Now ‘silly season’ is over I agree with many that the time is right to stop griping about the horror show transfer window and focus on how David Moyes can maximize results with the squad we have.
These are my own theories as to what I hope David Moyes does with the team by breaking down the positions, players and formations.
Let me start with a quick analysis of the players we have and what I believe is our best eleven.
Obviously there are no issues or questions about our goalkeepers. David De Gea is number one and he is developing at a rapid rate. I’d say that if he continues this rise in form he will be seen as a world class talent very soon. Anders Lindegaard is a solid backup but for me he is not a guy a put a lot of faith in for a prolonged period should De Gea get injured. Still, for the odd game and Capital One matches, I have no real issue with him.
Our starting back four is quality but aging rapidly. At Right Back we have the ever improving Rafael. A quality player who is growing by leaps and bounds. Now if he good just stay healthy. Rio Ferdninand and Namanja Vidic were both world class defenders in their day and they both can still do great job but like Rafael, injuries have become commonplace with them and the secret to their success is avoiding those injuries. Many already know I am not the biggest Patrice Evra fan out there as I still believe he is a defensive liability. But I am also fair. He has shown signs of improvement this season and toward the second half of last year. Despite his flaws, he is still one of the best Left Backs in the world and only marginally inferior to the often mentioned Leighton Baines. For now I have no real issue with him starting every game provided his fine form continues.
I am concerned however with his frame of mind considering Moyes tried so hard to buy Baines and was thwarted by late paperwork submissions in getting Fabio Coentrao. This has got to be playing on the little Frenchman’s mind.
Our backups on defence are also solid if not spectacular. I have always like Phil Jones and I love his versatility but it’s high time we settled on him as a Central Defender in my book. He is no RB and he labours a bit as a defensive midfielder too. Jones is also one of those who has a hard time staying healthy and so that factor also I feel has slowed his progress.
The same can be said for Chris Smalling. This talent hardly features for us because his career has been totally derailed by long term injuries. I think the best thing for him is to send him out on loan so he can get his form back and play games.
Jonny Evans allows us that due to his availability and decent quality for a backup CD. Evans has improved but he still gets beat in the air too often for my liking as well as having the propensity to commit far too many red card fouls.
The remaining group of defenders hardly ever get a chance to showcase their skills. I’d personally like to see more of either Fabio or Alex Buttner but Evra keeps them on the bench. Still, I think they are quality substitutes and I hope one of them at least progresses to that next level. I am putting my money on Fabio, although again, I doubt Moyes sees it that way considering his man crush for Leighton Baines.
Our midfield is the basis of most of my tirades, frustrations and long bloated rants of anger and disapproval. Before we bought Marouane Fellaini I referred to our midfield as pedestrian and completely inadequate. Now that we have Fellaini I still think that although my view has calmed down moderately.
I really like Fellaini as a player and I feel if used properly (and that is the key),he can really help us a lot at both ends of the pitch. His is a strong tackler, tenacious marker, physical player with decent creative skills and the ability to dominate in either box in the air. I believe he has filled 50% of what we most needed filling and fixing. Partnering him with Michael Carrick may not improve our creativity all that much but what it will do is ensure we have more possession, win the ball more often and start quick counter attacking transitions and severely limit opposition midfields from running the center of the pitch. Those two strong lads will make life for our back four much easier provided they both stay healthy.
Healthy is vital because what we have backing up Carrick and Fellaini in center midfield is not overly encouraging and to be honest, quite depressing. I used to be a real fan of Tom Cleverley and felt he had a bright future up until he had that serious injury and layoff. Since coming back he is not the player I remember. Long gone are the dashing runs, Paul Scholes style long balls and through balls and what has replaced all that is a timid, scared player that wants nothing to do with the ball at his feet. He constantly looks for the quick easy pass and just does not inject himself into a game the way he did pre-injury. I believe the talent is there but the head is not. Hopefully he will regain the confidence and the courage to be a player who thrives on the ball, not away from it.
As for Anderson, the less said the better. Sorry Anderson fans but this player has been my least favourite player on United for the past ten years, with the exception of Bebe. I just hate useless gits and I am wondering how many years does it take for United’s brain trust to figure out that what they have in Anderson is a king sized fat Brazilian lemon.
As for Ryan Giggs, one of the greatest players to ever suit up for United and arguably the greatest player ever in the history of the Barclays Premier League. But it’s over. It’s time to retire and if not, then definitely Giggsy needs to be used exclusively as a substitute where I think his experience and ability can be utilized in short spurts.
Another major question is will we ever see Darren Fletcher again? I hope we do. Fletcher complimenting Carrick and Fellaini gives us quality depth at DMF and that is something we have not had for a good long while. My best wishes to Fletch. I hope he returns and regains his position as a valuable and loyal servant to this club.
Our attacking midfielder/wingers are a mixed bag of nuts. There is quality there, but there is still unfulfilled potential an d questions that need to be answered.
The biggest question is ‘what are David Moyes’ plans for Shinji Kagawa?’
Kagawa as we all know is a major topic of debate on this blog. Many absolutely love the lad while others like myself are not completely sold on his merits. Don’t get me wrong, I feel Shinji is a very fine little player with a strong skill set. What he isn’t however, is the Mesut Ozil or Juan Mata that we really need. What makes those players great is their world-class abilities but as well, they are adept at playing across the midfield at either wing position in a 4-4-2 or RAM, CAM or LAM in a 4-2-3-1 setup. Kagawa is not world-class and he really is only comfortable at CAM, although he has played the other positions for United as well as Borussia Dortmund. He also has Wayne Rooney in his way at CAM, so what do we do with him? Frankly he is too good not to start but where do you start him?
