1. Outfought, outthought, outclassed
ANOTHER defeat at home. Another weak, toothless, unimaginative, abject performance from a team bereft of belief, confidence and unity. Another nail in David Moyes’ coffin?
But this wasn’t any ordinary defeat that we’ve been accustomed to seeing this season.
This wasn’t successive home defeats to Everton and Newcastle.
This wasn’t a surprise start of the season shock and first win in 35 years at Old Trafford for West Bromwich Albion.
This was a humiliating and painfully easy, routine stroll for our bitterest rivals in our own backyard. And, even more shockingly, it could have easily been five or six.
Staunch Moyes and Manchester United supporters can bemoan our bad luck – we should have had a penalty when Glen Johnson handled in the area just after we fell 2-0 behind and Daniel Sturridge’s dive in the box to not only get Liverpool’s third penalty but also Nemanja Vidic sent off was scandalous – but the truth is that even if we had been awarded a penalty of our own, even if Mark Clattenburg hadn’t have pointed to the spot for a third time in the game and then shown a second yellow to the Serb, even if we had closed the deficit or even got something from the game, it would have been undeserved.
It would have papered over the cracks. It would have been a band aid for a bullet wound. United are haemorrhaging and it doesn’t really look like the bleeding’s going to stop.
I still support the manager and continue to pray he can and believe he will turn it around – but there’s no getting away from the fact he looks dreadfully out of his depth.
As a recent article pointed out, eight months is not a sufficient period of time for any manager to come into a job as huge as Manchester United and continue the trend of success of the last 20 years. But when United teams are lacking desire, belief, heart and spirit and are lucky to escape Old Trafford with a 3-0 defeat at the hands of our most hated rivals, you can understand the anger and the frustration of fans.
Even I’m absolutely fuming at our lack of backbone yesterday and Moyes’ apparent failure or even acknowledgement that something was wrong.
Robin van Persie was out of sorts yet again but instead of taking him off and putting Danny Welbeck up top, where he played with such aplomb at the Hawthorns the previous week, he took Adnan Januzaj off, who was one of our few bright sparks yesterday, he brought Welbeck on in what seemed a token gesture and stuck him out wide.
One thing that is becoming abundantly clear, even to this stoic ally to Moyes. His time is running out.
2. Not a big enough name for a big club
THERE’S no denying that David Moyes deserved his chance to manage a big club, but it’s becoming ever clearer that he might simply not be a big enough character to pull it off.
Yes, it’s clear that United’s squad needs surgery. Players need to come in and players need to go.
For all the admiration, love and respect we have for Sir Alex Ferguson, he neglected to invest appropriately in his squad in his twilight years as boss and it was largely his midas touch as a man manager and motivator that helped us win so much for so long, especially in the last five or so years.
Ferguson always preached about the importance of reinvesting in his squads, especially the title winning ones.
He criticised City for not doing so sufficiently after they won the 2011/12 title and they subsequently suffered as we cantered to our 20th title last season.
The fact of the matter is that, for the most part, the quality of the players coming into the club since Cristiano Ronaldo left has not matched that of the players who departed.
Ronaldo’s £80m was used to bring in Antonio Valencia and Gabriel Obertan. When Carloz Tevez left on a free in the summer of 2010, Ferguson brought in Michael Owen on a free while Javier Hernandez arrived the following summer.
When Roy Keane was forced out of the club in 2005, he was replaced a year later by Micahel Carrick, while Owen Hargreaves arrived in the summer of 2007.
Paul Scholes, like Keane, has never sufficiently been replaced, hence why he came out of retirement in 2011. Anderson, who Fergie probably had the highest hopes for in terms of replacing Sat Nav, is now on loan at Fiorentina.
Gary Neville’s replacement has been Rafael. I’m a big fan of the Brazilian and he has improved dramatically since fans feared his Reds’ career might have been over following his sending off in the quarter-finals of the Champions League in 2010. However, he’s really struggled this season, he’s regressed almost.
The only real exceptions to the rule I have found is in 2011/12 when Owen and Dimitar Berbatov both left and Robin van Persie arrived.
Many of us Moyes supporters, me included, might well be thinking ‘well let’s just get to the end of the season when Moyes will have the cash to splash and can make everything OK again’.
However, do we really trust a man who is increasingly showing that he doesn’t have the mentality or ability to manage a top club?
