Tuesday Team Talk: David Moyes must adapt or die as Manchester United’s one-dimensional wing play falters

By Marios Papaloizou

In many sports, statistics are king.

How many runs, baskets or turnovers are often all that matter when settling discussions on the calibre of players and teams.

However, for many football purists stats just do not cut it; they will never capture the nuances of a game so open and free.

For those people it is clear: trying to apply numbers the art of beautiful game is nothing but folly.

Whether stats can play as integral a part in football as they have in other sports is still up for debate but what is abundantly clear is that numbers have the ability to tell lucid stories.

Manchester United went into the 2001/2 season as the champions of England having won three consecutive Premier League titles.

By the end of the campaign the Reds sat in third place – their lowest league finish in more than a decade.

The numbers indicate that something was not quite right at Old Trafford.

The start of that relatively poor campaign had of course seen the rocked by the announcement of Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.

While the Scot famously went back on his decision to give up the reigns at United his side never quite recovered from the disruption and had to watch fierce rivals Arsenal lift the Premier League title.

Fast forward 12 years and the numbers once again paint a picture of disruption at the Premier League champions.

Seventh place, eight league defeats and 15 points adrift of the league summit indicate a seismic problem at Old Trafford.

The purists might argue that while the stats tell us there is a problem they can never tell us what the problem is.

To an extent this is true. There may not be a stat that tells us that Manchester United have lost arguably the greatest football manager that has ever lived.

There are however stats that show that United have crossed the ball more than any other side in the Premier League season and have attacked through the middle of the park less than ANY other team.

Manchester United fans are divided among themselves as to whether Moyes is to blame or whether he needs time.

The answer is simply that both sides are right.

Numbers show that when a huge action happens at a club it always has an equal and opposite reaction.

It was therefore inevitable that Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure would cause a mammoth drop in performance levels.

However, there is no excuse for the one-dimensional tactics that United have employed this season.

The Reds have placed a total reliance on instantly getting the ball wide to sub-par wingers who deliver generally sub-par crosses.

While United may not have an abundance of talent in the centre of midfield they certainly have more than enough to combat the majority of teams in the league.

United are a team that have a proud history of wing play but the secret behind their sustained success has been adaptability.

Under Ferguson United were shape shifters who probed every potential weakness in a team’s defence.

Under Moyes they are a one-dimensional unit that have decided to bombard an obscene amount of crosses into a penalty area that is generally packed with bigger players who know exactly what to expect.

There is no doubting that Moyes should be given time but that does not mean that he should be immune from criticism.
Those that have taken the hard-line stance that responsibility falls on the players’ shoulders must ask themselves ‘who is telling the players to play in such a rigid way?’

Image courtesy of Prime7 , with thanks

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