This report is focused on the unique situation in which the internationally renown football club Manchester United found themselves in the 2013/2014 Barclays Premier League season. The potential reasons for the drop in fortunes and the problems which have been plaguing the club for many seasons will be reviewed in an attempt to clearly outline what mistakes the club might have made, what might help them solve their problems and whether or not their current situation might be a good thing by forcing it to rebuild completely.
Such a report cannot start without first discussing Sir Alex Ferguson. The former manager of the club led them to domestic, regional and international success. His retirement at the end of the previous season meant things had to change. The big question was whether the man following him could at least maintain the status quo, which was the club competing in the UEFA Champions League as well as in all three domestic competitions. The answer was an emphatic no, despite the decent performances on the European stage. The accomplished Scot picked a countryman to lead the American-owned club but his ability to squeeze the best out of an obviously mediocre squad was not present in the new manager. The club lost its identity on the field and there did not seem to be the same powerful personality on the bench and in the dressing room to rally the squad to retain their top four league position. As a result the club will have to do without European football entirely for the next season. The Ferguson era might be over, but the club can still recover quickly, unlike its fierce rival Liverpool F.C. who have only now returned to the Europe’s top football club competition.
Causes of Failure
The main causes for United’s league position is the bizarre reversal of the unofficial home team advantage rule which states the team hosting the tie has the advantage over the visiting team because they are more familiar with their surroundings and have more fans to support them. What makes this bizarre is United’s performance away from home and the fact the terror Old Trafford once inflicted upon players seems to have vanished. Many records have been broken by the current squad, events which from the club’s perspective were wholly unwanted. In addition to that, the team has had to suffer numerous major injuries which restricted their top players from doing anything.
Word has spread about a lack of support for Sir Alex’s successor, David Moyes, from the squad. It seems they turned on him, refusing to put in the required performances. Whether or not such rumours are true, the club has failed immensely. The first of those failures began well before the season even started.
The lack of experience for the manager and the man guiding transfers meant a catastrophic failure in terms of embarrassment and the lack of much needed signings. The overpriced one which had been made has turned out to be a major flop, one which even when the squad showed how they can exploit the advantage the tall Belgian could provide they could not do so effectively.
Another failure was the lack of strong leadership last provided by Sir Alex. Moyes went from a stern looking man who was doing well at a club with limited funds to a man well out of his depth. His body language and comments painted a clear picture. He was at a loss as to what he needed to do to turn the performance of the players around and looked helpless on the sidelines when things did not go the club’s way, which was almost constantly.
In addition to all of that, there was a problem with tactics. Players were started out of position and it seemed the style of play which brought much recent success was discarded in favour of a more inert approach to football. The wide play which United were known for disappeared and the midfield players provided virtually nothing throughout the entire season. To make matters worse, their attacking ineptitude was worsened by their defensive frailties. Whether the manager truly felt as though he needed to rotate and mix defensive players is moot. The reality was United’s defence changed many times and the team was unable to grind out enough results.
Only so much blame can be placed on the manager in this case. Yes, it is his team and his job is to prepare and supervise the players for their matches, but ultimately the majority of the players themselves put in poor performances. As mentioned, the midfield did not provide much in the way of attack, something which was also present in successful United sides of recent times. The manager had stated the poor performance of his team throughout the season was not down to a lack of effort, but if that were the case, then shouldn’t that mean they simply are not good enough? It’s time to look at individual players. Each one will be reviewed to discuss their suitability for the club. Then lists of players the club should keep, those who deserve some debate and those who should be sold. Before that, however, it must be said each player can still be a United player and will be reviewed based on their performances throughout the season. Some players might never play well again while others might suddenly play well after having horrible seasons. Therefore the following analysis, based on the club’s squad list, is merely a general review of the squad.
#1 David De Gea – Praised by some as being one of the few consistent good performers. He has made mistakes which have cost his side significantly, but those are too few in number to matter when the entire season is considered.
#2 Rafael Pereira da Silva – A fullback who is generally better in attack than defence. While most certainly not an uncommon trait, the fact is he is short, is prone to losing his temper and not the most talented defender. His brother left the club in a permanent move in January. Perhaps he should go. Ultimately a club of United’s stature deserves a much better defender, especially when the club has to face the better wingers around Europe.
#3 Patrice Evra – An attacking fullback who has simply been poor this season. Even against teams which have not played well this season have exposed his decline in performance as a defender. While he still has something to offer the club, the question of whether it is best to let him go is still not as clear as it would be for others.
