It just gets worse for Manchester United. After the most traumatic first half of the season in years, United stand on the brink of UEFA Champions League elimination at the hands of….Olympiakos of Greece!
United were handed the easiest draw of the round of 16, but they have made it very difficult for themselves by losing 2-0 in the first leg. So far, United’a malaise has been greeted with patience and understanding by the fans and the Old Trafford politburo, but time may be running out for Moyes – this is a club that cannot do without Champions League football.
Decline has set in Salford and it’s not just because Moyes might just be the wrong man. His squad has suddenly looked very average and people are looking to move on. That’s not something United have been used to for many years, but a combination of the ageing of the guard and unrealized potential has transformed United into a team of also-rans. Did Ferguson know that a rebuild was needed and didn’t have the energy to do it all again? It’s just possible.
All over the squad, there are alarming signs of inadequacy – just ask Roy Keane. In defence, Smalling, Ferdinand (time to go, Rio) and Italy-bound Vidic all look vulnerable, in midfield, Valencia, Cleverley, Carrick and Young look very mid-table and that leaves just Wayne Rooney and RVP to shoulder the responsibility. No wonder they were desperate to pay Rooney £300k a week to stop him moving to Chelsea!
Moyes has the hang-dog look of a man who wonders what he’s landed in and how he can get himself out of it. It may be only a matter of time before the whispers in the Old Trafford corridors get louder and United decide to install someone to “help” their hapless manager. Don’t rule out Ferguson emerging somewhere to help “transition” Moyes. It happened with Busby and his successors.
United cannot, will-not, tolerate failure beyond this season – and they may not even put up with one potless campaign, which it undoubtedly will be in 2013-14. Moyes may limp on until summer, but with a major overhaul of the playing squad now a priority, it is questionable whether United’s owners will trust a manager who has lost his way with huge sums of money.
United may yet turn their UEFA Champions League tie around, but the portents are not good. Just look at the losses they have suffered this season to understand how deep the problem has become: Swansea beat them at home in the FA Cup; Sunderland won over two legs in the League Cup; home defeats at the hands of Everton (first since 1992), Stoke (1984), Newcastle (1972) and West Bromwich (1978); and a 4-1 drubbing at Manchester City.
At any other major club, Moyes would have already been sacked, but Manchester United adopt a more longer-term view….we think. Ferguson wasn’t always successful, people have tended to forget that it took from 1986 to 1993 to win the title and 1986 to 1990 to win anything. Moyes will be reassured by those statistics although life has changed dramatically since the pre-premier days.