Right… So, I know by now there will be millions of post similar to this. Opinions split between Man United boss David Moyes should go and United should trust Moyes. But let’s just take a deep breath and try to understand what happened against City and take it from there.
Let’s start with the first mistake Moyes made: Defense.
Fig 1 – Goals conceded against Manchester City on 9/22
Let’s look at the goals conceded by United against City. All the goals inside the six-yard box, and right in the center of the six-yard box. I wonder what this figure is trying to tell me. Oh, I know, it screams that United’s central defense was dead.
The second after the squads were declared for the Bayer Leverkusen match mid-week, the first question that entered my mind was: “Is Moyes really playing Vidic and Ferdinand for two consecutive matches?” Then came the flow of irrational questions. ”Who will play against City? Can Ferdinand and Vidic play
three consecutive matches?”
I was pretty sure Moyes would rotate the squad for the City match giving Büttner or Evans a chance to showcase their talent in the first half, but Moyes was taking no chances. He put on the field what he thought was the best team available to him.
Vidic, playing his third full game, lacked his usual sharpness. His tackles were weak, and he did not look like the rock at the back that United have come to expect from him. Let’s take a look at the graph of his defensive stats.
Fig 2 -Nemanja Vidic Avg Duels won on 9/14 against Crystal Palace and on 9/22 against City
There is marked fall in the Tackle %. Sure, you can say that Vidic had a flawless day against a weak Crystal Palace side gaining a 100% tackling ratio, but a 50% tackling success against a team like City is unacceptable. He is the captain of Manchester United, after all. But, can we blame him? He is old and this was his third game in seven days. It almost makes sense for him to not be at his best.
Now, assuming that Rio Ferdinand faced a similar situation, that his weary legs could not help him out for a third consecutive game, we can safely say that his tackling percentage would be pretty low against City too.
But, as we can see from Fig 2, Rio hasn’t been in the best of form. He did not perform up to his usual standards against Crystal Palace, either. A 57% duel percentage against Crystal Palace and 56% against Manchester City should not be the stats of a Manchester United defender.
Fig 3 – Rio Ferdinand Average Duels won on 9/14 against Crystal Palace and on 9/22 against City
Knowing that Crystal Palace played no threat to United, wouldn’t Moyes have been better off playing Smalling instead of Rio or Nemanja? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to rest at least one of them, if not both?
Let’s now move on to the midfield.
Let’s take on our favorite diving midfielder – the Oscar-winner Ashley Young. Is he really that desperate to score a goal or get a penalty that he has to dive? Oh, never mind. I digress. A winger’s main job is to maintain possession of the ball on the wing, go head on with the defenders, pass the ball to other midfielders and float the ball into the six-yard box to the forwards. And this is especially true at United, which are by history a wing-play favoring team. Young failed in not one, not two, but all four areas.
With an average pass accuracy of 60%, a measly 17% duels won and six average defensive actions, Young succeeded at accomplishing nothing in the 50 minutes he played against City.
Fig 4 – Young duel stats against City on 9/22
Fig 5 – Young Pass Accuracy against City on 9/22
Considering Young’s poor performance this season, why didn’t Moyes look towards Shinji Kagawa and Nani? Why play Young at all when Nani and Kagawa are far superior players?
Moving on to forwards, let’s talk about Danny Welbeck. Ugh.. I hate that kid. Why Moyes and Alex Ferguson are partial towards him is beyond my understanding. To an innocent bystander, it’s quite obvious that between Javier Hernandez and Welbeck, Hernandez is the more prolific striker. He is lethal in the six yard box, causes a lot of havoc with his movement and pairs up quite well with Rooney. The only thing that plays against Hernandez is that he doesn’t track back, but then he isn’t required to track back and defend unless he committed an error that led to the ball being given away. He is by right a striker and his position is up front.
Welbeck on the other hand, lacks Hernandez’s vision of goal-scoring, cannot go head-on with defenders, but, in his defense (no pun intended) he defends. That was the reason, Ferguson played him instead of Rooney against Real Madrid last year, and he sure did a good job then. But, that tactic was a surprise move and was only bound to work once.
But, with a two-goal deficit and a game to chase, you’d expect Moyes to bring in Hernandez. 2-0. Nothing. 3-0. Nothing. 4-0. No change, but it’s too late. The game cannot be rescued anymore.
Rooney was definitely the saving grace in the match. His pin-point free-kick was a marvelous shot, and one can’t help but say that Rooney is back at the top of his form. All he needs is a midfield to support him. I strongly believe that Kagawa has been short-changed by Moyes. Fellaini is still not compatible with United’s play and Young still seems to be struggling with form. So, while these two get acclimated, it is quite obvious that Kagawa, Nani, Carrick and Valencia are the way to go for the next match.
Moyes should understand the depth of his team and the resources at his disposal. He must take a leaf out of Ferguson’s book on squad rotation. Moyes is no more at Everton and cannot keep playing the same players repeatedly. He not only risks losing games with this strategy, but also angering the ignored players. No player at Manchester United likes to sit on the bench, day-in and day-out, and watch the others play. Squad rotation is the key to keeping the players fresh and building a healthy competition among teammates to make it to the first team.
For the Liverpool match, with the return of their savior Luis Suarez, the United defense will have to be on their toes. An exhausted defense is going to cost United a trophy. With Robin van Persie already ruled out of the Liverpool fixture, it’s time Hernandez is given a chance.
My Starting XI for tomorrow’s LFC match:
Smalling Evans Vidic Evra
Valencia Kagawa Carrick Nani
Subs: Amos, Ferdinand, Buttner, Cleverley, Fellaini, Young, Welbeck.
United fans must calm down and stop breathing down Moyes’ neck. They must let him figure things out on his own. He is allowed a few mistakes, ‘coz the great one Ferguson himself lost to City 6-1 two years back. While, that United team was a 10-men team for the majority of the match, it was a team that went down fighting. It was a team that was caught on counter-attacks, a team who did not give up. The United team that I saw yesterday was not the same team. They made mistakes, did not fight back, did not try to rectify their mistakes and all this cost them. So, in a way, the 4-1 defeat was worse than the 6-1 defeat, but Moyes will learn what to ask from his team. As Ferguson rightly said, “If you can’t support us when we lose, you can’t support us when we win!” So stick by United fans, ‘coz good times will roll by real soon.