Even after six wins on the bounce, any defeat for Manchester United makes headlines especially in a season when they have had to make a change of manager for the first time in over 26 years. Tottenham came to Old Trafford on New Years Day and won for the second season running with a 1-2 win and whether you think the ref helped with that or not (I personally think they deserved the win, they were clinical and they never get any luck at the Theatre of Dreams) – they went back down the M6 and M1 with the three points.
So where now for the Champions (though sounds a tad hollow at the moment). They won the league by 11 points last season but seemingly look a shadow of that side this season. Obviously losing a talisman like Sir Alex Ferguson (and Chief Executive David Gill) is a massive blow but arguably you would expect United to be doing better this season, though it is not all doom and gloom. Qualification has been secured into the Champions League knockout stage, with Olympiakos as their opponents. Furthermore they are in the semi-finals of the League Cup with Sunderland between them and a trip to Wembley in early March. Their FA Cup adventure starts this Sunday (5th January) at home to Swansea. But lets be honest this is not a Manchester United team that is pulling up too many trees, though what I have witnessed (at the ground and on TV) does not differ too much from the first four months of the last campaign, the difference being that last season they found a way to win matches more often than not.
There is a lot of conjecture and thoughts as to why a team who only dropped 25 points in the league last season have already dropped 26 points in their quest to retain the title. Yes losing arguably the greatest British manager ever is going to be an issue and David Moyes has taken on one of the hardest jobs in football, but it is one he has openly said he relishes and so would any manager worth his salt. However the pressure is mounting now, as at Everton a defeat obviously was not great news but did not generate as much interest outside of the club, as it does at his current employers, that is just a fact. He is a good manager but this will be his toughest managerial test and with games coming up as mentioned against Swansea in the FA Cup followed by Sunderland in the League Cup semi first leg, with Swansea returning to Old Trafford for a league fixture, then Chelsea away before the second leg versus Sunderland. He needs results because if they don’t come the pressure will intensify markedly.
Now to the title of this blog. One of the biggest mistakes, in my opinion, is the fact that new players were not brought in to the club during the summer and especially the way it was conducted. There was a lot of talk about signings, but only Marouane Fellaini was brought in (and at the last minute), so team integration was unable to happen quickly – though improvement in his performance is most definitely required. More players were needed and the first half of the season has shown this. Moyes and Ed Woodward (aka THE LESSER SPOTTED EDWARD WOODWARD) need to bring in some players in this January transfer window or realistically the only way they are going to qualify for the Champions League is by winning it and you would not bet on that unless a very favourable draw is the case and thats not even mentioning the fact they still need to win any games they are faced with.
There is precedent to this kind of fall from grace – in the 2011/12 season Chelsea finished 6th in the Premier League (despite having a crack squad) – they won the Champions League and used their ‘Get out of Jail’ card – Tottenham in fourth were the unlucky team to then miss out. But it shows if you become complacent and think you will just waltz into the so called top echelons of the league then you are a fool. Unfortunately Manchester United as a club have fallen into this trap and it will take a massive effort across the organisation to get out of this mess, especially bearing in mind there are six others teams going for just four spots. Luckily there is still time (4+ months and 18 league games) for any issues to be rectified but this will need to done ‘tout suite’ and a successful January window is now imperative – unfortunately the mid season transfer window is not a great time to bulk buy players especially as clubs would not want to lose players midway through the season and can hold a buying club to ransom. This does beg the question what was the urgent transfer business that Ed Woodward was dealing with in July as it still seems to be ongoing – ie does not seem to be being dealt with urgently as its 6 months since then!!!!!!!
ps quick note if Man United do not qualify for the Champions League, players may not want to join the club, ahead of other teams especially those who are in Europe’s premier competition. Furthermore would players want to stay, especially ones whose contracts are running down. Unfortunately in football – if you think you’ve cracked it and your place at the top table is assured then sometimes you can get bitten very badly on the bum.
nb – Christian Eriksen who scored what turned out to be the winner was available in the summer but United did not get involved and in my opinion would have been a good purchase looking at what Manchester United have in their central midfield as we stand. Begs the question what their strategy was in that fateful summer – nudge nudge, wink wink – hey Ed.
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