Much has been said about how Manchester United have played this season under David Moyes, most of which hasn’t been necessarily positive.
We have struggled to perform and reverted to a caveman version of 4-4-2 which has seen us play almost exclusively on the wings with little to no focus on playing through central positions. Given the quality of United’s lineup that now includes Rooney, Van Persie, Mata and Januzaj, we should be playing more fluid football on the ground but we aren’t.
However, that isn’t Moyes’ biggest problem at all. Tactics and philosophies can be adapted and changed at the drop of a hat. Hopefully he will start to play to the strengths of the side rather than continue stubbornly with an outdated formation that isn’t working.
The biggest problem Moyes faces is keeping control of a dressing room full of champions.
In his book, Sir Alex Ferguson pushed his mantra of maintaining control and power as one of the cornerstones of his success at United. Roy Keane felt the full force of that mantra while the likes of David Beckham, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Jaap Stam all departed after their relationships with Ferguson broke down for separate reasons.
Wayne Rooney was one of the only players who got the better of Ferguson in his time as United boss but his reign as manager was one where players knew they had to respect the manager, and Moyes needs to make sure the current crop of players know their place like so many have done before.
Rio Ferdinand, Javier Hernandez and Wilfried Zaha are United players who have all put pressure on Moyes through one way or another this season. Ferdinand by undermining his selection policies, Hernandez with cryptic messages about his future and Zaha with thinly veiled comments about Moyes at times where he is already in a pressure boiler due to United’s performances – none of which would have happened under Ferguson, not without consequence anyway, because he had the respect of his squad. Right now, Moyes doesn’t.
He took over a set of champions when he was a greenhorn in the trophy winning department and that may have caused some problems. Some players may not be happy at being led by a man who hasn’t proved to them he is able to take them forward in the right direction but players need to realise this is a new United. If they want to be part of it, they have to accept it or leave. At the moment, Moyes is running uphill. There are divisions in the dressing room and it could be fatal for his tenure if he loses control of it.
That’s partly why United are destined to have such a shake-up in the summer. Nemanja Vidic has become the first to officially announce he is leaving in the summer but expect Rio Ferdinand and others to follow suit. Moyes needs to make his own United.
Tactics are changeable, matches are salvageable but not having the respect of your players nor complete control of the dressing room are two things Moyes simply has to avoid if he is to become a success at United. Without them, it’s hard to see a happy ending for him at Old Trafford.