Manchester United’s recent run of poor performances has only increased the pressure on David Moyes. A home loss to Everton should have galvanized United to respond against Newcastle, especially given that it was yet another home fixture.
Come kickoff on Saturday though, there was no response whatsoever. The team failed to score once more, this time facing a very defensive minded Newcastle. Had this been an isolated result, concern might not have been raised. But, seeing as that United are slipping from the title race, and very slowly falling out of top four contention, something needs to be done by Moyes, and quickly.
If Moyes is to turn the season around, there are four changes that need to be made to the team. These four key changes would surely help United get back on track and return to their former identity:
Manchester United in recent weeks has been content to play more defensively, not only in away games but at home. Against Everton it seemed as if they were happy to allow the away side the ball for the majority of the match, and were cautious to throw bodies forward when attacking. Against a side such as Arsenal or City this might be understandable, but against Everton in a home fixture, this style of play is baffling.
Manchester United should be confident in attack, especially since that over recent seasons, the main thorn in the side of United in these games has been Fellaini, who is now a part of their own squad. The mentality of the squad should return to that of previous seasons if they are to better their results. Although Moyes may have a different style in mind to that of Ferguson, he still must realize that he is no longer managing Everton. A cautious approach in these types of fixtures is simply unacceptable.
2. Speed of Play
The fluidity of Manchester United’s play has been less than impressive. Attacking movements have lacked creativity and sharpness. Rarely have United been able to break down opposing defenses in recent weeks. While some may point to a lack of talent as the source of United’s failings, the team is far better than the performances suggest.
It is hard to believe that a squad that won the title last season, with some impressive attacking displays to overcome their defensive shortcomings, would suddenly fail to score in two consecutive home matches, creating few clear cut chances in both. Focusing on increasing the speed of play, and switching to a more attacking mindset, could help solve this growing problem.
One of the most shocking things about the recent performances is the absolute lack of motivation. In the last four league matches United have been in positions where in recent seasons, you would almost expect them to get a goal to improve the result. However, they failed to get a late goal in any of those games.
Even when trailing at home against Everton on Wednesday and Newcastle on Saturday, there was little urgency in the team to get forward and score. Both the manager and players seemed to not care. This is particularly surprising of the Newcastle game, as they had half an hour to find an equalizer.
At the end of the day, this must fall on Moyes’ shoulders. It is the manager’s job to motivate the players, to get them in the mood to want to fight back, and David Moyes seems to be having trouble doing this.
4. Tactical Substitutions
While credit must be given to David Moyes for greatly improving his tactical substitutions since the start of the season, when his changes failed to make any impact on games, some decisions are still quite confusing.
One example is the substitution of right-back Rafael for right winger Antonio Valencia, which has been made in both of the last two matches. If Rafael had been a defensive minded full-back, this change would make complete sense. The team would sacrifice defensive qualities for attacking prowess, which could help them greatly in creating chances to get them back into the match.
However, Rafael is hardly a defensive full back, and has no trouble getting up the pitch and getting in a cross. By taking him off, United still had attacking capabilities on the right side, but lost defensive cover.
This hurt them against Everton, who scored the winner from a position where a right back should be covering, as Valencia was nowhere to be seen. While the same could not be said for the match against Newcastle, the change again failed to make any real difference.
Ferguson’s tactics and substitutions were not perfect, but often got the job done. Moyes must improve that part of his management if United expect to get anything out of matches in which they are trailing.
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