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7 Points to take away for Manchester United on the first half of 2013 -2014 English Premier League Season
After clinching a record 20th Premier League titles with a massive 11 points between them and second place Manchester City during the 2012 – 2013 English Premier League season, Manchester United has been on a downwards spiral ever since.
Sir Alex Ferguson, the person credited with transforming Manchester United to what it is today, has retired as manager while being replaced by David Moyes, a manager who has yet to win any title before his move to the Red Devils. Ten points off the top of the Premier league table with a group of aging and discouraged players facing one of their worst ever start, where is the end of the tunnel for United?
Below are seven points to take away thus far.
Adnan Januzaj, the Real Deal
Sir Alex once said, the one thing you can never, ever teach players, is courage. And that is what made Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi who they are today. No matter how many times they are fouled, they just want to continue taking on players. 18 year old Adnan Januzaj shares this similar characteristic.
His skinny and thin frame appearance does not cover his competitive nature. Just look at how he keeps attacking defenders head-on despite the fouls on him. During some of the matches, such as the one against Aston Villa, Januzaj was seen taking on defenders even though he was surrounded by four players at times.
Youngsters still a key part of Manchester United
From the Busby Babes to Fergie’s fledgings, young players have always play a very important part in United’s legacy.
Right-back Rafael (age 23) & utility man Phil Jones (21) will form the next group of core players at United. Rafael has shown that, when fit, he resembles fellow legendary Brazilian wing-backs Cafu, Maicon and Dani Alves.
Phil Jones is your next Roy Keane cum Phil Neville, and even better. Put him in defensive midfield or central defender role and he will put in the running and warrior-like tackles and headers. Shift him to right-back and you will get to see him charging down the flanks. Earmarked by Sir Alex Ferguson as the next “Duncan Edwards”, the fame Manchester United player who was mentioned as of one the most complete player and had died at a young age of 21 in the Munich air disaster, Phil Jones plays with a lion heart that bleeds and sweat for the team.
Return of the underrated Darren Fletcher
After a prolong treatment of his health problems for almost two years, Darren Fletcher returned to the fold during Manchester United’s match against Aston Villa. Although not the best long range passing midfielder nor the hardest of tacklers, Fletcher oozes calmness and experience, attributes which the Red Devils greatly missed when Michael Carrick is injured or when Ryan Giggs is rotated. Fletcher’s positioning and understanding of the game is second to none, and like Carrick, being underrated only makes him appreciated when he is unable to play.
Antonia Valencia can be an even better winger if he uses his left leg more
Fans have no doubts about Valencia’s commitment and pace. Just that these days Valencia is unfairly criticised as a one-show pony when he doesn't beat fullbacks in every single match. It is certainly true to a certain extend of his pony tail, but hey, he remains a good crosser of the ball with his right foot.
I’m not expecting him to suddenly become like Nani, who can use both feets for feigning, crossing and shooting, but Valencia’s occasional left foot crosses from the right looked really threatening. These crosses come in with the correct pace and height for strikers. Just by implementing more of this one small change will be enough to give Valencia another dimension of play.
Forget about looking for a Paul Scholes replacement, just put Rooney there
Manchester United have yet to replace pass master Scholes after he retired from football last season. Carrick is extremely capable at long and short range passes but lack the scoring instincts. Tom Cleverley, once hailed as the heir, seems mostly capable of only short passes. But fear not, United already has Scholes' successor on their shores.
The shining light of everything good of Manchester United this season, Wayne Rooney has shown that he is worthy of his superstar tag. Any important player would be fuming mad when his new manager says he will be demoted to act as a substitute for another team mate. Rather than playing with half-rated effort, Rooney does what he does best by displaying man-of-the-match performances week after week. His short and long range passes are reminisce of Scholes at his peak, not to mention Rooney’s other tremendous talents such as his ability to find space, work-rate and unbelievable scoring touches.
4-3-3 Formation Looks like the Best Bet
Gone are the days of the 4-4-2 formation when Roy Keane hold his own fort while allowing Scholes, Giggs and Beckham to create mayhem upfront with the strikers. There aren’t many Keanes and Vieiras these days, not at United anyway.
United has been relatively successful in both the 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 formation with Danny Welbeck starting to show signs that he can lead the line in the absence of first choice striker Robin van Persie. Whenever United goes for a three point strike force, the interlink play looks fantastic. It allows the wing backs to maraud down the flanks and give support in attack while the three midfielders can fall back to defend when necessary.
United doesn’t need a massive overhaul, just two more signings in January will do
Alas, the January transfer window is soon upon us. If David Moyes can conjure up some magnificent signings then all will be possible. (The Champions League qualification I mean, the league title seems too far fetch)
If reports are true, then Moyes will sure be giggling at the 90 million pounds awaiting his disposal. Of course, provided that he is able to get his man. This summer’s attempt to sign top targets such as Cesc Fabregas and Thiago Alcantara have fallen spectacularly short.
One thing to be clear though, it is not really in central midfield that Manchester United is desperately short of. You don’t really need to massively overhaul a winning side. They only need two: a central defender and a winger. Other critical aspects are that these two players must have a winning mentality and is the finished article. Arsenal’s purchase of Ozil is the best example. One signing and they turn into champions elect.
United’s fame wing attacks of the Giggs-Beckham to Cristinao Ronaldo eras are nowhere to be seen these days. Sure, Januzaj plays like the next Giggs, but you seriously cannot expect the youngster to carry the whole team through the season. Even Giggs and Beckham had Eric Cantona and Steve Bruce to lead them then.
Ashley Young seems to be getting worse after every match. Nani is brilliantly inconsistent, while some of the decisions that he makes on the field can make you pull your hair out. Wilfried Zaha is still raw, and putting Shinji Kagawa on the wings makes his ex-manager Jurgen Klopp crys.
Reports of Moyes scouting for Spain’s bright young star Koke is an extremely sound choice. But in terms of experience, Angel Di Maria of Real Madrid or Marco Reus of Borussia Dortmund will be better alternatives. Both are champions in their own divisions and have the experience of playing in high profile matches and know what it takes to win.
On the defence side, Chris Smalling can never seem to fulfil his potential. Johnny Evans blows hot and cold. The man once defined as a “Rolls-Royce” Rio Ferdinand has lost his pace that has made him so formidable in the past.
United is rumoured to be targeting Ezequiel Garay from Benfica. My choice? Spend big and go for either Leonardo Bonucci, one of the famed trio together with Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini at Juventus, or either one of the double dragons of Mats Hummels or Neven Subotic from Dortmund. Any one of them comes as a complete package together with the bonus of leadership skills.
Will Manchester United still be able to win the Premier League this season?
It’s a tall order to be frank, especially with the transition of a new manager in place. Qualifying for the next season of the Champions League is the main priority and the addition of any cup title will no doubt be seen as a successful season by fans.