Dec 28

United’s defence looks to the future

Tag: Opinion Piece @ 8:00 am

jonny-evans-doigt-leve-pour-celebrer-sonFour months into their first season without Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm for 26 years, Manchester United’s rollercoaster shows no sign of stopping, with Boxing Day’s result against Hull confirming that David Moyes’ men seem to have rediscovered the good old habit of snatching results from the jaws of defeat.

While the comeback was undoubtedly pleasing, United’s diabolical defending would have raised concerns with Moyes, particularly as Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling look to establish themselves as the first choice partnership at centre-back.

Up until yesterday, United’s defensive shape had improved with a set back four, one in which the figures of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand are no longer as prominent as they have been for the last seven seasons, throughout which they formed one of the best centre-back partnership in the Premier League and, arguably, in Europe.

Injuries and age had begun to catch up with Vidic and Ferdinand over the last two campaigns, but while in previous seasons Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones were always considered to be the replacements of how extended their run in the team might have been, in the first season under David Moyes the two veterans are being gradually phased out.

Both of them remain, of course,  crucial elements of the team – on the pitch as much as in the dressing room – but their involvement has been fairly limited this season with Vidic playing 11 times in the Premier League this season, while Ferdinand has started a mere seven league matches.

Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling have started one and four games less than Vidic respectively, but both have impressed when picked, with Evans showing all the composure and experience of a veteran centre-back, despite being just 25, while Smalling’s three display in the middle of the back four proved the 24-year-old is much more at ease at centre-back than when deployed as right-back – a position he’s occupied eight times in all competitions this season.

While Phil Jones has been impressive as defensive midfielder, the former Blackburn man has looked extremely accomplished when deployed at centre-back – United have kept two clean sheets over the five games Jones played in the middle of the back four – which gives David Moyes a selection dilemma, but one the United manager must be happy to have.

Furthermore, were United to finally invest in one or two top class midfielders, Jones could soon be deemed surplus to requirement in the engine room, thus making Moyes’ choice for his centre-back pairing even more difficult, particularly considering that, much like Vidic and Ferdinand, United’s younger defenders seem to complement each other brilliantly.


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Tags: Opinion Piece

25 Responses to “United’s defence looks to the future”

  • We still don’t look solid at the back, a lot of chances are being created against us. With Moyes as manager I expected us having a great defense but we have not been.

    • @Opti: Article looks like written by our very own tactical experts Jay Wire… :wink:

    • Flattered but no,it’s not me. Just one of the best sports journalists I have been influenced by. The guy has some deep knowledge of football and his books have been a huge influence

  • We’re pretty set for Centre-backs, present or future.

    We need right now:

    1. Left-back
    2. second-string Right-back
    3. Tackling-holding midfielder (Fletcher isn’t a great bet yet)
    4. second-string passing midfielder who is >> Cleverley
    5. Winger, preferrably a naturally left footed one.

    In January, I doubt Moyes will get his left-back or his tackling-holding midfielder or even his winger. So prepare for two second-string signings (hopefully something akin to Vidic/Evra so many January’s ago).

    But if we do get even one mid-big signing, then top 4 is really really possible if not better.

    • @RedAF: I can live with that List:
      1. Left back = Luke Shaw. What’s the chance of getting him in January?
      2. Some young kids to compete against Rafael
      3. I think we have Fellaini for that, right?
      4. I would upgrade this to first-string midfielder: pick anyone from Continent, pretty much :D
      5. Sell Nani (I can’t believe I say that!) and bring in a younger version with potential and drive who can complete more than 1 successful cross per game…

    Tottenham midfielder Paulinho is ruled out for at least a month with an ankle injury suffered in a tackle with Charlie Adam.

  • Well that was shite.

    We created next to nothing in the first half and really are not creating enough chances. This has been our problems since August. Not enough chances.

    De Gea and Welbeck did well today with what they had. Rooney was poor and likely injured still. Other than that there is not much positive to extract from todays performance…

    Disappointed that we lose ground again, but with the last couple weeks performances, should I have expected any less? I think not. United struggling to break through the Top 4 and falling further behind. Plenty of time before panicking, but it is VERY unsatisfying…

    I am furious. :evil: :evil:

    • @Opti: Also, our crossing and corner-taking is piss-poor. Unbelievable that we had 13 corners, 10s of crosses, and a couple free-kicks but that they didn’t lead to any goals or decent chances. That’s just awful.

