1. It’s officially a disaster
MANCHESTER United’s season is finally over. Just like a lame horse that’s been left to painfully hobble around in agony for far too long, Bayern Munich finally put us out of our misery on Wednesday night.
The last few weeks have been largely optimistic.
There were of course the somewhat routine humiliations that came with the defeat to Liverpool and Manchester City, not to mention the first leg of the last 16 Champions League tie against Olympiakos.
There were decent performances and even goals and clean sheets in convincing league victories over Aston Villa, West Ham and West Brom, while the players really galvanised themselves and Old Trafford was rocking for the return visit of the Greeks in what had been billed as a possible rendition of one of the country’s great tragedies.
When we drew reigning European champions Bayern, there was much gallows humour from United fans, as well as opposing supporters, but I thought that, well, if this is to be our last Champions League campaign for at least 18 months, then we might as well go down fighting against the best team on the planet.
And, to be fair, go down fighting we did.
The first leg may not have been pleasing on the eye, especially to Pep Guardiola’s, but it was a rare occasion when David Moyes got his tactics right this season, while again the players were a cohesive unit.
We even had the gaul to take the lead in Munich and more than held our own, until, funnily enough, we scored and then capitulated less than a minute later.
Ultimately, the Germans’ class shone through and we said goodbye to a hallowed competition that has been annually graced by us for nearly two decades.
Everyone seemed to really galvanise for the Bayern game but now that we’re out, the #MoyesOut bandwagon will recommence its journey and perhaps even gather pace.
The Champions League was our life jacket, however likely drowning seemed beforehand, and now that that’s gone, it’s hard to see our season as anything other than a shipwreck.
2. One step forward, three steps back
WEDNESDAY’S scoreline was the epitome of our season, one step forward and three steps back.
For every positive this season, and let’s be frank, there have been very few, there’s been three negatives that have knocked us right back down.
Things had started fairly brightly in August. There was the routine 2-0 Charity Shield victory over Wigan, followed by an opening day 4-1 demolition over Swansea City. Before September was out though, we were brought back to earth with defeat at Liverpool, being torn apart at the Etihad, bookended by a first defeat at home to West Brom in over 35 years.
A 12 game unbeaten run followed as Moyes finally seemed to be getting his feet under the table, but then came meek back to back defeats at Old Trafford against Everton and Newcastle. Yet more records tumbled, with the Magpies winning for the first time at Old Trafford in over 40 years.
Meanwhile, in 11 years as Everton manager, Moyes had never been able to secure a Premier League win at United, Liverpool, Chelsea or Arsenal. His replacement Roberto Martinez did so at the first time of asking.
In the following weeks, the popular joke doing the rounds was that Moyes had tried so hard during his time at Goodison Park to elevate the Toffees above United and now that he was United manager, he had finally achieved this, as the Reds languished in ninth, five points and four places behind Everton.
After that, Moyes steadied the ship once again through a tricky Christmas period, as United won six straight games.
However, it seems bad things also come in threes, as the New Year began with defeat to Tottenham, being dumped out of the FA Cup, at home, by Swansea, followed by the first leg loss of an ultimately embarrassing exit from the League Cup at the hands of Sunderland in the semi-final.
Things have been bleak all season really, especially when you consider how woeful our home form has been, but since the turn of the year it really has been horrendous.
Since January, Moyes would probably kill for one step forward and only three back.
3. Bayern defeat mirrored our season
THE Bayern scoreline could also be used to symbolise the season as a whole, with the low points far outweighing the highlights.
Patrice Evra’s stunning opener lifted the spirits, but our fallacies were uncovered less than a minute after the re-start as the Germans equalised.
We battled on but their class eventually told and, ultimately, we found out what we’ve known all season. We simply haven’t been good enough.
The high point has arguably either been the emergence of David de Gea, who is showing that he really is on his way to becoming a world class goalkeeper. Hopefully we can keep hold of him.
Apart from that, Moyes’ handling of the Wayne Rooney has been brilliant, persuading him to stay when he seemed destined for the clutches of Chelsea and Jose Mourinho in the summer.
Critics have sunk their hooks into both Rooney and Moyes over the 28-year-old becoming the highest paid footballer in Premiership history, but in all fairness, Rooney has stepped up to the mark and carried the team at times this season, especially through the enforced absence of the frequently injured Robin van Persie.
To counteract the admirable job on Rooney, there have been many mistakes.
Most United fans anticipated a season of transition. Many accepted that we might not defend our title, but in our darkest, deepest nightmares, we probably never thought we would plummet to sixth and end our 18-year run in the Champions League.
We have lost a record 10 times in the league this season and, with five games remaining, are guaranteed to accumulate our lowest Premier League points total ever.
