Describing a game against Sunderland on a Wednesday night in January as a last chance saloon for Manchester United would have raised a few eyebrows in years go by.
David Moyes and his team might not be at that stage yet, but tonight’s second leg of the Capital One Cup semifinal is as big a test as any the former Everton manager has faced since replacing Sir Alex Ferguson in the Manchester United dugout last July.
In news that will surprise nobody, Manchester United are expected to avoid any panic signings this January, with David Moyes’ and the club hierarchy thought to be keener on long-term planning, rather than stop-gap signings.
While, theoretically, that would be an smart move and a route United and the Glazers should have embarked on many years ago, United’s current predicament is such that news ruling out any January signings could have a devastating effect on the fans and the players alike, with the former category in particular desperate for a lift.
Manchester United have underperformed this season and, as with all under-performing teams these days, much of the blame has been laid at the door of the new manager, David Moyes.
Some of the criticism is justified; in the summer, the Scot inexplicably turned down the chance to enter negotiations with Mesut Özil (also true of Sir Alex Ferguson, in 2010), with a doomed pursuit of Cesc Fabregas followed by the desperate £27.5million purchase of Marouane Fellaini. During Moyes’ first few months at Old Trafford, the Champions have been consistently pedestrian and open, with very few signs that the Ex-Everton boss knows the tactical adjustments he must make. However, it isn’t all the new manager’s fault; injuries have punctuated Moyes’ debut campaign and lackluster individual contributions haven’t helped his cause either. However, a lot of Moyes’ problems can be traced back to his predecessor, Sir Alex Ferguson.
Gary Neville believes that Manchester United need to sing three or four players if they’re to return to the top of the Premier League as swiftly as possible, for the current crop isn’t good enough to sustain a title challenge, which has been widely highlighted in the first six months of this season.
With only 10 days left in the January transfer window, United, as it’s now become tradition with them, have been linked with about a dozen different players, while David Moyes and the rest of the coaching staff have traveled across Europe to scout players but, as things stand, the arrival list at Old Trafford remains empty.
Things at United aren’t good these days, but at least the Old Trafford dressing room seems to be a very democratic place, given that no sooner had David Moyes said that he believed United could still win the title than Nemanja Vidic admitted having a complete different opinion on the subject.
Yesterday’s defeat at Stamford Bridge saw United’s gap from league leaders Arsenal widen to 14 points, with even fourth place looming increasingly distant, as Spurs and Liverpool are six points clear of United.
For a man tasked with arguably the hardest job in football and pressure mounting on him by the day, David Moyes does an admirable job when it comes to remain defiant in spite of the many adversities he’s faced so far this season.
Perhaps it really is staunch belief that his team will, at some point, turn the corner or perhaps the United manager is simply trying to desperately rally his troops, but Moyes’ determination in insisting that United are still in the title race is beginning to look like a desperate and pointless exercise.
The last time Samuel Eto’o thwarted our hearts, Manchester United were playing their second Champions League finalin 12 months and things looked rather different.
Back then, United boasted a superb squad capable of taking on Europe’s finest, while today they crumbled against aChelsea side which, while looking solid, never got out of second gear.
Travelling to face a direct rival knowing that they’re the ones who have got all to lose from the context can only mean two things – either the gap is so disproportionally in favour of the hosts that everybody expects them to win, or the visiting team have already run away with the league, thus they can afford to take the game lightly.
Sadly, as far as tomorrow’s clash at Stamford Bridge is concerned, the former applies to United, who travel to South West London knowing full well that the pressure will be all on Chelsea to deliver, for almost nobody expects David Moyes to get a point at a Stamford Bridge, let alone a win.