Derby thrashing sends Moyes back to the drawing board

September 24, 2013 Tags: , Reads 26 comments
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Wayne Rooney’s reaction said it all – a smile barely cracked let alone a celebration of the fist-pumping, arm wheeling, euphoric kind 3,000 traveling Reds had hoped for. After all, Rooney’s 87th minute free-kick was excellence in everything aside from it’s timing. Four goals to the bad, United’s dream lay in tatters long before the 27-year-old curled home a second set piece in as many games.

Such was the comprehensive nature of defeat to rivals Manchester City on Sunday that it remains hard to draw positives from the occasion. The converse is closer to the truth, with the heart of David Moyes’ strategy fundamentally undermined at the Etihad.

After all, these are the games that define a season’s narrative. Defeat leaves the Scot facing testing questions of his defence, attack and especially midfield, together with an approach that was altogether, and disastrously, conservative.

Few of Moyes’ men left the Etihad with dignity, let alone credit, upheld. From the slipshod nature of United’s defending, through yet another midfield over-run by an opponent, to a chronic lack of creativity that is now becoming a pattern.

This was a wretched United performance, every bit as demoralising as that inflicted in 1989; far worse than the freak 6-1 defeat at Old Trafford two year’s ago.

Sunday leaves United with just seven points from five Premier League matches. Five games in which the Reds have lost two local derbies, and amassed the lowest points total for a decade after the opening quintet of league games. Should Moyes’ team suffer defeat to Liverpool in the Carling Cup on Wednesday the pressure on the Scot will ratchet up significantly.

Perhaps the most disappointing factor in Sunday’s loss is that none of Moyes’ side appeared to take responsibility, on the pitch at least, for the calamitous events. To a man insipid.

It really comes to something when want-a-way Wayne Rooney leads the mea culpas.

“It’s nice to score but it means nothing,” said Rooney, perhaps the only United player to emerge with any self-respect from Sunday’s disaster.

“The points were the most important thing today and we’ve come away with none. We’ve all grown up with local football derbies and it’s not nice when you lose one. I’ve been there myself as a fan and as a player. Thankfully we’ve got the game against Liverpool coming up Wednesday and it’s something we are looking forward to now in the hope that we can get the victory to put this defeat to the back of our minds.”

That is a task far easier to articulate than practice of course, although Moyes will be relieved with a fixture list that includes winnable league matches against West Bromwich Albion, Sunderland, Southampton, and Stoke City before October is out.

The Reds should end that run with a far better points tally. Any other outcome is unthinkable.

But Sunday’s chastening must surely prompt a rethink in United’s strategy, not least in the back four where Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidić were over-powered by City’s vibrant attacking unit. For the first time this season the pair looked its age and more. With Patrice Evra also advancing into his 30s, Moyes has deployed three veterans in his back four in each of United’s matches this season.

Here too the will seemingly drained from those in Red. United’s rearguard was given such little protection that Vidić’s attempt to berate Antonio Valencia for failing to track his runner had the air of resigned apathy.

On the other flank Ashley Young’s contempt for defending was matched only by a  chronic fear of ball-retention that bordered on the obsessive so often did the former Aston Villa winger concede possession.

Meanwhile, Michael Carrick and Marouanne Fellaini were reduced to hapless spectators, with City utterly superior in central midfield.

Fellaini was billed in some quarters as United’s answer to City’s Yaya Touré; on this evidence the Reds might have better recruited Kolo such was the Belgian’s ineffectiveness.

He remains a puzzle. The £27 million man who neither adds bite to the defensive side of United’s midfield, nor breaks up play through superior positioning. Nor, it seems, does he offer a counter-part to Carrick’s passivity on these occasions.

Aggressive at set-pieces, and effective around the box, Fellaini still has much to prove at this level. Not least in a deep-lying role where the Belgian’s limited defensive instincts were exposed in two of City’s four goals.