#4 Phil Jones – A player Wayne Rooney referred to as one of the better defenders he has faced upon the defender’s signing, he has done a decent job as a centre-back but through injury, which according to certain comments might be down to his reckless style of play, and being deployed as a defensive midfielder has likely hindered his development.
#5 Rio Ferdinand – Great defender. Prone to injury. Up to the club as to whether they need him for another season.
#6 Jonny Evans – The defender has never really done exceptionally well, and has often seemed out of his depth in the past. Limited recent appearances means it is difficult to assess whether he is good enough to remain at the club. At best he is decent cover.
#8 Juan Mata – Great player. He might not be all that willing to do the defensive side of the game, but that might not be all bad depending on the formation used and whether or not he can learn to incorporate that into his game. He is exactly the kind of player the club has needed for a long time.
#10 Wayne Rooney – Nothing need be said.
#11 Ryan Giggs – Nothing need be said… except congratulations on a glittering career and good luck in the future.
#12 Chris Smalling – A solid defender who can seem awkward at times and has been shown to be a poor passer of the football. United cannot afford to use a defender with such poor skills, at least in the bigger games. They need to work on that side of his game, and if he improves he will be a good player. On a number of occasions he has shown just how good of a defender he is and has done well against good opposition.
#13 Anders Lindegaard – Good goalkeeper. Good backup to the #1.
#14 Javier Hernández – Had great season under Sir Alex, and has scored goals this season, but the question still remains as to whetherit is best for both player and club for him to remain at the club.
#15 Nemanja Vidić – Great defender. Possibly will eb greatly missed if a replacement is not acquired.
#16 Michael Carrick – A poor shot but an excellent passer. One of the best in the game at it, but is not mobile enough and viscous enough to play as a defensive midfielder in the tougher games. Can get the team moving forward though and he has not done much wrong throughout the season.
#17 Nani – A player with a lot of potential. He has pace, can score great goals and can be an excellent winger. His inconsistency and poor recent performances has brought his future into question. If he can be made to play well again he should show he is a United player.
#18 Ashley Young – A decent winger who has the ability to put in a decent cross. Ultimately he is not good enough for the club, even though he has come up with good goals.
#19 Danny Welbeck – A forward with pace, good work ethic and decent overall ability, he can still prove to be a player of sufficient quality to start for United. However he is not the first choice striker when all options are available. He might not be good enough to remain at the club.
#20 Robin van Persie – Nothing need be said.
#23 Tom Cleverly – He is a decent midfielder, but that is just about it. His performances have given no good reasons to consider him a player suited for a club challenging for Europe on a regular basis.
#24 Darren Fletcher – A player everyone should give credit for his recent ordeal. Upon his return it was clear he is still the same solid player who has put in good performances for the club. He deserves to stay to compete for the midfield positions.
#25 Antonio Valencia – He once was one of the best players in the squad, but recently the winger has put in poor performances. He is a player who the club can trust to put in a good shift. He has a good work ethic and has the potential to put in more good performances.
#26 Shinji Kagawa – A player very much like Juan Mata, the Japanese international should have been deployed just behidn the main striker to put in his best performances, but despite the limitation of being deployed wide left, he has shown on numerous occasions he has the requisite skill and style of play for the club.
#28 Alexander Büttner – Why he was signed might remain a mystery. He is a competent left-back, but other than that he has not shown much. He has not really shown he is a particularly great crosser, attacking fullback or good defender.
#31 Marouane Fellaini – A tall player. Other than that there is little to explain why the club even bothered with the transfer in regard to the quality of the player. He is not very mobile, is sometimes clumsy and is neither a good passer or shooter.
#34 – 37 N/A
#38 Michael Keane – From the little he has played he has shown he can still be a United player in the future.
#41 – 43 N/A
#44 Adnan Januzaj – It is obvious. If this player continues putting in good performances and improves over the years he is set to be a star. Good control, balance, passing, footwork and more make him a good player now and possibly an even better one in the near future.
David De Gea
Robin van Persie
Rafael Pereira da Silva
How does the club recover from such a horrible season? Will a large war chest solve their problems. What about Financial Fair Play? Will players be sold to acquire the funds to by others? Can the club get value for their money? Will the tough decisions be made to get rid of poor players?
What it needs to do is buy a lot and sell a lot. The “Consider” list stated above should lead to three or four players being retained at most. The club only has so many slots available for players and the players themselves deserve regular playing time. Each player deserves to play in the Barclays Premier League, but perhaps not for Manchester United. The club also needs to return to a truly attacking and quick style of play in order to put fear into opposition squads again. A new big name manager would help along with good people around him to help him guide the club forward.