Moyes inculpable in United’s post-Ferguson era wobble

Robin Van Persie warmed up next to the Old Trafford home team section itching to come on, while David Moyes and Steve Round deliberated on who to take off in what seemed an interminable few minutes. On the pitch, Wayne Rooney whipped in a precision freekick- the sort where any touch in the box from a player on either side could deflect the ball into the net. United’s polarizing superstar then claimed the goal as his and allowed Moyes to haul Javier Hernandez off to introduce the current cherished one of the Stretford end, RVP. Any of Moyes’ detractors pining for a return of United’s dominant displays would point to that as indecision, yet there was a deeper issue unfolding.

In what already seemed an insurmountable task of replacing the Premier League’s longest serving manager, United’s top brass did very little to bring in the calibre of player that could help Moyes return United to their deserved place among Europe’s elite. Although the transition from David Gill to Ed Woodward was never going to be easy, the decision to afford that in this particular summer of change was baffling. Moyes invited some deserved criticism in trying to bring in some of his former Everton players, but his pursuit of Fabregas is evidence enough that he knows the kind of player capable of playing for Britain’s biggest club.

A lot has been made of the #FreeShinji campaign and the continued upbraiding of David Moyes for a lack of sophistication in his constant omissions of Shinji Kagawa and not playing him in his suited position in the hole behind the striker. Even if we disagree with some of those decisions, apart from a promising initial burst from Kagawa against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League, he has looked distinctly short of match fitness. Evidently, giving the Japanese more game time would sort part of that problem, yet, can the United manager really afford a bedding in time for one of his players in this pivotal phase of his tenure?

Even taking into account United’s consecutive defeats in the Manchester derby and against West Brom, Moyes’ revival of Rooney has been remarkably underplayed. Not only did he keep the mercurial striker away from the clutches of Mourinho-who considered him to potentially be the most important cog in his second spell at Chelsea, but has evoked the spirit and verve of that display against Fenerbahce earmarking his arrival at Old Trafford. Had Ferguson been able to reinvigorate Rooney to realize his prodigious talent, I doubt whether any of his managerial nous would have been understated.

In recent years, United’s kryptonite has been superior midfields dominating possession resulting in some of their premature exits from Europe. Ferguson’s refusal to address such a blatant concern attracted far less scrutiny than some directed at Moyes in United’s present state of crisis. While his willingness to overpay for Fellaini might admittedly have been misguided, Moyes’ appraisal of United’s lack of quality to win European trophies shows the necessary alacrity-so prevalent among the successful continental managers, to address prevailing issues swiftly. Additionally, the generosity in allowing certain players like Nani, Anderson to coast through seasons was also not befitting of a manager possessing Ferguson’s aura. Moyes had this to say when asked about United’s chances of winning the Champions league, “If you look at Bayern Munich, they have five or six nearly world-class players. Look at Barcelona, who had it in the past and Real Madrid have maybe got it now. That’s the level you have to get at to win it. We’ve not got that yet but what we have got is experience and several players who are in that category or close to it.”

Another myth consistently propogated about Ferguson was his ability to attract every player he wanted to United. Well documented ones such as Ronaldinho and Lucas Moura aside, players like Adem Ljajic have moved to different clubs. The revisionism around Ferguson’s know-how in the transfer market, can also be extended to his powers of persuasion in securing younger players to longer term contracts. Gerard Pique and Paul Pogba would have plugged many a gap in United’s current squad.

Whether Moyes is out of his depth still being a moot point, the Glazers would do well to provide the necessary backing in the transfer market as well as grant him sufficient time in the uncertain muddle that is United’s short term future after their twenty six year spell of stability.

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Tactical Analysis; Mirallas under Martinez

A tad short of 62 minutes, Kevin Mirallas doubled Everton’s goal tally against a resolute Real Betis albeit in a pre-season friendly. It was a glimpse of how the Blues’ philosophy would evolve under Roberto Martinez for the Goodison faithful.

Mirallas arrived as a £6 million signing at the start of the 2012 campaign. While that might be a paltry sum in the modern milieu of the transfer market, it was a considerable gamble for a club that is perpetually looking for bargains and perennially under financial duress. More than financially,it was also a tactical gamble given David Moyes’ preference for wingers who track back and are positionally disciplined.

During his two year stint at Olympiakos, Mirallas scored an impressive 34 goals in 67 games. He was employed as either of two wide forwards in a fluid 4-3-3 formation allowing for freedom to roam and exploited his ability to cut inside. Although he had a reasonably successful first season, he came into his own in the second scoring 20 goals and earning himself a lucrative move to Merseyside. Under David Moyes, he was deployed as a wide man in an offensively conservative 4-4-1-1 formation. Given the stern disciplinarian the current Manchester United manager is, Mirallas was required to hog the touchline as well as provide defensive cover due to the overlapping runs of the ever reliable Seamus Coleman. Not only did this rigidity limit his creativity to cut in, it also inhibited his capacity as a  provider with Everton’s lack of prolific forwards.

In light of David Moyes’ much publicized move to Old Trafford and United’a tradition of genuine wide men, it is only logical that Mirallas’ stats be pitted against Young, Nani and Valencia. His 1.6 chances created per game in the 2012-2013 season is only bettered by Young with 1.8 while Mirallas has six more goals with the United winger failed to get on the scoresheet throughout the campaign. In terms of dribbles per game Mirallas matches the best of the United wide men (Valencia) with 1.4. With such impressive numbers in an unconventional role, it is only right to speculate how he might do in an advanced position.

Although the proverbial tactic is for a wide man to run into space from a deeper position, creative players often thrive under pressure to perform while being the focal point. Roberto Martinez has begun his Everton tenure with a slight modification to the traditional 4-4-1-1 . Mirallas has begun the season brightly in his preferred advanced wide role. If Martinez as widely  predicted does revert to his 3 man backline, it would allow Mirallas more attacking freedom and more attacking support to draw some of the defenders away. All in all it makes for an intriguing season in store.