5 Things We Learned: Manchester United 1-2 West Bromwich Albion
1. Moyes needs to learn to manage squad better
Having decided not to use the squad much prior to last weekend’s defeat at City, Moyes chose to make 8 changes for the Liverpool game in midweek which came as no surprise given it was a League Cup tie and the players selected were short of minutes so far this season, the players selected put in a very good performance against a full strength Liverpool lineup and as a result a few of the players that started were rewarded with a start for the game against West Brom, which did come as a surprise. Having lost last weekend, it was important to get back on track here and put out our best XI or something nearer to it but Moyes decided to rest key players ahead of the trip to Donetsk. The team we put out was not a bad one by any means, it still had enough quality to win but a number of the players had hardly played prior to the Liverpool game in midweek; Evans, Anderson, Hernandez, Nani, Kagawa and Buttner were all rarely or not used at all before Wednesday and Moyes was now expecting them to step up to the plate and put in a performance to win us the game, which was quite naive from him in my opinion. At Everton, Moyes didn’t have the options to rotate and didn’t need to as they weren’t competing in multiple competitions. He opted not to rotate early on and is now rotating too much. Of course the players must be held responsible too, there were far too many poor individual performances and overall it was a poor team performance. It’s one of a few things he’s still getting to grips with, hopefully an area that he will improve at sooner rather than later.
2. Ferdinand struggling
Rio Ferdinand has been my favourite United player since about 2006 and in my opinion he’s the best centre half I’ve seen play for the club but he’s 34 going on 35 now and needs to be managed as Fergie did expertly. He’s had a poor start to the season but I still believe he has something to offer the side despite his age and poor form. Let’s not forget that he was one of the outstanding performers of last season’s title win and showed that despite his age that he still has it in him to play regularly for the club. However, there is a reason why Fergie didn’t play him in successive games and that has probably affected him so far this season. Rio was poor for both goals on Saturday, the first Amalfitano was just too quick for him and the second he was very slow to react to the ball dropping to Berahino. It is perhaps time to start looking at one of the younger players in his place which we did yesterday with Evans playing and he had a relatively good game but he should have been playing instead of Rio and not with him. Evans would be my personal choice to replace him as first choice and should be given a run of games with Vidic now but I wouldn’t be displeased to see Smalling replace Ferdinand either, he certainly deserves to get a chance at some point having put in a good performance with Evans against Liverpool in the League Cup. There’s also Phil Jones to consider who showed at the end of last season that centre back is his best position. Rio wasn’t the only poor performer against West Brom but he hasn’t performed well this season, he’s made quite a lot of mistakes and will probably be left out of the side for a run of games now but don’t write him off yet as he’s bounced back before.
3. Midfield problems… yawn
I’m not sure how many times we’ve been here now, it’s a regular occurrence after a game, even if we win we seem to bemoan the problems in midfield. During the summer we reportedly tried to sign a number of midfielders, starting with Thiago moving on to Fabregas and then on to Ander Herrera and Khedira later on in the summer and I’m sure they weren’t the only ones. We failed in our attempts but did manage to sign Marouane Fellaini who is not a bad player by any means but he isn’t the answer to our problems, he’ll add something different to the squad though and hopefully improve in his favoured position which he didn’t get many opportunities to play in at Everton with Moyes using his strengths further up the field. Starting on Saturday were Michael Carrick and Anderson, Carrick was one of our best players last season like Ferdinand but he has also started the season in poor form, it’s not something new for him though, he has often started the season slowly but has not been able to get away with it this season with a tough set of fixtures to kick the season off. It’s been a common worry in recent seasons that if Carrick is injured, in need of rest or playing poorly we haven’t got anyone to fill in for him. We’ve signed Fellaini this summer but I remain unconvinced he is the player that can fill in for Carrick right now, having not played much as a central midfielder for Everton. Carrick was not helped by his partner on Saturday either though, Anderson. It was another nail in the coffin if not the final nail for Anderson’s United career, he failed to do the basics right and is running out of last chances now, the gap between he and Carrick was far too big too and allowed West Brom’s 3 man midfield too much space. If we continue to struggle this much in midfield we may have to start playing 3 in midfield ourselves.
4. Wing displays were the main positives
There are not many footballers that divide opinion as much as Nani, he is a player in my opinion that is capable of winning games on his own and Saturday was nearly one of those days. If a goal was to come it looked likely that it would come from him, putting in a number of dangerous crosses throughout the game. On another day, Hernandez would have got on the end of one of the crosses or Fellaini wouldn’t have been offside. After Nani’s performance against West Brom and our other wide players form I think it’s clear that he is our best winger right now and needs a run of games in his favoured and best position which is on the right wing. This was only his 2nd start of the season and there’s a lot more to come from him. During summer he looked like someone who was reinvigorated and keen to impress the new manager until he got injured, but the injury doesn’t seem to have affected him as since returning as a sub for the loss at Anfield, he’s looked far more dangerous than the wingers who have had a full pre-season. He hasn’t contributed to any goals or assists yet but if he continues to improve his performances as he has done so far this season then it will soon come.
The other 2 players to play out wide for us against West Brom were Kagawa and Januzaj, both handed a half each. Personally thought Kagawa had a good first half and it was very harsh to take him off at half time, he created a few chances and did nothing to deserve being taken off so early on. Januzaj replaced him and looked a big threat but as you’d expect from an 18 year old, his decision making often let him down. However, with Buttner playing at LB I thought it was a big risk to bring on someone with very little experience in Kagawa’s place to support him and as a result both West Brom goals stemmed from down our left flank.
5. United’s worst start to a Premier League season
Apologies to bring this up but yes this has been our worst start to a Premier League season. With the change in manager it was always going to be a struggle early on, Moyes wasn’t helped by a poor transfer window and a tough first 2 months of fixtures either mind and I’m pretty sure the amount of travelling we did in pre-season didn’t help prepare us for the start of the season either. With fixtures against Chelsea, Liverpool and City out of the way, we were expected to push on and go on a good run starting with this game but it was not to be on Saturday. The squad we have should really be doing a lot better than this but it’s still early days and patience will be required with the new manager as most of us initially thought. We have been known to be slow starters in the past and have had similarly bad starts before and gone on to have great success in the season, will that happen this season? Maybe not, but it’s still more than possible with the players we have as long as Moyes learns from the mistakes he’s made already and the players themselves start playing to the standard that we know they can.