While it may seem unlikely due to recent events, Manchester United can pick up three points from even the meekest of opposition; I swear to you it is possible. You smart readers do not need me to tell you that the reigning Premier League champions have had a terrible time this season, but in case you need a reminder, they have been awful! Many of the players seem uninterested, David Moyes seems unable to cope with the pressure and Sir Alex Ferguson always looks to be hovering in the stands like a dictatorial hawk at every game.
Yet, there is hope. Yesterday’s “game” against Arsenal was pathetic, but it showed that the Red Devils could still compete with a team that for so long was top of the league; we won’t even get into Arsenal’s own struggles with depth. United have both Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie back from injury, and let’s not forget about the saintly Juan Mata now controlling their midfield. What they do not have, though, is structure. By way of injury or tactical tinkering, Manchester United have not sported the same starting lineup in consecutive games this season. With a little consistency a win can be achieved.
And that starts with the benching of one of Moyes’ key players, either Rooney or Van Persie. Why buy Mata if not to put him in the hole behind a lone striker? Why part with £37 million just to push him out wide? United already have wide players, and they are extremely ineffective. Ashley Young is on the turf more than he is on his feet, and Antonio Valencia is allergic to using his left boot.
What Moyes should do — in my humble opinion — is drop the 4-4-2 and take up a more fluid 4-2-3-1. Van Persie and Rooney must be played one at a time and rotated constantly to protect their egos. The attacking trio should consist of Shinji Kagawa on the left, Mata in the middle (dibs on TV show naming rights) and Adnan Januzaj on the right. Their creativity and license to roam would be so effective in the final third that the strikers wouldn’t know what to do with all the chances they are given.
Next, the pivot needs steel and players who can win the ball and quickly transition into attack. Michael Carrick and Phil Jones would be the best options for the rest of this season. Jones brings tough tackling while Carrick can play the right pass.
The back line will be decimated next year with the looming departures of Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra. Yet, they haven’t escaped yet, so the only-choice back four would consist of Rafael and Evra at the full back positions, and Vidic and either Chris Smalling or Jonny Evans in the center. Rio Ferdinand should stick to tweeting.
Manchester United’s next match will be away to Crystal Palace on Feb. 22. This will be a great opportunity to take three points and — sort of — salvage the rest of their season.