While Manchester United were recently protecting a precious one goal lead against Southampton, manager David Moyes made the most negative change in his short United career thus far. He took off the energetic Wayne Rooney, and replaced him with Chris Smalling. Two minutes later, a defensive lapse in concentration saw Southampton level, and the game ended 1-1. The Old Trafford faithful were questioning the wisdom of that change, as many doubted Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor’s mentality. While Fergie would have brought on a fresh pair of feet upfront to kill the game off, Moyes did the contrary.
Manchester United boast a tradition of counter-attacking, wing play and flair in their play. The change Moyes made almost defied the very principles of the club; opting to defend a lead against ‘minnows’ as opposed to attack them and contain them in their own half.
In the Champions League match against Bayer Leverkusen, Moyes modestly tinkered his starting line-up but sent on a talented squad onto the pitch, carrying on the philosophy of Fergie’s rotation policy. And when the going was good, Moyes gave some players a rest, availing game time to the others. Rotation is the name of the game.
Five games smarter in the league, Moyes made substitutions much accustomed to at Old Trafford. While drawing at White Hart Lane against a side that has been struggling for goals and form, Moyes brought on an attacking trio of Hernandez, Nani and Young. Two months ago, many fans would have expected a cautious approach — perhaps Fellaini, Welbeck and Anderson. This time around, Moyes knew better. And this season, more than in previous ones, every point is crucial as United chase the elusive top spot currently occupied by Arsenal.
Although United may not have garnered all three points against Tottenham, they certainly have improved their game. Their unappealing play has slowly transformed into eye-catching football. However, just like Arsenal in previous campaigns, the Red Devils seem to lack the killer finish.
Sitting nine points behind the Gunners, United can ill-afford to drop any more points as they try to cut down the ever widening gap. However, if Manchester United can replicate the desire and hunger they have shown in recent weeks, the only way is up as Moyes slowly settles in to life at Old Trafford, coupled with the never-say-die attitude that has seen United flourish in previous campaigns. It may take patience, a concept alien to United fans, to achieve success, but if recent games are anything to go by, the Red Devils are certainly on the road to recovery.