5 Manchester United Storylines To Follow As Season’s End Nears
Manchester United: 5 Storylines to Watch as Season Concludes
Aside from qualifying for the knockout rounds of the UEFA Champions League, there hasn't been much about the 2013-14 season that has been normal for Manchester United. They have already lost four Premier League matches at home, more than the club usually drops in any full season. Stuck on just 40 points through 24 matches, Manchester United not only isn't in the title race, but the Red Devils are seven points behind rival Liverpool for fourth place in the league, the last spot from which an English club can qualify for the 2014-15 UEFA Champions League.
At 15 points behind Premier League leaders Arsenal with just 14 matches to play, there is no way Manchester United will win the league this season. Consolation silverware in the form of the FA Cup or the Capital One (League) Cup are both long gone as well. The Champions League is Manchester United's best chance at a trophy this season, and given the gulf in form between United and European powers such as Barcelona, Bayern Munich and rivals in their own country, predicting such a title run by United is folly at best.
None of which means there aren't reasons to pay attention to the club over the final few months of the season. United hasn't been in this situation in the Premier League era. While the club is a solid 18 points north of the relegation zone, a mid-table finish doesn't change the fact that, as always, there are storylines swirling around Old Trafford.
Here are five storylines to watch as the season comes to a close for once mighty Manchester United.
5. Goalkeeping of David de Gea
While a truly awful blunder against Sunderland helped knock Manchester United out of the Capital One Cup, David de Gea is a quality shot-stopper, and that includes penalties as well. However, United's problems across the rest of the pitch have an effect on de Gea, who at times has to be perfect for them to win. de Gea shouldn't be under that kind of pressure given the club's attacking options when healthy. United's consistently lackluster defending also does de Gea no favors.
4. How Much Can Juan Mata Help?
It may tell you all you need to know about Manchester United's season that rivals Chelsea, currently third in the Premier League with 53 points, were willing to sell creative midfielder Juan Mata to Manchester United. Though with a roughly $60 million price tag, the move was anything but charitable. Mata may be the player that helps shore up United's midfield if used correctly by David Moyes. There's doubts over whether that will happen, and United have already dropped a 2-1 league match to Stoke City with Mata in the lineup. He needs to contribute and do so quickly and often if Manchester United are to recover at all.
3. Will the Players Stick Around Through Adversity?
Players have traditionally wanted to come play for Manchester United because it was one of the world's biggest clubs, it won trophies regularly, and it was always a factor in the Champions League. While United is still a big club, it's very likely that there will be no trophies next year and barring a major rally, they might be enjoying swanky Thursday nights in the Europa League next season. Will top talent like Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, de Gea, etc., want to be a part of the revolution, or will they escape seeking Champions League soccer?
2. Can Anyone on the Club Play Defense At All?
Manchester United's defense is pathetic. There were signs of that in recent years when Sir Alex Ferguson still managed the club, but every defensive mistake this season has been personified with this being Moyes' first year following the Manchester United legend. It's almost a given that United must score than 2-3 goals to win, but there's little doubt that somehow, no matter the caliber of the opponent, United will find a way to gift 1-2 more goals to opponents. This has been particularly true in Premier League away matches, where United have conceded 19 goals in 12 games.
1. Is David Moyes Really Suited to Manage Manchester United?
Fears before the season were that the former Everton manager who always had little to no transfer money to work with would come to a big club and continue to get Everton-esque results. In reality, Moyes hasn't even been that successful, since United are seventh with 40 points. Without him, the Toffees are fifth with 45 and beat Manchester United at Old Trafford, 1-0. It will be an ultimate disgrace for Moyes should Everton qualify for the Champions League while United settle for the Europa League or worse. In the league, United are a hapless 1-5-2 against the six teams ahead of them. United have also dropped three matches against teams below them in the table, results that Moyes surely can't afford given his failures against top competition. Such results won't be tolerated for very long.