Indeed, Moyes’ decision to push Fellaini forward as the game drew to a close may be the forebear of an approach to come, with United seeking to exploit the Belgian’s power in the air, rather than his ineffectual ability on the ball. Look away those who hope to match rivals’ short-passing game.

Elsewhere, United’s creative fizz popped, as it has in four of six games in all competitions this season. After all, those two Rooney free-kicks and a Robin van Persie penalty are all United has to show for matches against Chelsea, Liverpool and City this season.

Meanwhile, two of Moyes’ most creative options in Shinji Kagawa and Nani sat on the bench. Unused, perhaps unloved, while new signing Wilfried Zaha and wonderkid Adnan Januzaj watched on from the stands. It is enough to prompt the question of just what hold Young – the most wretched of all – retains over his new manager.

It is a conservative approach that can only frustrate, but one a decade-long in the making during Moyes’ time at Everton. Even the Scot’s lone substitution – Tom Cleverley – was designed to limit damage inflicted rather than restore any squandered pride.

Still, with Liverpool at Old Trafford on Wednesday there is little time for a radical rethink in approach, although there was much talk in the aftermath of “a response”. It is already a hackneyed sentiment.

Talk is cheap, unlike United’s one summer acquisition, and in the end Moyes was reduced to limp platitudes in praise of the traveling support.

“Whether it’s a derby or somebody else, you don’t want to lose,” admitted Moyes.

“It does make it worse when you want to do so well for your supporters. I thought our supporters were great today, under the circumstances. Whatever manager loses a game, you get on and try to win the next game. You just play the next game and see how you go. We’ll do everything we can to win the next one.”

The Scot has little choice but to field a full-strength side against Brendan Rogers’ outfit; defeat escalating United’s slow start to a full-blown crisis, at least in the more hyperbolic red-tops.

Whether that line-up includes those largely repudiated this season will define the coming weeks.


Jack - September 24, 2013 Reply

We can’t afford a drawing board.

OldSalfordRed - September 24, 2013 Reply

Rumours of us losing rafa, Adnan. Going wobbly over Brazilian lad Bruno.
Moyes doesn’t rate skill or quality. He only rates runners who survive his horseshoe training method.
Go to and look at all the nomn-British clubs Moyes signed players from, then show me a decent player. Landon Donovon? Mikel Arteta. ONE in 11 years. We’re heading for mediocrity for years.

Damian Garside - September 25, 2013 Reply


Tony - September 24, 2013 Reply

excellent article. #unitedrant

eltricolor2014 - September 24, 2013 Reply

Defensively this was a terrible outing, against City who counters so well, you needed Evra not advancing as much and better RB than Smalling. I like Smalling, he’ll be a great defensive midfielder along with Jones but where was Fabio? Who could play RB better? Also Carrick and Felleni need more time together and if they see City countering, they need to play more defensively and hold poession, United failed to pressure City and happy just sitting back the first half. That said, City really wanted this win, and it’s just one game, I doubt they can commit such emotion, game after game just re-watch their loss against Cardiff City.

Minilev - September 24, 2013 Reply

Totally agree that United were outclassed and humbled by superior city on the day. Rightly said too that Young was hopeless. However I disagree that United need to field their strongest 11 against Liverpool. As much as I want to see United beat Liverpool tomorrow night, I rather see Moyes give opportunities to Zaha, Janujez and give game time to Nani, Chicarito, Kagawa. I feel the Rant has been very negative recently. United could of just of easily lost to Liverpool, City and drawn with Chelsea later on this season, but it’s happened. Let’s move on and get behind United. I don’t think it will be long before United start picking up the points and gain momentum.

kagawa krew - September 24, 2013 Reply

moyes out now shrek out now rio RUBBISH evra CRAP young RUBBISH felover RUBBISH welbeck WELLCRAP

gav - September 24, 2013 Reply

Why would Moyes play a 442 against City it’s asking them to attack us and limiting our attack. He should have started with Kagawa and Cleverly so more like a 4231 but with Rooney higher up than usual that way it would have added a lot more strength in the middle and a lot more options going forward. After Moyes brought on Cleverly and stop with the wing play we didn’t concede and we scored just imagine what the outcome could have been if he started like that. Evra would have had to stay back then City wouldn’t of had the massive hole to attack into. All in all bad selection and bad tactics. Can’t expect players to change their style of game but can pick the right players and formation to at least compete in a game.

Jean Paul Sosa Cifuentes - September 24, 2013 Reply

What about Welbeck? Hernandez is miles away from him and he’s still on the bench, Zaha, Januzaj, Kagawa and Nani, Moyes is killing himself with a full fridge, tactical fear and a no winning attitude like in the Everton days. What kind of coach uses both Carrick and Fellaini at the same time to have no full defense or attacking midfield? If it’s about guilt or responsability it’s all on Moyes period.

Dayus D red - September 24, 2013 Reply

The problem was not of tactics but that of personnel and quality of the players. Afterall we used the same against Bayer Liverkusen and it worked to perfection. No matter what we want to believe or say, city have better squard of players than United. I raised this issue in the summer. United did not learn from city’s mistake of last season when they failed to add meanifully to thier squard. They paid the price. Now that we have stood still, i hope we wouldn’t pay the price. My worry in all of this is that David Moyes seemed to have given up with 40mins to go and with kagawa and Hernadez on the bench. He look clueless and radiates no confidence whatsoever.

kagawa krew - September 24, 2013 Reply

sack moyes now before we become more of a laughing stock who is steering the ship it ain’t moyes chuck him over board now before he runs us aground the whole world can see rio RUBBISH why pick him young RUBBISH why pick him why buy felover panic Kagawa? the whole world can see except mumbling moyes and some plastic fans who never venture into Trafford oh and take shrek the traitor when your leaving

therealdeal - September 25, 2013 Reply

Man City have 22 creative, skillful and world class players. City beat Wigan 5-0 today and made 10 changes from the team that beat us. The Wigan manager said that although City had made all these changes, there was still 300 million pounds of players on the field. Our problem is that Moyes is still playing this out-dated Scottish style football. City with their style of play and creative players, killed us. We need to spend some big money cause sitting 8th place in the standings is really got fans pissed!

Damian Garside - September 25, 2013 Reply

I am beginning to think that the malaise at the club is so pervasive, you could go to the drawing board and draw and paint and CGI all you want and it would still be … The Last Supper or a Jackson Pollock.

Isn’t it interesting how Moyes’ static formations and use of static half-nobbled veteran players is creating a style of United play that is like a real-life version of subbuteo or fussball. In my view, let the thing go real Götterdämmerung: let him persist with Young (“Forever Young… I want to be… forever Young”) let Raphael go back to Brazil, Januazj join Pogba at Juventus, Kagawa sit on the bench, Zara go out on loan to Stalybridge Celtic, and keep all the dead wood … who knows, soon with advances in genetic technology there will be enough spare parts to create one good Frankenstein-monster footballer.

And when things get bad, impossibly bad and Eric gives the word then we can all go so angry we can go suicide bomber.

Or we can be nice and accept that it could be worse and settle for 8th or 9th spot … Not so bad really. And when we lose to the really good teams, we can pride ourselves on having 45% of the possession and tweet at #MUFC reminding supporters that it is the great anniversary of one of David Beckham’s change of hairstyle.

Damian Garside - September 25, 2013 Reply

What is it with us now and “glamour”? We are (still are) Britain’s and perhaps the world’s most glamorous club — yet it appears as though glamour is a thing we can’t abide. Young players with glamour: oh yes, how is it we deal with them, either send them out on loan so they can learn their trade, or sell them for peanuts to European rivals — where they blossom and are sought after by our domestic rivals ready to pay squillions. And going out on loan… it seems like we want them to learn how to fit into our style of play better (in other words, become robots) but they sometimes become free-scoring match-winners etc at their new host clubs –and return to us totally unable to adapt to our gray mechanistic style — and so, off to Europe with them.

And managers: God forbid a glamour manager should apply to OT: no way such a manager will get on our short list.

I wonder if in some way our shirking of glamour (which inevitably brings media attention, good and not so good at all) is a product of Fergie’s war with the media (becoming a war of terror ON the media, as far as some unfortunate sports journalists were concerned). Strange that so many United fans backed Fergie against the supposedly hostile media, only to find that now, in our time of uncertainty, bordering on crisis, it’s the media that is dissecting the club’s own hype and spin, making sure the supporters’ voices are heard.

Dayus D red - September 25, 2013 Reply

David Moyes has just confirmed in an interview with the Telegraph that United present squard is not good enough. Quoting him”in terms of the squard, we have the numbers. But we still need one or two players who will go straight into the team. A lot of people feels United won the league because of other clubs poor form. We are a team in transition and this will take time to bring a change” My question is if he knew this all along, why didn’t he get the players needed in the summer. If i remeber correctly, he was busy saying he is ok with the squard. It is a shame it took a beatten from city for him to realise the obvious.

Farrukh - September 25, 2013 Reply

It really is a strange comment to make considering he has been saying all along that it is a championship winning side (which in fact it is) and he is very happy with the squad. Now with 5 games into the season he is questioning the players publicly. Hope this is to generate a reaction from the players on the pitch and not off it.

Farrukh - September 25, 2013 Reply

I always had one fear with the appointment of Moyes, the question would the players at the club be motivated enough to play for him considering many of them have won a lot with United and on the evidence of this season so far..the answer is NO.
There has been a lot of talk from the senior players over the summer of motivation, hunger, desire to play and continue winning for the club but the performances on the fields haven’t been good enough.
I hope the manager can squeeze that out from his players else it will be a very long season.

Damian Garside - September 25, 2013 Reply

Remember, for Moyes this is just a job. Not something to get utterly distraught and broken-hearted about, as apparently Mourinho was when told he wasn’t to be OUR one.

If it had been Mourinho there would have been fission and friction, no doubt. But 3-6 of the best players in the world would be playing for us now, unable to say “no” to him.

mongoletsi - September 25, 2013 Reply


You all appear to have forgotten that Fergie got off to a shit start…

Damian Garside - September 25, 2013 Reply

Yes, but this is a shit start with a Championship-winning squad. I wonder if any Champions ever started the season with 7pts from 5 games (after the 3pt win rule, at least).

mongoletsi - September 25, 2013 Reply

Actually I was thinking about this… pretty sure in 2005 a lot of folk were calling for Fergie’s head. Fickle lot, football fans!

Godders - September 25, 2013 Reply

Difference being that Fergie inherited a terrible team, whereas Moyes has just taken over the champions (by 11 points)!

JA - September 25, 2013 Reply

Let’s see,
Moyes brings in all his Everton backroom staff.
Spends all summer trying to sign two Everton players that were not needed (Baines), or the wrong type (Fellaini).
Moyes seemingly does not trust flair, said no to Thiago and Ozil, cool towards Kagawa and Zaha.
There is now no one to fight for funds at OT, Ed is a glazer patsy and Moyes is the new boy who wont rock the boat – after all he’s got his private jet to scout with.
Mediocrity beckons until the Glazers can be ousted.

twat - September 25, 2013 Reply

“After all, those two Rooney free-kicks and a Robin van Persie penalty are all United has to show for matches against Chelsea, Liverpool and City this season.”

It’s even worse – just the one Rooney free kick against those three, I’m afraid.
Good article, but I think you had every right to be even harsher on United’s players after Sunday.

Bill - September 25, 2013 Reply

My team for tonight:


MOYES IS GENIUS - September 29, 2013 Reply


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