Moyes has been lambasted for his lack of flair and how he made his Everton teams difficult to beat, so many Reds fans might expected that our usual glut of goals and swashbuckling attacking style might be replaced by a miserly, scrooge-like, solid defensive structure.
In truth, we’ve been easier to break down than a house of cards.
The waning powers of Namanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra have dovetailed with the fact that the next generation of Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Jonny Evans, Alex Buttner and Rafael either don’t appear quite ready to take on the mantle, have been blighted by injuries or a reverse in form from the previous season, or in the Dutchman’s case, they’re simply not United standard.
Moyes has at least begun to address our porous midfield, but after being embarrassed (not for the first time) by Everton, who we had to pay £4million over the odds for Marouane Fellaini in a panic buy as deadline day approached, when we could have acquired him for £23m a few weeks earlier, the Belgian has looked out of his depth at a higher level.
4. Moyes is good – just not good enough
I’VE given him my backing all season, but even for a stoic Moyes supporter such as me, it is perhaps time to admit that Moyes is not the man for United.
A year is not a fair enough chance in my eyes.
United is a huge club and if there’s even one person that thinks ANYONE could have come in last summer and made a seamless tradition following the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson and also carried on the legacy of success that he delivered, I would have petitioned for them to be sectioned.
In his brief spell as Old Trafford boss, Moyes has got a few things right but got a lot wrong.
To be fair, his players should take a lot of the blame too, but as he has said on more than once occasion, the buck stops with him.
Above all else, the main gripe with Moyes that I have is that he doesn’t appear to have the character or belief that he belongs in Fergie’s shoes.
Perhaps he doesn’t actually deserve to be, but he’s never displayed to the fans or the media that he has the confidence or cockiness to handle the job.
His buzz words this season have been anathema to the very DNA that is woven deep into the foundations of Manchester United.
“We’ll try to win,” has been the staple go-to line in his pre-match press conferences, especially since the start of 2014. We’re Man Utd, we don’t try, we do.
I couldn’t believe it when I read, following our 3-0 defeat at home to City, when Moyes was quoted as saying: “I think we’ve played a very good side and it’s the sort of standard and level we need to try and aspire to get ourselves to at this moment in time.” We need to aspire to be our noisy neighbours?! Cardinal sin Mr Moyes.
Worse followed the defeat to Munich on Wednesday, when in his post match press conference, Moyes said: “We made life difficult for them.”
How the mighty have fallen.
Reigning European champions and the best team in the world they may be, but I’m afraid Moyes and United have to aspire to more than trying to make life difficult for the opposition.
The abject season, performances, tactics and complete loss of confidence, I can take.
But United’s identity being stripped away by a man who doesn’t appear to have the stomach to handle such a powerful club I cannot abide.
I want him to succeed desperately, and I still stand by the belief that he should get until the end of next season.
But, Moyes seriously needs to focus on where he is and not where he came from. This is not Preston North End or Everton. Both great, famous clubs, but where failure was tolerated and perhaps even accepted.
He needs to rid himself of the small manager, small club mentality.
Does he deserve to be United manager? Perhaps not. But he is and he needs to start acting like it.
5. Moyes needs to make the big calls
SPEAKING of Moyes’ flawed tactics, why did he keep Wayne Rooney on for the whole game?
Yes he’s our talisman and we are all aware of how good a player he is. Along with De Gea, he’s the leading candidate for the player of the season award.
But, he was clearly not fully fit and it would have not bothered any United fans had he replaced him at any stage of the second half.
Quite why he took Darren Fletcher off for Javier Hernandez and then dropped Rooney into midfield was beyond me. It smacked of cowardice.
That’s part of Moyes’ problem. He doesn’t appear to have the confidence to make the big decisions.
True, United fans were all buoyed by Rooney’s inclusion in the starting team, but it was evident as the game progressed that he wasn’t 100 per cent.
He fluffed an excellent opening in the first half when he hesitated to put Shinji Kagawa in on goal, instead turning into trouble and giving the Bayern defenders time to recover and eventually block his shot.
In the second half, when he failed to connect properly with a Danny Welbeck pull back, he looked at the Longsight lad as if to say ‘what the hell was that’, when it was teed up perfectly for him to have a shot on goal. I was annoyed when the commentator sided with Rooney, suggesting the ball from Welbeck was poor. A 100 per cent Rooney would have smashed that, at least, on target.
We had our opportunities in the game and Moyes had opportunities to change it up, that’s what the bench is there for.
I would have started Rooney, anyone would, but when it clearly wasn’t going to plan, we needed a manager with balls to make the big call.
But, as has been the case too often this season, he has made the wrong decision far too many times.
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