      When is RvP back?

  • How nice of us to erase Spurs’ memories of Manchester. Lose 6-0 to City but no worries, Moyes works his magic:

  • Oh yeah and one more thing:

    This was a Spurs team that had lost 6-0 and 5-0 against City and Liverpool. Then they come to OT with two strikers… now what does that tell you about United’s chances of Top 4 finish and Champions League.

    Awful, bloody awful. I will stop now before I fall any deeper on this beautiful snowy New Year’s Day.

  • David so the honourable thing and stand sown, sorry you are Scottish money is too important.
    Today his changes were acts of a desperate man, ill-conceived rash and at the end fatale. Taking Smalling off, lead to the second goal, thus stifling our second best creative threat to right back was bizarre. Then putting our best player and finisher into midfield again was stupid. Taking Carrick off and keeping Cleverley on again ridiculous. Moyes wasn’t thinking straight, again losing the previous backroom staff who would have sensible and told him to keep his powder dry and stay as he were. All in all Spurs were lucky, but how many times have I said this?
    Moyes simply doesn’t have the players behind him, how can he, he hasn’t won anything, Macheda has more trophies on his shelf.
    Thanks Fergie, as long as you are Ok, Moyes please go.

    • The_Philosopher

      @Stephen: Yeah Moyes is out of his league.

      I think we have been through this already.

      He is clearly not United quality.

      Moyes out!!!

    • @Stephen: Fully agree with your post. Yeah, it was an act of desperation.

      Personally I don’t think any of the players can be blamed. Our gameplan sucks and is too predictable.

    • tonymontanna4united

      @Stephen: I get the feeling that Moyes thinks so long as he takes off a more defensive player for the sake of an offensive one, then it must mean your more likely to score, and to hell with whether it means you’ve now got a 2 man MF of Rooney and Kagawa, and you’ve got strikers playing on the wing and you’ve now got gaps of 30 yards between players because they are all getting in each others way up top and not knowing what their roles are, atleast it looks attacking on paper, and that must mean your going to score right :roll:
      I mean Kagawa and Rooney in a 2 man MF :roll: Christ almighty.
      It’s not hard to see why Everton fans are so over the moon with Martinez right now is it.
      Moyes has about as much tactical nous as a wet sponge.

  • Quite frankly Moyes is incapable of beating a top 10 team. It says everything that Everton have improved dramatically after he leaves while we have got dramatically worse after he joined. Even our wins against bottom feeder teams have been for the most part unconvincing.

    The whole point of hiring Moyes was to try and preserve the Manchester United philosophy and ensure continuity. But Moyes has done way more damage to the brand of the club than any of the foreign alternatives such as Jose Mourinho or Pep Guardiola would have done.

    Bottomline is that a club with our history deserves a world class manager and Moyes is not and never will fall into that category. Moreover if he continues to try and rebuild our squad with average players like Fellaini we will suffer the same fate as Liverpool in the 90s slowly becoming more and more mediocre as the players that brought us past success get older or leave the club.

    Case in point Wayne Rooney. If he jumps ship next summer then we’d struggle to finish in the top half next season. And once Vidic and Van Persie pack their bags the only world class player left would be De Gea and how long before Real Madrid or Barcelona come calling for him? Likewise Januzaj who will realize that he needs Champions League football to achieve his full potential.

    If the Glazer’s wish to use Moyes as a caretaker manager until a world class manager becomes available then I can understand that. But they would be mad to give him funds to waste.

    The real problem is that we are no longer a team that runs like clockwork. We are a team that needs a major rebuilding and Moyes simply is not qualified for that difficult job and the funds needed to do it are so great that if he wastes them it will be to the detriment of the next guy to come along to sort out his mess.

  • tonymontanna4united

    “We’re always looking to add players if we can but I’m not sure that January is a brilliant month to do business. We’ll be out there looking like I’m sure everyone else is”. Moyes on January transfers.

