5 Things We Learned: Manchester United 0-1 Newcastle United
1. Turning on the team and the manager will not solve our problems
WITH David Moyes and his team embracing a new era at Manchester United, there is an unfamiliar feeling surrounding the club – fear.
Fans are largely unfamiliar with the results we’ve endured this season, particularly the last two losses at home, and some have decided to voice their concerns in the form of boos – very audible at the final whistle after this loss to Newcastle – and criticism on social media and football phone-ins.
I’m a part of that generation that has never known anything other than Sir Alex Ferguson and largely success at Old Trafford, and so far this season I have been left angry, disappointed and fearful for the future – but I choose to believe in Moyes, believe in my team, and believe success will continue.
Should we really be turning on the team? After the last two games, things are beginning to get quite ugly.
It’s hard to put your finger on our troubles. Yes, the midfield is an issue, yes the established defensive partnership of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic is ageing and has lost a step, yes Ferguson’s powers of motivation and sheer will probably went a long way to papering over the cracks for the last five years, but we are not as bad a team as the league table suggests.
As a United fan, I’ve been accustomed in recent years to seeing managers at opposing big clubs being dismissed without having had a real chance and I’ve seen games where fans have turned on their teams. I’ve always believed United’s fans were better than that.
Replacing possibly the greatest manager of all time was never going to be easy. With his successor’s reign not getting off to a lightening start, what would the haters and doubters do now? Pay him off and ask for someone else to have a go, and repeat this cycle as long as it takes until we finally achieve success again, however brief?
It’s times like this where the fans need to prove why they’ve been some of the best in the world for so many years, and get behind the players and Moyes and let them know we still believe.
Sir Alex’s last words to us at his last home game were ‘stand by our new manager like the club stood by me’. Time for us to live up to our side of the bargain.
IT’S the area that has been ridiculed, challenged and left fans frustrated for nearly a decade, but under Ferguson, he would always put players in there that could do enough.
Suddenly, under Moyes, players there are looking a little bit older, a little more out of their depth and a little lacking in the quality required to be a United player.
I don’t think we can talk enough about the impact Michael Carrick made last season and how telling his injury absence has been since he was sidelined, but of course the problems in the middle of the park run deeper.
Teams have figured out that they have little trouble running through us and any team with a half decent corps of midfielders are reaping the rewards of playing us so far.
Marouane Fellaini is having a tough time adapting, the writing has long been on the wall for Anderson, while I really feel for Tom Cleverley. He has a lot of the same qualities as Carrick, especially his passing, poise and balance, but it really doesn’t suit him playing as a deep lying holding midfielder. I’d like to see Moyes use him in a more advanced role.
After failing to land summer Cesc Fabregas, Thiago Alcantara and Ander Herrera, the United manager has struggled to come up with the right solution from his existing players and so it’s not really a surprise that United have continually found themselves overrun in the engine room.
Moyes must strengthen in that area first and foremost, and he probably has to do it during the January transfer window if United are to mount any form of challenge in the New Year, but he has also said he won’t panic buy, which is what I believe he did with Fellaini, certainly at £27million. We as fans don’t want money carelessly thrown around either and of course he’ll have to factor in European completion restrictions any of his targets will be affected by.
3. A team divided against itself cannot stand
When things start to go wrong with teams, the bad stories and bad press start to leak out, and this is just another problem that Moyes is discovering in his early months as United boss.
I was sick to hear rumours surrounding Robin van Persie’s future, with some suggesting that he had even handed in a transfer request prior to the Newcastle game.
Moyes rubbished such idle talk and you hope that the Dutchman is not that fickle to think that having just helped us to our 20th title, the first sign of trouble has him running for the hills.
He’s better than that and you hope it’ll die down and that he can get over any issues he has with Moyes’ training methods or whether or not he’s feeling let down by the fact that the man that had a huge say in bringing him to Old Trafford is no longer at the helm.
Another bizarre off the field issue that surfaced this week was Shinji Kagawa’s surreal reason for not featuring in the match day squad for Newcastle. He was taken ill at his home following the Everton loss with breathing problems, which turned out to be that he actually overate and had to have his stomach pumped – incredible.