As for the other attacking midfielders/wingers, there are many questions to be asked. My most important question to David Moyes is when will he see fit to inject both Wilfried Zaha and Adnan Januzaj into the line-up? Both of these kids as well as Jesse Lingard are dynamic and incredibly skilful. Instead we are forced to endure the out of form and perpetually hurt Ashley Young, the declining form of Antonio Valencia and the invisible man, Louis Nani. I believe Nani is the best of the last three and he can do the best job in creating scoring opportunities. Valencia used to be reliable but he lacks the speed and variety of dribbling skills that gives him the separation needed to be really dynamic. Ashley Young is just a disappointment. A lot of skill and unfulfilled potential in my opinion.
For me the future is right now and that means Zaha must play as well as Januzaj and Kagawa. Zaha must start on the right side at the very least. Wayne Rooney complicates things for both Kagawa and Januzaj but they at least should get playing time as subs and the odd start. Right now they are rotting away and I am seeing Paul Pogba scenarios flashing in my head.
Up front is where the real quality of this club lies. Wayne Rooney seems to be a fixture for us at CAM these days but make no mistake, he is best as a striker. But the number one striker for us is of course Robin van Persie and in hi m we have a true talisman and the closest thing to Eric Cantona since Cantona himself. A great goal scorer and a great attitude makes him our leader and go to guy. But he needs service, much better service than he has been getting up to now. Hopefully Rooney will help provide that as well as the others mentioned.
Javier Hernandez for me is the real disappointment when it comes to this team. A player I absolutely love and a true professional with a fantastic attitude. The kid just scores goals but he has been given little chance to do that under Fergie and especially now under Moyes. Supposedly he was injured but now he is back and he needs to feature more. His goals per minutes play is fantastic despite the fact he is not strong at other elements of the game. Who cares, he scores goals. If we played a true 4-3-3 like Barcelona and Bayern last season, we could use Chicharito in the middle and use Rooney and RVP on the sides. But instead Fergie always gravitated to Danny Welbeck instead of Hernandez. Moyes seems to have followed suit. Welbeck is a decent player but he hasn’t got 1/10th the scoring ability Hernandez has and for me a striker is all about scoring goals. If Welbeck created goals like an Ozil I’d shut up, but he doesn’t. Welbeck for me doesn’t show up in big games against physical teams. He has skill but he is soft. Chicharito on the other hand is not afraid to get in the box and the fact he grabs so many goals inside the 6 yard box is a testament to his guts and his goal scoring instincts. Regardless of who plays between those two, they are both quality and we are the deepest team in the league when it comes to strikers. Now if we could increase the service to them, we would truly be awesome.
Now let me offer up my view as to what our best starting line-up is and what I feel are the best tactical formations to bring out the best in this talented bunch.
I am a real believer in 4-2-3-1 but I also like the old traditional 4-3-3 where the front three are not spread apart but rather compact. Like I said earlier, that formation would help us best utilize a triad of Rooney, Hernandez and RVP in a game and make them all strikers while the LS and RS would have added duties of tracking back a bit. In this setup I would line-up Carrick as the RMF, Fellaini as CMF and Nani or Ashley Young as LMF, or possibly even Cleverley. It’s not the best formation defensively but would maximize our scoring chances due to the fact we would be utilizing our best three frontline players. Now if we could replace Nani with a Herrera or Mata etc in the future, then we would be truly dynamic. The back four would of course stay the same.
My other formation, the 4-2-3-1 requires RVP to be the lone striker with three attacking midfielder behind him. My preference then would be Zaha at RAM, Rooney at CAM and either Nani, Welbeck or Kagawa at LAM. Valencia and Young could back up the two wide players and Kagawa could also play in Rooney’s spot when needed as could Fellaini. I don’t know of any other formations that for me utilize our frontline talent better.
Our two deep lying midfielders in this formation of course would be Fellaini and Carrick, backed up by Cleverley, Fletcher and Anderson. And as usual our back four would remain the same.
I am not a fan of 4-4-2 or 4-5-1 and I hate formations that spread us out too wide as to create areas for opponents to find space and attack. In that way I think a lot like Mourinho but without as much pragmatic caution as he displayed against us in the 0-0 draw. No False 9’s for me either. Not when you have the strike force we have. I also feel that with the formations I mentioned, pressing high up the pitch, running a fast paced counter attack and moving well off the ball guarantees success.
Over the years, despite our success, I grew tired of our slow build up, our sagging zone defence, and our terrible movement off-the-ball despite Fergie always getting wins using it. Moyes will not be so fortunate if he employs the same mentality. I want us to play the style of attack and transition utilized by Dortmund. Fast paced, high press and in your face for 90 minutes.
Despite all my doom and gloom and depressing forecasting due to this past summer, the acquisition of Fellaini does solve one major problem and hopefully by adding significant playing time to players like Zaha, Kagawa, Januzaj and Hernandez, the drought we are presently experiencing will become a distant memory and the goals will begin to pour out.
As unhappy as I am about our transfer season antics and tomfoolery, the club we have may not be good enough to win the league, but they still could achieve that unlikely goal if David Moyes utilizes all the quality talent he has, sits down the dead weight and incorporates tactics and strategies that will open up our attack and lead to goals and attractive play. That is the United way and that is all I can really ask for at this present time. I wish Moyes the best of luck and hope he doesn’t live up to all my previous expectations.