    You see Moyes, regardless of whether you think January is a brilliant month or not to do business, the fact is that right now you bloody well desperately NEED to pull something out of the bag this month, or else I really don’t think it’s pushing it to suggest that a top 6 finish is going to be a bloody big ask.
    With Fergie still calling the shots in the background, and wanting to be proved right about Moyes possibly even to the detriment of the clubs on field future, it’s unlikely to result in Moyes losing his job, but going from champions, to 6/7th, possibly ending up behind Tim fucking Sherwood in the space of a year, all the while changing very little to the squad, really is just a total fucking screw up of a job which ever way you look at it, and should result in him losing his job.

    We can go on about lacking quality in the side all we want, but we’re 3 top class players off being a top PL side again, not 6/7 like Moyes tries to make out.
    De Gea, Rafael, Vidic, Jones, Smalling, Evans, Carrick, Rooney, Rvp, Januzaj, Kagawa, Hernandez is more than enough to atleast compete for a top 4 spot fucking surely?
    Our team isn’t worse than Everton’s or Liverpool’s at the end of the day, and it’s a crock of shite to suggest otherwise.

    If Moyes had anything about him, he’d demand whatever he wanted for players this January, and would start by bringing in new blood to replace the so called professional seniors like Evra and Ferdinand who have well and truely shown how much fight and desire and love they have for this club with their absysmal performances since Fergie retired, move on that negative, one footed, boring, made in stoke, I can’t cross a ball to save my life, useless piece of shite Valencia, and start making the changes this side have needed for nigh on 3 years.
    To Hell with waiting for the summer.
    The way things are looking, Alan fucking Pardew and the soon to be named Professor Sherwood are going to be much more attractive options than Gollum, and he’s only got his fucking self to blame.
    He had the summer, he has this January, if he chooses not to use it whilst making us look more piss poor with every passing game then he’s only got himself to blame.

    • Andrija Djuranovic


      How many times do I (or anybody else) have to repeat before it dawns on you all: MOYES DOESN’T HAVE MONEY TO SPEND ON PLAYERS.

      Now repeat after me: Moyes doesn’t have money to spend on players, Moyes doesn’t have money to spend on players, Moyes doesn’t have money to spend on players.

      How many times do I (or anybody else) have to repeat why? BECAUSE OWNERS WON’T GIVE HIM MONEY.

      Now repeat after me: because owners won’t give him money, because owners won’t give him money, because owners won’t give him money.

      Every game we lost, except WBA, was lost against teams with BETTER players on the pitch. Look at the players Spurs brought in in the last two years: Dembele, Paulinho, Sigurdsson, Soldado, Chiriches, Capouet, Eriksen, Lamela, Verthongen, Rose…Look at us: Persie, Kagawa and Fellaini.

      We all love United, and we all love our players, but for all our undoubted love we must face the sad reality: most of our players are either well past their primes (Ferdinand, Evra, Giggs, Vidic) or are Sunderland/Stoke quality (Evans, Smalling, Cleverley, Anderson, Nani, Valencia, Young, Kagawa and yes, Welbeck, despite his scoring form of late). The teams above us in the league table, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, City, Everton and Spurs really have better squads than we do.

      Fergie was an overachiever, Moyes is just an achiever. Give him the top class team and he will be a serial winner. Give him a mid-table team and he’ll hover around the mid-table, which is exactly what he is doing now, and what our squad is now-a mid-table team, with two recognized class players and a bunch of willing, motivated players we all love and cherish, but who are awfully mediocre.

      • The_Philosopher

        @Andrija Djuranovic: David Moyes is an achiever?

        What has he achieved exactly?

        David Moyes will be a serial winner?

        you must live on some other planet.

        David Moyes is average joe through and through.

        Manchester United is an elite club and we have no room (and we should have no time) for an average joe.

