs time to find out who belongs and who doesn’t from he present squad. In time he will assemble the right mixture of players.

    I agree that since April United have been poor, even under Fergie. If Fergie was sill in charge there would have been changes but with a new manager the club wants him to decide which players to keep and which to sell. This will take at least till January or the summer.

    Moyes is a good manager but the task at United is more demanding and it will take time for him to adapt. It would have been easier to appoint someone like Mourinho, for example, but managers like him don’t stay for long. United are looking for someone that will be around for the long haul and Moyes tenure at Everton showed that he is someone that will stay the course.

    1. Great. If we are in transition, fine. Play the kids and admit this is a re build year. But to play the next Ronaldinho (Anderson), Notso (Cleverly), and the diver (Young) consistently, and expect results from these players different from what we have seen in the past is lunacy. Bring on Buttner, Januzaj, Keane, Lingaard, Zaha, to name a few.

  7. Great points.

    Couldn’t agree more about Mourinho. I really like him as a manager and a face in the game. But his track record has been to bounce around.

    I did read the article earlier in the week about him “crying” when he found out he lost out on the United job. So maybe he could have changed. But his track record of leaving clubs is his own doing.

  8. Someone please grow a huge set at United and say, “Hey we made a huge mistake. All is forgiven former coaches, please come home. Mr. Gill, here is a huge raise and a bigger purse, please come and spend us back to where we were (at least). Mr. Moyes, here is a lovely garden for you to tend for the rest of this season. Carlo, Jose, Pep?? Can we have a lil’ chat?”

  9. it was a poor showing that United were not able to break open West Brom, but let’s be fair as well. WB had a very good game with 2 brilliant strikes. United struggles when teams pack in 9 players behind the ball. Plus, DM is rotating for CL. I think you’ll see a more aggressive method and tact from DM. Teams like WB can’t expect to walk into OT without a bit of fear and that is missing from DM’s teams.

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