So the United circus show jerks from one upsetting story to a ridiculous new one, all of which is making for uncomfortable viewing. It’s certainly been a season of turmoil so far.
Moyes took responsibility for the Newcastle loss on Sunday, which is admirable and shows character, but the players have to take responsibility too. Too many are not performing and that needs to change. They need to galvanise and I still believe that success, even retaining the league title, is achievable, but we need to be a team in order to move forward.
4. We cannot think the season is over
YES it’s a bad spell, yes we’re ninth in the table 13 points adrift of leaders Arsenal, yes it’s our worst start since 1990/91 and yes the stick from mates and opposition fans is unbearable – but Moyes and the players cannot begin to think that these is no hope.
It’s not been inspiring stuff so far this season by any stretch of the imagination, but before the two recent home losses, our 12 game unbeaten run was the talk of the town.
We may not look anything like the reigning champions but we cannot think that all hope is lost.
Analysts and the media, I believe, make too much of the amount of points in front or behind a team is, especially this side of the New Year.
A lot of football is still ahead of us, and with all the other big teams dropping points as well this season, the title race is going to be something special come the business end of the season.
Of course if United continue to lose and play like they do, it will at some point become impossible to win the league and perhaps even get into the top four, but we’re not there yet.
Stepping back from our league situation, let’s take into account the other competitions. We’ve qualified for the Champions League knockout stages and we’ve looked decent so far this season, and the myth that Moyes would struggle to manage in Europe has proved to be unfounded as yet.
Asides from reigning champions Bayern Munich too, I don’t think there are many other teams to fear.
Barcelona, without Messi, look weak and even though he will be back before too long, they are still not the team of 2011.
The devastating aggregate defeats of the Spanish teams to Germany’s top two last season (Barca lost 7-0 on aggregate to Bayern and Dortmund, after beating Real 4-1 in the first leg, just managed to scrape through after losing the second 2-0) suggested there had been a sea change, even though Bayern seem in a league all on their own.
It’s not going to be a cake walk by any means but I just feel that it’s an open competition for the first time in a long time.
Also factor in that the FA Cup begins early in 2014, while United are also through to the quarter finals of the Capital One Cup.
On current form, ties against Swansea City and Stoke City in those two competitions look daunting, but it just serves to remind us that there’s plenty to play for.
5. If anyone can defy the critics, it’s United
OK, so we’ve just lost two on the bounce at home, without scoring, for the first time in over a decade.
Ferguson had his ups and downs, notably a month in the 1996/97 season following the humiliating 5-0 thrashing by Newcastle at St James’ Park.
That kicked off a sequence in which our only win in five games came with a 2-1 defeat of Swindon in the League Cup.
After the Magpies’ loss, there was the infamous 6-3 embarrassment against Southampton.
It went from bad to worse when we then couldn’t even score a goal at home against Fenerbahce as we lost 1-0 in the Champions League, and we then lost 2-1 to Chelsea at Old Trafford three days later.
We did recover a little dignity with a 1-0 home win over Arsenal two weeks later but we lost again in the Champions League and again at home to Juventus on November 20, drew 2-2 away at Middlesbrough and were then dumped out of the League Cup with a 2-0 away defeat at Leicester City.
The good news is that we did still end the season as champions, finishing seven points ahead of Newcastle, losing only two of our next 24 league games.
It may all seem like doom and gloom right now and we must remember that this is a team seriously devoid of confidence and, more importantly, not with the inspirational Fergie to lead the charge of the light brigade.
Moyes is a great manager and I believe he will be a great United manager, if given time.
But, he has just got to hang in there and his squad has got to buy into what he’s doing.
One of the most synonymous words woven into United’s rich history is belief.
The players have got to believe in Moyes and themselves and Moyes has got to believe in his project. United have to believe the season is still alive.
I’ll leave you with these words that I saw on Twitter over the weekend following the Newcastle defeat: “We have been defying critics for 100 years. We don’t become champions because we win; we win because we’re champions. Criticism is just another word.”
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