      • tonymontanna4united

        @Andrija Djuranovic: I’m not suggesting he has money coming out of his ass, but he had £30m in the summer, which could have easily signed a top class MF or a good option like Strootman plus a LB.
        You don’t have to preach to me that the Glazers are a bunch of stingy, rasping mother fuckers because I’ve been saying it for nigh on 4 years since ronaldo left.
        You can’t ignore however that the money we have been given the last few years has, on the whole, been pissed away by Fergie on too many bad buys (young, tosic, bebe, obertan, etc which all adds up) and Moyes looks to have followed suit bringing in Fellaini.
        If money was tight, why not sell some of the deadwood?
        Valencia, Anderson, Young, even Kagawa who it seems he has no clue how to use properly.
        I’m refusing to give Moyes a pass just because he’s having to work under tight conditions.
        FFS he was reknown for it with Everton, and had their much weaker squad at least competing for the top 4, usually ending up with a top 6 finish.
        With us, it looks like he’s not even going to manage that.

        “Every game we lost, except WBA, was lost against teams with BETTER players on the pitch”.
        Look no one is denying this squad is on the whole, probably the worst United squad there’s been in over 20 years, but let’s not go ott.
        It’s 3/4 players off being a top side again, it doesn’t need 7 odd players to get us competing again.
        Our side should be more than good enough to beat the likes of spurs, newcastle, everton and southampton ffs.
        Our lack of any tactical nous which comes from the manager, our love of playing players out of position (smalling at rb) and relying on knocking it out wide to valencia who smashes it into the oppo defender at every opportunity with little to no plan b, is what is responsible for us losing so many of those games.
        I’d bet good money with someone like the southampton manager in charge, you’d see us playing some good football, and picking up 3 points against more of said sides because the way he’d have us playing as a team, no matter how lacking it may be.

        “Fergie was an overachiever, Moyes is just an achiever. Give him the top class team and he will be a serial winner”.
        What do we actually have to go on to suggest this is the case?
        He got a decent Everton team 6th-8th place on a pretty much consistent basis, never actually won any of the cups (or ever really have that good a run in the cups except for getting to a fa cup final one year) and as many everton fans will tell you, seemed to become happy at staying at the peak they had reached, which was top 6 for the last few years.
        The fact that many of them were actually quite happy to see him go, as they’d felt he’d actually grown rather stale, and the club was ready to kick on under a more ambitious manager, says alot imo.
        From what I’ve seen of him thus far I wouldn’t say he’s a serial winner nor seen anything to suggest that he keeps striving for better quality and wanting to push on season upon season.
        It’s why the year after he’s left, Everton have finally addressed their CF problem which Moyes couldn’t do in pretty much his entire time there, and they look to be a much better tactical and entertaining team to watch than they ever did under Moyes.
        So no, actually I’d say there’s nothing to suggest that Moyes would target, or indeed get the best out of a top class team, and tbh it’s just yet another excuse.

  • The best business United can do in Jan is to send DM out on loan to Barca or Bayern for the rest of the season. Get him booked on some PR classes as well while they at it and start preparing for an assult next year.

    I think we should forget about any top-x finishes for the remainder of the season and focus on getting some fucken multi-dimensional tactics that work and will make our games entertaining to watch. Or at least have and communicate some proper flippen strategy to the supporters.

  • Wow I’m in the top 5 list of commentors.

  • We are burying our heads in the sand IF we honestly beleive we have as half decent squad and our demise is Moyes inspirés.The team has been going nowhere slowly for a while and this is certainly one unsuccessful team transition by SAF as a number Of players tipped to slide into the first team have dismally failed.Nani, Cleverly,Welbeck, Powell, Smalling, Macheda, Young etc…Mind you the same fixture under fergie Last season was even more Of à farce with the only consolation being that we Sat on top Of the league.Our phony credentials Were long found out that night in the CL when,yaya,messi and iniesta certified the calibre Of our midfield.Since then promises by à visibly shaken Scotsman then that we would raise the bar ended as mere daydreams probably inspired by à good matured whiskey.Since then United has been humiliated at home countless times by continental minnows in both champs league and europa not to mention à later to be delegates blackburn, championship leeds in cup compétition and the current goldrush at Old trafford.I would go further to attributing our league successes Since the barca disaster to inept compétition and a very useful RVP.The way senior players looked to Young Adnan for salvation pumping Every Ball to him on Sunday tells a story Of how créative we are.YES blâme it on Moyes but methinks our horses have run their race and would Need more than mere mortals as manager to acheive anything significant this year.

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