Club name: Manchester United
What’s going right? A recent run of encouraging victories suggests that Moyes is finally starting to achieve some solidity in the league; doomsayers will point out, quite fairly, that these victories, four in a row in the Prem, came against some pretty pony teams. However, although Villa, West Ham, Hull and Norwich are hardly title contenders, the Premier League’s competitiveness means there are no easy games. It’s not like Real or Barca rolling over teams in La Liga. Januzaj’s emergence has been a boost and special mention to Moyes for expertly handling the Wayne Rooney situation.
What’s not? The squad simply isn’t good enough. Our starting central midfielders come from a selection of: Fletcher, Giggs, Fellaini, Cleverley, sometimes Jones, Anderson (lol), Carrick… Compare that to City: Fernandinho, Yaya, Nasri, David Silva… Arsenal: Cazorla, Ramsey, Wilshere, Arteta, Rosicky… The recruitment policy in the summer was woeful and our midfield has truly struggled to enforce its will on too many games. Home form has been iffy with losses to West Brom, Everton and Newcastle (although the continuing excellence of the latter two provides some consolation).
Got the right manager? Oh God, what a question… Is there a more divisive question for football fans right now? The #MoyesOut brigade have been as useful as a fart in a wetsuit but luckily they’ve been drowned out by the more mature section of genuine fans who realise what a uniquely daunting task replacing Fergie is. As mentioned, his handling of Rooney was exemplary and I anticipate that he will grow into the role; I’m a bit nervous to see him at the helm of United so the jury’s still out but there are encouraging signs. It would have been much better to have David Gill above him for a couple of seasons to shepherd Moyes into the role and we’ve already seen how Woodward’s inexperience impacted on our summer transfer dealings (or lack of them).
Star player? It’d be tempting to say Wayne Rooney. After all, he’s back in form and demonstrating some impressive leadership skills. To quote Austin Powers, he’s got his mojo back. However, it has to be David De Gea. We’ve conceded too many goals but this is due to a lack of authority and organisation in defence, probably because of our inability to field a regular centre-back pairing. De Gea is more muscular, meaning opposition attackers don’t target him at set-pieces as much. He is more vocal and authoritative, allaying his excellent reflexes to better decision-making. Give it another year of or two of solid improvement and he’ll be up there with the best in the world.
Who would you like to sell in January? One or two from Nani, Anderson and Young. I had hoped that Nani, under the gaze of a new manager, may be able to consistently impose his mercurial talent on matches but it seems he just can’t be arsed. We had the opportunity to offload him to Zenit for over £20m last year – what a missed opportunity! I would have included Valencia on this list but he has really fought hard for his place and his versatility, providing options as an attacking wing back, mean his stock is resurgent.
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Who do you want to sign? Please God, a top class midfielder. Actually wait, can we have two? Is that greedy? Knew I should have put it on my Christmas list. A centre-back at the top of their game who isn’t injury prone would be a great help too. It’d be intriguing to see if Jones or Smalling could progress and nail down a starting spot at the back with the influence of a classy, superior defender coming in from outside of the club. Mats Hummels fits the bill. Athletic, ball-playing, a long career ahead of him (but with two Bundesliga titles and big game experience already), he seems ideal. A long term contract at Borussia won’t be cheap to pry him from but United have been vocal that we have the funds to compete with our richer noisy neighbours and the other nouveau-riche powers such as PSG and Monaco. Midfielder wise, the out of favour Angel Di Maria would be a great addition further forward and a wonderful replacement for Nani or Ashley Young. He hasn’t played as much at Madrid this season but his class is proven and he would inject some life into the team. Centrally, I’d love to see Ilkay Gundogan or Xabi Alonso; the latter looks increasingly unlikely, however, and at 32 he isn’t the right age either. Gundogan is younger and more dynamic. He’d be great for us.
Best chant so far? Thus far disappointing... ‘Come on feel the Moyes’ to the tune of Slade’s classic went a bit pear-shaped when we started losing games quite quickly. Our blatant nicking of Liverpool’s ‘A Mignolet, a Mignolet, a Mignolet’ to the tune of ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ by putting in Januzaj’s name instead was a bit embarrassing to be honest.
Best opposition player/team you’ve seen? Everton and Romelu Lukaku in particular deserve outstanding praise. Not just for the fact that Martinez has got them playing superb football (Moyesy, take note) but because of the fearlessness and freedom they attack with. They don’t care for reputations and I like that. Against us at Old Trafford, Lukaku almost bullied Vidic; and how many times have we been able to say that? One of the best centre-backs in the world over the last six or seven years torn a new one by a 20 year old. Mourinho must look at the goals scored by Lukaku and wonder, considering the average form of Torres and Eto’o in particular, why on Earth the Belgian is out on loan and not starting up front for Chelsea. Strong, lethal and consistent, Lukaku’s long term future must be at Stamford Bridge but for now, Everton are supremely lucky to have him.
Biggest **** of the season so far? Ashley Young has generally been disengaged and an embarrassment to both himself and the club. Not good enough for United and a recurrent cheat. Get him out. Sascha Riether for violently stamping on Januzaj comes a close second on the twatometer.
Funniest Moment of the season so far? RvP scoring the winner against Arsenal. Great header and just hilarious to see how wound up the Gooners got. ‘Still an Arsenal man’ apparently, according to Arsene Wenger before the game. Not after that celebration he wasn’t.
End of season prediction? Despite many gleefully pointing out how last season’s Champions have struggled, it would be prudent to note that (a) United are only eight points off the lead and (b) that our squad is probably only the third or fourth strongest in the league overall, at least on paper. Maybe even lower than that. I expect United to do business in January and, if we bring in a game-changing midfielder who can instantly slot into the side, keep Rooney firing, get RvP fit and cut out sloppy defensive errors, United will be top four. Just...
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