This season has been a tough time for Manchester United. After the first few months of David Moyes’ Manchester United career went poorly, many expected the team to finally pick up in the second half, an expectation that failed to materialize. Now, languishing at sixth in the table while its future in the UEFA Champions League tournament is hanging by a thread after a 2-0 loss against Olympiacos, more pressure than ever is being hurled at Moyes from all sides of the media, with blame for the disappointing season almost exclusively placed on his shoulders.
Although Moyes deserves some fault for his team’s struggles this season, the blame cannot be entirely placed upon him. Certain players on the United side have failed to step up and, as a result, have helped to cause their team’s decline. So which players’ poor seasons are hurting the team the most?
1. Patrice Evra
Many would argue that last season was the beginning of the end for Evra at Manchester United, with his defensive abilities called into question multiple times. Even then, the left-back had the best scoring season of his career with 4 goals in all competitions, and was still a factor in United winning the title. This time around, his defending has been less than impressive and the scoring is absent. If one moment could sum up a season, it was when Evra elected to walk, not run, back to his own half during an Arsenal counter attack in the recent 0-0 draw.
This momentary disregard of defending duties has been all too common for Evra this season and has caused the team problems, with either no one getting back to cover the position, or a winger having to cover and sacrifice an attacking position. Both situations cause problems for the team and can result in an opposition goal or a hampered counter attack.
Evra’s overall poor defensive displays, coupled with declining attacking qualities have led the long-serving left-back to become more of a liability than a leader on the pitch this season.
2. Nemanja Vidic
The captain has to lead by example and unfortunately that hasn’t happened for Vidic this season. The cult-hero of sorts has had a tough time keeping up at the back, and his lack of pace certainly hasn’t helped as he has gotten older. Neither have various ankle injuries that have impacted him throughout his career.
To compensate for this, the center-back’s positioning must improve, and that just hasn’t happened this season. The recent 2-2 draw against Fulham is the best representation of this. On both of Fulham’s goals, particularly their stoppage time equalizer, Vidic was drawn out of positon, allowing the Cottagers to capitalize. Although usually reliable, Vidic just isn’t the same player that he used to be and it shows on the pitch. We already know he’s leaving at the end of this season, and judging by his performances, it’s as if he’s already mentally said goodbye to the club.
3. Michael Carrick
Perhaps the biggest blow for Manchester United this season is the poor form of Carrick. The midfielder’s superb form and consistency over the past 3 seasons almost made up for a lack of midfield depth and undoubtedly powered the team to success. Coaches, players, and pundits recognized his influence on the team, and just how much his play contributed to their winning ways. This season has been a different story.
Under Moyes, the center-midfielder is yet to make his mark, and is struggling to get a good run of form going. As Manchester United’s best player in a depthless midfield, this is crippling. Without their lynchpin at his best, the team are struggling to connect the midfield with the forwards.
As a result, fewer chances have arisen, and Wayne Rooney is forced to drop even deeper than normal to get the ball. Carrick’s disappointing season has hurt the team as a whole, and with no one else to carry the midfield, it could carry on much longer than it should.
Sadly for United fans, the number of Manchester United footballers who are additional candidates for the above list of underperforming footballers is far too long. Names like Ashley Young, Robin van Persie, Antonio Valencia, Tom Cleverley and Rio Ferdinand come to mind, just for starters.