The last international break of the year marks the moment when the gloves well and truly come off and clubs knuckle down and get down to business knowing that, as winter approaches and days get shorter and colder, the World Cup draw will be the only distraction to disrupt club football for the next six months.
Under Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United used to relish the months following the international break which would invariably see the Reds motor up the table like a steam train gaining pace after leaving a station. Sir Alex often pointed at the winter months as a crucial time of the campaign.
“Be up there by Christmas, and you have a very good chance,” was one of Fergie’s favourite mantras.
David Moyes must make that philosophy his if he’s to turn his team’s shaky start to the season into the ruthless cavalcade United fans have become accustomed to witness over the last two decades.
Moyes’ early steps as manager of Manchester United have been rather tentative, with the well publicised failure in the transfer window becoming even more regrettable as United suffered three defeats in their first seven Premier League games, failing to score in open play five matches until Adnan Januzaj’s double against Sunderland ten days ago.
Marouane Fellaini’s wrist injury has dealt another setback to the Belgian who is yet to show a glimpse of the player he was at Everton, let alone to establish himself as an integral cog of the United machine, while Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic have looked a shadow of their former selves.
There are, however, some positives too for Moyes. The Scotsman has handled the Wayne Rooney saga superbly, with the 27-year-old looking sharper and hungrier than he had done over the last 18 months and the England striker has been undoubtedly United’s player of the season so far, while his striking partner Robin Van Persie should have received a much-needed morale boost after becoming Holland’s all-time top scorer on Friday.
Moyes’ decision to give Januzaj a chance has paid off handsomely so far and while it’d be foolish to expect the youngster to deliver match-winning performances on a regular basis, the 18-year-old might have already leapfrogged Ashley Young in the pecking order, while Nani seem to be trusted more than Antonio Valencia on the other flank.
Having spent the first months of the campaign trying to figure his best XI, the feeling is that David Moyes might be edging closer to completing the jigsaw and back-to-back home games against Southampton and Stoke, followed by a trip to Fulham offer the perfect platform to steady the ship ahead of Arsenal’s visit next month.
For all their shortcomings, of which there are aplenty, United are only six points off the top of the table with another 31 games to play. Time for Moyes to show what he’s worth.
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Tags: Opinion Piece