Do we really trust a man who is going to be under tremendous pressure in the summer – not only to acquire top quality players but also in a summer that includes a World Cup which brings the added pressure of having less time in which to do business and the risk of inflated prices should he wait until after the competition to invest – to spend the £200m or whatever the amount at our disposal is.
My support for Moyes remains, but it is being chipped away at.
And, come next Tuesday, we could be staring down the barrel of another battering from City and a successive, demoralising home defeat to a big rival, while we may also have been dumped out of the only competition we still, albeit a slim chance of winning by then.
United are perhaps not the only ones staring down a barrel.
3. Vidic should not be playing
MOYES’ hand was forced somewhat with this one, with the fact that Chris Smalling was ruled out of the Liverpool game through injury. But what was the manager doing naming Nemanja Vidic in the starting lineup?
I don’t blame Vidic for announcing in February he was leaving at the end of the season. He’s been a fantastic servant to United. He’s been an absolute warrior for the red shirt and during his time in Manchester he was the finest centre half in the world for a number of years. He says he feels he needs a new challenge but realistically he’s probably aware of the need for United to break up the current squad and rebuild in the summer.
I wish Vida all the best but there are several reasons why he should not be starting games between now and the rest of the season.
For one, he announced he was leaving on the eve of the Munich Air Disaster anniversary. That was unsavoury.
Secondly, he’s already confirmed where he’ll be playing next season. Fair enough, sort all your affairs out between now and the end of the season, but keep it between you and your family and business people. Making it official with Inter Milan before you’re done with your current club smacks of unprofessionalism and leaves a sour taste in the mouth with me.
Third, the Rio/Vidic partnership is finally crumbling. One of the best central defensive duos in Premier League history.
Give the players already at the club vying to replace them a period in which to bed in and put a run of games together to test and develop a partnership.
Vidic has been one of the best central defenders in United history but he hasn’t been at his best for some time.
He has never fully returned to the force he once was before his injury and while he shouldn’t have been sent off against Liverpool, he gave Daniel Sturridge every reason to fling himself to the floor. This desperation is something that’s creeped into his game since his return from injury.
His lunge was that of a desperate old man whose pace has deserted him and been replaced by a paralysing fear that he is not the player he once was.
4. How much worse will it get?
I READ an article by the Daily Mail’s Ian Ladyman back in January that claimed things might get a hell of a lot worse for Moyes and Man Utd before they get better.
That was after the 3-1 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Since then we’ve drawn 2-2 at home to bottom of the table Fulham, got knocked out of the League Cup on penalties at home to Sunderland, got humiliated in the first leg of our last 16 Champions League tie against Olympiakos in Greece, all topped off by the most embarrassing defeat of the season against Liverpool.
So, true to Ian’s article, it’s already got a damn sight worse.
With the crunch second leg against Olympiakos this Wednesday and trips to Newcastle, Everton and Southampton to come, there’s still plenty of time for United to cover themselves in more disgrace and shame.
While the performance against Liverpool wasn’t quite as bad as the defeat to Olympiakos in Athens three weeks ago, a humbling defeat at the hands of one of our biggest rivals was more painful.
But hey, the good news is we’ve got City up next at Old Trafford next week!
5. Big hand to the fans
I WANTED this to be an entire stripping of paint from the walls. A scathing indictment of just how many things are wrong at my beloved club.
But the fact is that I couldn’t not mention the fans at Old Trafford yesterday.
At 3-0 down, the Sky Sports cameras panned to the away fans lapping up one of the best days they’ve ever had at Old Trafford.
When I listened closely it became clear though that it wasn’t the mocking and the chanting of the Merseysiders that was audible on the screen.
It was the cries from the home fans of ’20 times Man United’ and that was the highlight of my day.
Personally I had to sell my season ticket to a friend as I had family commitments. Despite our struggles I wouldn’t have missed the game for the world and I’ll be up there for Olympiakos on Wednesday.
Old Trafford’s atmosphere has been on the wane for a few years now but for the fans to burst so vociferously into song in support of their team, at what is arguably our lowest ebb of the season, spoke volumes.
The fans generally have been brilliant during a turbulent season and we deserve better than this.
Like Stretford End Arising on Facebook CLICK HERE.
Register with SEA’s forum CLICK HERE.