Any straws still being clutched by Manchester United supporters in hope of a top four finish were willingly taken away by Brendan Rodgers and his exuberant Liverpool side, as they rioted Old Trafford with a 3-0 win over the depreciating Champions on Sunday.
The drubbing saw United fall to their fifth league defeat at Old Trafford this year, with the manner of the loss provoking frustration amongst many United supporters, despite their phenomenal support throughout the game.
This has left the protocol of qualification for the Champions League only available through winning the competition this year, which feels impossible to envisage given the current state of the team.
Yet the interesting thing about Sunday’s clash was the uniting of managers who, as of late, have been experiencing vastly different fortunes. Last season, Brendan Rodgers steered Liverpool to 7th place in the Premier League; a campaign which saw them show promise despite missing out on European football. Though Moyes seems destined to follow the same path this season, the repercussions appear far more calamitous.
Poignantly, last season was one of promise for Liverpool, despite the seventh place finish. After a dearth of domestic titles in the last 20 years, the Kop have come to appreciate football with potential, without instant dividends. They could see the expedited tiki-taka brand of football which Rodgers was trying to implement into a side of abundant enthusiasm; hungry to undergo a new approach to their game.
This is the one aspect of management which Moyes has been lacking. Renowned for elaborate wing play, with a solid back four and prolific strike partnership; United had a very structured, consistent set up over Ferguson’s 26 year tenure.
However this season, there has been no style to United’s game, no brand. Fair enough, Moyes decided to bring in his own backroom staff, which though not yet vindicated, was the right decision in my opinion, as it allowed him to take full control of Carrington training ground, and put his own stamp on the team. Yet this stamp is lacking saliva – there has been no method of play which Moyes has tested, that has proved fruitful come match day.
Currently, with attacking options of Januzaj, Mata, Rooney and van Persie ignorant to ignore, Moyes has tried different formations to accommodate for the inclusion of the quadrant, yet has failed in doing so. Struggling to deviate from the ‘winger ideals’ of the Manchester United empire, Moyes has conformed to the modern trend of 4-2-3-1, employing (from left to right) Januzaj, Rooney and Mata in the supporting triumvirate, behind the front man van Persie.
The main problem occurring from this is the two wide men – Januzaj and Mata, as no appraisal needs to be made about the quality Rooney beholds in the pocket behind the striker. Putting Mata out on the wing is a waste of a valuable asset. The little Spaniard obtains phenomenal technical ability with regards to control and vision, yet when it comes to the components of strength and speed - what a winger needs - he is seriously lacking.
With Januzaj, again an adolescent player with world-class potential, his strength is deficient to his abilities on the wing, even though it does appear to be his future position on the pitch. Of course, van Persie’s parochial aura to his game is proving frustrating of late, though it can be prolific at the same time.
Whether Moyes should change the United way and incorporate the more contemporary, technical players towards shaping a different style to United’s play is a question worth asking. If Moyes could get Mata, Januzaj, Rooney and van Persie all playing to their full potential through employing a narrower formation, this could see the team flourish.
With winning the Champions League the only saving grace the United’s season, a huge night is required against Olympiacos, in order to maintain any of these impractical aspirations. Because, for the United of now, wingin’ it just isn’t an option.
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