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Dublin: 19 °C Wednesday 12 August, 2020

6 problems the new Manchester United manager needs to solve

Leaking info to the press and other issues at the club that need to be addressed.

Updated at 10.18

1. Selling inept players

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Manchester United v West Ham United - Old Trafford Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

(Ashley Young and others have performed below-par this season.)

WHILE UNITED’S LIMITATIONS of late have been well documented, the team is undoubtedly better than their anticipated seventh-place finish suggests. Although they overachieved significantly last year by winning the league, this year has conversely been marked by underachievement.

While United can’t currently match the electric pace of Liverpool and City’s respective attacks, they should surely be able to muster better performances than they gave in the 3-0 respective losses against both at Old Trafford earlier this year.

Although confidence is everything in football, as illustrated by Liverpool’s remarkable recovery from seventh-place finishers last year to this year’s probable title winners, United are plainly no longer good enough to challenge for the league in their current state.

Certain players simply haven’t delivered in recent times — Ashley Young, Nani, Tom Cleverley and Marouane Fellaini among others have routinely failed to produce the type of performances needed in a title-contending side.

Similarly, the jury remains out on individuals such as Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Shinji Kagawa, while a number of older players are likely to follow the soon-to-be-departing Nemanja Vidic out the Old Trafford exit door.

Consequently, it’s difficult to see the new manager thriving without major reinvestment in the club in the summer, in contrast with the conspicuous lack of activity following David Moyes’ arrival at the club.

2. The absence of energy in midfield

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Manchester United v Aston Villa - Old Trafford Source: EMPICS Sport

(The United midfield lacks the pace and physicality that many rival teams  possess in the area.)

One of the key signings United will surely need to make in the coming months is a midfield work-horse who provides the type of dynamism that the side currently lack.

It’s not overly fanciful to imagine Michael Carrick playing the type of quarter-back role that Steven Gerrard favours, given that the 32-year-old has a similarly impressive range of passing and experience, though he patently lacks some of the Liverpool man’s other qualities — namely, inspirational leadership and motivational skills.

However, United also need an engine room-type player beside Carrick — the kind of player that most of their main rivals — Chelsea (Ramires), Man City (Fernandinho) and Liverpool (Jordan Henderson) — have at their disposal.

At the moment, the Red Devils’ best equivalent is Darren Fletcher, but his age and tendency to be injury-prone means he is unlikely to be a long-term solution to this issue, so the area is patently one in which investment is crucial.

3. Tactics

Soccer - David Moyes File Photo Source: Anthony Devlin

(Moyes has frequently been criticised for his decision-making this season.)

There were undoubtedly factors beyond Moyes’ control that ultimately didn’t help his cause, however he was far from blameless amid his downfall.

Tactically, more often than not, the Scottish manager came up short in the big games. From his over-reliance on getting hopeful crosses into the box (most notably, in the game at home to Fulham) to his ill-advised decision to play 4-3-3 for the first 20 minutes against City, these errors ultimately became too frequent for the liking of the club’s hierarchy.

Players often seemed too far apart from each other on the pitch to orchestrate the type of incisive passing game that United’s best sides have employed. Moreover, Moyes, in stark contrast with his predecessor, seldom made the kind of game-changing substitutions that have resulted in the Red Devils rescuing so many late victories over the years.

Consequently, at their best (e.g. at home to Bayern Munich), United resembled a somewhat meek imitation of Moyes’ past Everton sides — difficult to beat, but not exactly teeming with inspiration.

4. The Rooney/Kagawa/Mata dilemma

Soccer - Wayne Rooney File Photo Source: Martin Rickett

(Wayne Rooney has been forced to compete with Shinji Kagawa and Juan Mata for the number 10 role.)

It’s unfortunate that arguably three of United’s best and most creative players all favour the same number 10 role.

Accordingly, when all of these three individuals are playing, two are required to reluctantly take up positions out wide or in central midfield.

The new manager thus faces a significant challenge — presumably, none of these players will be content to play a bit-part role, while the person in charge is more or less obliged to start Mata and Rooney whenever they’re available, owing to their lucrative wages and considerable stature in the game.

Against Everton on Saturday, Moyes continually switched Mata from the wing to the number 10 position, with the Spaniard enjoying little joy in either role.

The man coming in surely cannot afford to keep chopping and changing in this manner — the likes of Mata need to know exactly what’s required of them, while being spared the unsettling sensation of getting moved to a new position every few minutes.

5. Confidential information being leaked to the press

(News of Moyes’ sacking broke on Twitter long before any formal announcement.)

The fact that more or less everyone knew about Moyes’ sacking long before it was formally announced was unfair on the embattled manager, while also reflecting badly on the club.

The handling of the ex-Everton coach’s dismissal even moved an influential ex-player, Gary Neville, who’s usually relatively complimentary towards the club, to brand their behaviour “repulsive”.

Moreover, the constant intensive and detailed reports about certain players being unhappy in the months leading up to Moyes’ sacking further served to undermine his position.

The Red Devils tellingly seldom leaked confidential information during Alex Ferguson’s tenure, and the new manager must instantaneously inspire strong levels of fear and respect (akin to Fergie and in contrast with Moyes) to ensure that no one becomes brave enough to engage in similar shenanigans this time around.

6. Backroom staff

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Quarter Final - Second Leg - Bayern Munich v Manchester United - Allianz Arena Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

(Moyes has been criticised for changing his backroom team unduly.)

It’s interesting to recall that Moyes was initially praised by many for bringing in his own backroom staff. At the time, it was argued that this move illustrated his independent thinking and refusal to be in thrall to the previous regime.

However, typically, as the situation worsened for the 50-year-old, people began to question why he didn’t utilise/do more to hold on to the experience of others such as René Meulensteen — coaches with a successful track record who already knew the players intimately that he still endeavoured to let go upon joining the club.

The new manager must consequently decide carefully the extent of change he is willing to implement initially.

Keeping the backroom staff from the previous regime might send out the wrong signal, given their inextricable association with Moyes’ failures. That said, surely at least some of those coaches will be kept on, with people such as Ryan Giggs and Phil Neville evidently having a deep understanding of the club’s history, as well as contributing significantly to many of its previous triumphs.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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