The start of the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era at Old Trafford hasn’t been as kind as many would’ve liked.
David Moyes has overseen a squad that have hobbled to eighth place ahead of the Boxing Day fixtures, registering as many domestic losses as the whole of last season by the fifteenth week of the Premier League fixture list.
Historic losses have taken some of the luster off of the traditional shine at Old Trafford, whilst forecasts of financial downturn should United not secure Champions League football have been charted and the summer’s transfer campaign has proven to be a bust.
Yet the Red Devils still have managed to remain within six points of the top four and move through to the knockout stages of Europe’s elite competition in site of trouble in paradise, and there have been positives to be gleaned from what on the surface has been a dour campaign to date.
Following are the five best and worst moments for Manchester United in the present term.
1. Adnan Januzaj’s first start
The 18-year-old has been a revelation for the reigning champions, becoming a vital cog in the machine and looking the future of Moyes’ project at the helm. Januzaj’s maiden start in a United shirt proved both his most fruitful performance and a smashing announcement of himself, as he struck a second half brace to single-handedly complete a comeback victory away to Stoke on October 5.
2. Cracking qualification
It hasn’t been often that United have wholly outclassed opponents under Moyes, but a 5-0 thrashing of Bayer Leverkusen on the road on November 27 saw the Old Trafford outfit at their high point of the campaign performance wise. The statement victory brought along with it qualification to the Champions League round of 16, quelling any fears that their European adventure could end bitterly at the first hurdle in convincing fashion.
3. Defeat of Arsenal
Arsenal have flown high at the top of the table rather unexpectedly, but had their wings clipped in another unanticipated turn at Old Trafford in early November. Of all people in was Robin van Persie who struck the winner, a dagger for Gunners supporters already chapped by his departure for the pastures of Manchester in August 2012, but a sweet moment for the Red Devils in snatching three points from the league leaders.
4. 12 straight undefeated
United entered a purple patch following late December’s loss to West Brom in which they went unbeaten in 12 straight spanning all competitions, a stretch that included seven wins, including those over Arsenal and Bayer Leverkusen. Moyes’ men had previously not avoided defeat for more than three straight games, and have now begun to build towards replicating this previous run with four victories on the bounce through mid-December.
5. Rooney remains
The England international had been linked with a move elsewhere following difficulty at Old Trafford in Ferguson’s final overture as manager of the club, linked heavily with Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea over the course of the summer. But the closing of the transfer window ensured that the United talisman would stay in his known environs and has proven to have been crucial, with a resurgent Rooney hitting 10 goals between the Premier League and Champions League so far.
1. Fellaini’s signing
Standing in contrast to Rooney’s stay at United, Marouane Fellaini’s £27.5 deadline day switch to join Moyes in Manchester was viewed as a facical, panic-driven move as the club had missed out on a slew of better midfield options. And in turn the Belgian has proven a bust thus far, failing to have a positive impact for the Red Devils and now sitting on the treatment table following surgery to repair tendon damage in his back.
2. Liverpool defeat
As if a sign of hard times to come, the 1-0 loss to Liverpool in early September saw United come out on the wrong side of the result against a major rival as Brendan Rodgers’ charges have gone on to take the season by storm amidst the Mancunians’ struggles. Daniel Sturridge’s scrappy finish early doors did the business for the Reds on the day, with the Red Devils coming impotent and unable to fight back in the remaining 86 minutes.
3. Everton defeat
Moyes watched his squad fall to the side he left over the summer after 11 years at Goodison Park to take the United job, outcoached by Roberto Martinez to see his new club lose to Everton at home for the first time since 1992. The Scot was subject to jeers from his former faithful in the away section on the day, feeling the sting of a defeat that held great emotional implications as well as consequences in the standings.
4. Newcastle defeat
Like the Everton loss, the capitulation to Newcastle at Old Trafford only three days later was also an historic landmark, as the Toon triumphed at The Theatre of Dreams for the first time since 1972 on the back of Yohan Cabaye’s 61st minute strike. Compounding United’s misery was the shattering of another record, as they lost consecutive home games for the first time in 11 years, when Moyes was just getting his start at Everton, slipping off the pace in the race for Champions League football.
5. Van Persie injury
The Dutchman has had his fair share of fitness problems throughout the campaign, affected by toe and groin issues earlier on, though still managed to hit 11 league goals in a diminished 11 appearances. His latest thigh injury has called out purported issues with Moyes’ training regimen in a further indictment against his managerial credentials, whilst depriving the Red Devils of his sure-footed presence up front well past the first of January.
image: © nasmac