Man United: Midfield Is Bad, But Calamitous Defence Is Even Worse

With Rio's on his last legs, Smalling proves to be an enigma and Vidic on his last legs, Moyes' midfield woes aren't all he needs to deal with...
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With Rio's on his last legs, Smalling proves to be an enigma and Vidic on his last legs, Moyes' midfield woes aren't all he needs to deal with...

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Man United: Midfield Is Bad, But Moyes' Calamitous Defence Is Even Worse

When Sir Alex Ferguson appointed David Moyes as his chosen successor, many Manchester United fans' immediate fear was that we would be subjected to a future of cagey, conservative, defensive football.

Having been spoiled for so long by the sublime and spectacular brand of the beautiful game offered up by team after team during the Fergie era, the potential prospect of a more bland, workmanlike style of play made us recoil.

Moyes' Everton sides had always included a few decent enough attacking players, without ever really glittering with genuine stardust. Indeed, it is telling that the Scot's most gifted and palpitation-inducing charge was one Wayne Rooney, who didn't hang around for long once his crest-kissing head had been turned by the bright lights of Old Trafford.

Aside from Rooney, we're left with the likes of Steven Pienaar and Tim Cahill who, though excellent players, only get the heart racing in relatively rare bursts; more glamorous assistants than actual magicians.

Then there is the fairly forgettable collection of strikers that graced the Goodison turf during Moyes' reign. A few of them flickered intermittently, before burning out with depressing inevitability. Such a barrel-scraping record naturally leads one to question the manager's talent-spotting eye.

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Still, with the array of attacking options already awaiting his arrival at United, we took comfort in the belief that, short of taking a baseball bat to Robin Van Persie's knees, or dropping a boulder onto Wayne Rooney's metatarsal from a great height, the same players that we relied on for flare and firepower last season would continue to deliver this term.

One thing we didn't expect were problems at the back. After all, if there's one thing David Moyes is renowned for, it's stringently well-organised, hard-working teams.

Yet in the early stages against Hull, we were subjected to a horror show of calamitous defending. All traditionally amusing Boxing Day fare maybe, only this is far from the first time United have been guilty of defending like sherry-addled drunkards this season, making it impossible to put down simply to a post-Christmas Day stupor.

The fact that the opposition was Steve Bruce's Hull only served to throw our shambolic rearguard into even sharper focus. Oh to be able to roll back the years and have a young Steve Bruce don United red and step into the breach once more.

With this performance coming a matter of days after Rio Ferdinand's long term future at the club was thrown into serious doubt, and with the majority of the United faithful feeling that his body has now terminally succumbed to the ravages of time, United's defensive frailties have reared up to become another disturbing concern in a season thus far filled with doubt.

So Rio's days are numbered; Phil Jones is too busy filling in the cracks of United's central midfield or being injured for us to gauge his central defensive credentials; Chris Smalling remains something of an enigma, at times showing tantalising moments of finesse, while too often flattering to deceive; Johnny Evans appears still to be too often struggling to contain his inner clown, and Nemanja Vidic, while remaining our most reliable general, arguably hasn't been quite the same player he once was, since sustaining a serious injury in Basel that left him sidelined for many months.

It is becoming increasingly clear that United's central midfield deficiencies are not David Moyes' only headache. If Hull City can cause his defenders so many problems, it's hard not to be frightened by the prospect of facing a team like Real Madrid or Bayern Munich in the latter stages of the Champions League.

Without investment, or a serious improvement in defensive organisation at the very least, the mauling United suffered at the hands of Manchester City earlier in the season may not seem like the one-off freak result we all prayed it was at the time.

Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulGunning1