Manchester United fans this week find themselves in alien and unfamiliar territory following a 2-1 defeat at home to West Brom – a game which saw them convincingly outplayed by the Baggies.
Alien in the sense that the Red Devils sit 12th in the Premier League table after six games – confirming their worst start to a domestic campaign since 1989 – but also unfamiliar as without Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm fans are becoming increasingly concerned about the future.
Defeat to Albion – United’s third in six games this year – has seen the champions drift to 13/2 to retain their title – putting them fourth in the race behind neighbours and favourites City (11/5) and London duo Chelsea (11/4) and Arsenal (7/2).
And while the easy fix – for the Fergie-loving army of followers at least – may be to jump on the #moyesout bandwagon, the younger Scot should be given a season and a half at the very least to prove he is the man to lead United into a successful new era.
So, if not a change in management, what do the Red Devils need to make a fist of this seemingly-doomed defence?
Firstly, Moyes has already identified that his squad is shy of at least two creative midfielders, so keeping in touch with the front runners until January is a priority.
This could be achieved by placing more faith in a number of players who have been somewhat marginalised under Moyes’ regime.
Rio Ferdinand has played in all seven of United’s game so far – conceding 10 goals in that time – while Jonny Evans, who had arguably his best season at Old Trafford last term – has been limited to sub and cup appearances.
Giving the Northern Irishman more time on the pitch and the chance to forge a partnership with Nemanja Vidic could prove the answer to both United’s short and long-term defensive issues and allow Ferdinand to get his much-needed rest between games.
A bigger problem, however, is the midfield.
The section of the team which over the years has boasted the likes of Scholes, Keane, Ronaldo and Giggs, is now shorn of both mettle and creativity.
It goes without saying that improvements rather than reinforcements are required during the winter window but until then a reshuffling of the pack could be in order.
In Shinji Kagawa, United already have the creativity they desire at their disposal, but offering the two-time Bundesliga winner a rotational role and playing him out of position when he is on is not going to see him influence games in the way he should.
Likewise Nani – who has just been treated to a lucrative new five-year deal – is unlikely to find the form to justify such a move when not playing week-in, week-out.
Bringing the Portuguese winger in for the increasingly out-of-ideas Ashley Young, starting Kagawa through the middle with Antonio Valenica and Michael Carrick making up the quartet would allow Wayne Rooney to concentrate on what he does best and subsequently ease the pressure on Robin van Persie.
So, while Moyes will be forced to dip into the January market – when the likes of Juan Mata and Luka Modric should top his list – getting the most of the existing squad would keep United in touch with those above and go some way to appeasing those already-disgruntled fans.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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