One of the biggest complaints this season around Old Trafford and in the press has been the regressive tactics and style of play United have exhibited this term.
The relentless crossing to no avail, the defensive and ‘anti-football’ set up against ‘big teams’, the lack of creativity despite an abundance of creative players, and the lack of cohesion in the play must revert to the Manchester United way.
‘Attack attack attack!’ sing the fans around Old Trafford and that is what the players surely desire to do. If Moyes goes, so must the unambitious, slow-paced, cautious and tentative style he has deployed this term.
2) Transfers In
The first thing Moyes came under fire for (along with chief executive Ed Woodward) was the manner in which the club approached the transfer market last summer. They were slow to start and then seemed embarrassingly unsure of their targets’ availability – remember the Cesc Fabregas debacle – missed out on their goals, and then had to make a dash to sign former Everton players for overpriced fees.
That cannot happen this summer. If Moyes goes, the new manager must know exactly what he needs and wants and then pursue aggressively those targets until they sign on the dotted line.
There can be no dilly-dallying; it is a dog-eat-dog market and United cannot afford to find themselves at the bottom of the food chain again, especially given the demands of the Europa League, which is likely to play a huge role in the Red Devils’ progress next term.
They will need to ensure there is strength-in-depth and quality throughout the squad to ensure they can compete across all competitions.
3) Transfers Out
Meanwhile, there are numerous players in the squad who have not played for the manager, the badge, the fans or even their own professional pride and they need to go immediately.
At least now United know who their real friends are and those who failed to show up all season long need to pack their things and leave.
4) Training Regime
Then, as the new boss starts to bring players in and, after the World Cup, starts to see his United squad taking form, the training regime needs to change. The huge amount of injuries to key players this season is surely not just bad luck. Robin van Persie is an apt example and Moyes’ training regime may well have brought about fitness issues in a number of players.
Any man who comes in to the position will need to completely re-think the fitness coaching and the intensity of the Red Devils’ training to avoid the injury crisis we have seen this term.
The players need better and more thorough conditioning in order to be at optimum fitness throughout the season.
Likewise, the way the team is set up defensively needs to improve. There has been a lack of organisation, leadership and understanding at the back this term and a lack of defensive responsibility distributed throughout the team on a number of occasions. United cannot afford to leak goals the way they have this season. It has been embarrassing and before a new manager looks at going forward, United need to be able to not concede.
They need to display more desire to press high up the pitch and focus on their individual responsibilities without the ball. Individual errors happen but they are often a result of poor positioning, lack of concentration and lack of leadership.
If Wayne Rooney loses the ball anywhere on the pitch, he chases back and harasses the opposition and we need to see the other players show that kind of commitment and awareness of defensive responsibility. It is not just the back line; it should be every player’s jurisdiction.
United have been exposed in midfield and outplayed so many times under Moyes it has been dire this season. A new boss needs to be able to focus on shape in midfield. How many times have we seen a player with the ball at his feet looking around for a man in space and not seeing anyone moving towards the ball or making a run into space? Too many times, in my estimation.
With the technical ability and creative vision of players like Rooney, Juan Mata, Adnan Januzaj and Michael Carrick, there needs to be more cohesion and interaction between the creative players. They need to understand their individual roles better too. If Mata goes forward, Tom Cleverley needs to stay to cover and so on and, furthermore, a new manager needs to decide where Mata is going to play.
If Rooney is going to function in the hole as the No.10, where does Mata operate? That needs to be addressed for the player’s sake as much as the team’s.
I suspect there will be new wingers brought in regardless of whether Moyes stays or goes this summer and rightly so. Ashley Young has really regressed, Shinji Kagawa is not a winger, Antonio Valencia’s pace needs to be exploited to greater effect, and there needs to be more width in the play to create that space in the middle where Rooney, Mata and Robin van Persie can be dangerous and most effective. Too many players coming inside off the flank makes it easy for defences to park the bus and the play becomes stale.
There needs to be a reversion to the kind of wide play United had with Ryan Giggs and David Beckham on the flanks, drawing defenders out and finding the quality to deliver that killer pass or cut back.
8) The Best XI
Any new coach needs to quickly and systematically decide what his ‘best XI’ is. Moyes appeared not to know in August and that appears to still be the case now. Sir Alex Ferguson would always let players know if they were not going to play and give them a reason as to why. Rio Ferdinand expressed his uneasiness at not knowing whether he was in or out and how demoralising that can be; it is mentally draining.
If players know where they stand in terms of the pecking-order, they will accept their status as a key player or as a player challenging for their place but then the manager needs to know, first and foremost.
Manchester United have a tremendous history of developing and nurturing young players. Look at what happened this term with Wilfried Zaha, Ferguson’s last ever signing.
The youngster did not even get a sniff of an opportunity. If Moyes was not going to play him, he should have sent him out on loan to start with rather than knocking the youngster’s confidence and stunting his growth. The future of the club needs to be taken into constant consideration in the present and young players need to feel they trust the coach and have a pathway to at least a chance to play. Without that, they lose their belief.
10) Fear Factor
Speaking of belief, the difference between first and second, a win and a loss, is often in the mind. It is possible to win or lose a game before the first whistle. It is all in the mind of the players. Old Trafford used to have an aura about it that made the visiting opposition believe they were going to lose and, subsequently, they usually did. The Theatre of Dreams needs to be restored to the fortress it used to be.