Updated: Thursday, 9th April 2020 @ 1:24pm

Comment: Manchester United's traditional wing weapons are in horrible state of disrepair

Comment: Manchester United's traditional wing weapons are in horrible state of disrepair

Comment By Scott Hunt

Every football club has a style. For Barcelona it’s tika-taka. For Stoke it was long ball. For Manchester United it is wing play.

While United are by no means one-dimensional Sir Alex Ferguson placed great emphasis on utilising the wide areas to break down teams.

In David Moyes United have a man who looks keen to continue the tradition getting the ball to the wingers.

Unfortunately for the new boss he has been dealt a horrible hand at the club and has taken United on at a time when they have the weakest wide players for 20 years.

The current batch of United wingers are, to put it frankly, nowhere near the standards previously held at the club.

Since ‘Fergie’s fledglings’ emerged in 1992, United have consistently had top class wingers at the peak of their powers. 

Through the 90’s the likes of club legends David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Andrei Kanchelskis provided the platform for over two decades of domestic dominance.

After the departure of Beckham in 2003, Ferguson brought in Cristiano Ronaldo who, over the next six seasons, turned into arguably the greatest player in Premier League history.

Since Ronaldo left for Real Madrid the high standards set by previous wingers have not been met – culminating in the situation David Moyes is faced with this season.

The new manager seems unable to decide who his first choice wingers are for the simple reason that those he has selected have drastically underperformed.

Antonio Valencia has started four of the seven league games so far, the most of any of the recognized wingers.

Valencia, who signed from Wigan in 2009, won United’s Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award in 2012. He was unplayable. He destroyed opposition full-backs with his pace, power and direct style.

However, last season he was a shadow of the player of the previous campaign and has suffered the same woes so far this season.

The Ecuadorian winger no longer takes on his full-back, he no longer runs at the defence and he seems to have completely lost the ability to cross a ball.

Reports in the Daily Mail suggest that Galatasaray are interested in signing Valencia. On current form, a player who was irreplaceable just two seasons ago, would be no great loss.

Nani is the longest serving wide man on the books, having joined United in 2007.

He seemed to be heading for the Old Trafford exit door in the summer, but new manager David Moyes saw fit to offer the Portuguese a new 5-year contract.

It was a baffling decision to reward a player that has always lacked consistency a lucrative 5-year deal.

While the Portuguese winger has flashes of brilliance he frustrates United fans with his horrendous decision making in crucial matches.

It seems that Moyes believes he can extract the genius from Nani’s play and the Scot has been on the touchline urging the winger to release the ball early.

Despite the belief that Nani can succeed at Old Trafford he has been used sparingly this season and has produced very little when he has been selected.

Perhaps the most uninspiring winger (maybe the most uninspiring player) at United this season is Ashley Young.

Young started his United career brilliantly when he joined from Aston Villa in 2011. Sadly, due to a combination of injuries and inconsistent form, he has been dismal ever since.

His abject display in United’s crushing derby defeat by Manchester City – that consisted of him receiving the ball and then hitting a series of terrible crosses – was the last time he has been seen in a red shirt and resulted in his omission from the England squad.

In his debut season at United, Young grabbed six goals and seven assists in the Premier League. Last season he managed no goals and just three assists.

Young has been woeful so far this season to say the least and his persistent diving does little to endear him to fans.

As a result of such inadequacies from his wingers, Moyes has resorted to playing Danny Welbeck on the left wing. Welbeck possesses the pace and footwork to play the role but is not a natural winger and lacks the delivery to make telling contributions from wide areas.

Moyes has also introduced young star Adnan Januzaj to start on the left as well as deploying 39-year-old Ryan Giggs out wide which may be effective but is also a damning indictment to those who should be leading the charge from wide.

While Moyes may have been dealt a shoddy hand there was very little talk of signing a winger during the summer transfer window.

It is understandable that the new manager made central midfield his priority but his inability to identify the wings as a problem area may prove costly.

The Reds’ uninspiring form this season has been largely down to their inability to break teams down.

Against Liverpool and City they found no answer to a robust defence.

With underperforming wingers United are being forced to seek creativity in the middle of the park.

The majority of this responsibility falls on the shoulders of Wayne Rooney and, without an outlet in the wide areas, United run the risk of becoming one-dimensional and easy to shut down.

Yet Moyes made no attempts to freshen up his wide options in the summer, when he should have moved Nani and Young out and brought in fresh blood.

For some reason, The Scot is also yet to give a proper chance to the one new winger at the club, Wilfried Zaha.

Zaha, 20, was signed by Ferguson in January and started in the Community Shield in August but has not been seen on the pitch since.

While raw and inconsistent, Zaha possesses the talent to challenge the opposition from wide, something United simply are not doing at the moment.

Similarly, Moyes seems reluctant to give Shinji Kagawa any game time. Kagawa, while not a recognized winger, offers United a spark and creativity drifting off the wing that is not coming from anywhere else in the side.

Such has been the focus on United’s central midfield weaknesses, the inadequate showings of the wingers has gone without major scrutiny.

Ferguson did not leave David Moyes with a great set of players in wide areas but the new manager is far from blameless.

His failure to address the deficiency in the summer transfer window and his reluctance to give chances to Zaha and Kagawa has left United with their weakest set of wingers since 1990 and devoid of their traditional weapon.

Image courtesy of SKY Calcio HD via YouTube, with thanks

For more on this story and many others, follow Mancunian Matters on Twitter and Facebook.