Manchester United: What is going on at the Theatre of Dreams?

“The Theatre of Dreams” coats the inside of Old Trafford, a simple quote which is all that is needed to induce the memory of celebrating League titles, and a succession of victories and startling performances.

It’s hard to believe that less than a year ago, euphoria of the 20th league title in the History of Manchester United Football Club, accompanied with tearful goodbyes in knowledge of the most successful and longest serving manager of the clubs history, had reached his own cut off point, and decided to call it a day.

Skip forward 10 months later, and Manchester United uncharacteristically sit 7th after 26 games of a 38 game season. That statement is enough to course concern.

It was 4PM on a dull Sunday, and as any neutral does when their supported team isn’t playing, I decided to watch the Manchester United v Fulham game.

Manchester United were undoubtedly the better team throughout the game but failed to convert numerous chances they were creating. But conversion of the chances wasn’t the problem, the type of chances United were creating was un-creative and lacked tactical understanding.

Everyone knew that when Sir Alex Ferguson came to leave the club, it would be the hardest job in the world, so when David Moyes was named as successor, eyebrows were raised that a more high profile manager with more success wasn’t deemed more applicable by the upper echelons of Manchester United.

A team with 31 shots and 75.4% of the possession that isn’t winning games is unacceptable, but when you have the 2 year leading top goal scorer in your team, you’d expect to be fully above board and scoring goals left, right and centre, wouldn’t you?
See the problem is in the tactics, not the players.

David Moyes’s fixation of traditional wing play through an arguably mediocre winger who has had questionable form since joining the club, isn’t the answer. Especially when you’re star striker Robin Van Persie, has scored 9 headed goals since the recording of Premier League statistics.

Looking at all the available options for Manchester United’s number 9 position also, i don’t think you could class any of them as a “Target Man” really either.

To add insult to injury, the signing of Juan Mata, a very good one I may add, becomes more and more redundant the more this type of tactic is put into practice, leaving him to basically become a central midfielder, and not using his unquestionable ability to glide past players and knock balls into pockets of space for the likes of Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie to slot past a keeper.

With players like Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney, Shinji Kagawa and now the discovery of Adnan Januzaj all being able to make magic in the channels and in central positions, it seems like Moyes rejects to play to the teams strengths and obvious depth in this position and favours wide play, why? Only he knows.

Unfortunately there is a trend, in the majority of games lost by Manchester United, the highest pass combination has been between a a fullback and their wide counter part, either Evra to Ashley Young or Rafael to Valencia .

This lack of creativity, playing this style of football against the bigger teams in and around Europe, for example the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich would have you picked apart and embarrassed by someone who could exploit David Moyes’s over-dependency on wing play.

Everyone knows Manchester United’s team needs strengthening, that is easy to see. They need to improve in the centre of midfield to help release the burden of the wide players and the aging fullbacks.

Ilkay Gundogan is, for me, unquestionably is the best signing they can make. Almost the perfect midfielder, making forward play look effortless, and still being able to use his mental ability to read the game and break up play efficiently, despite his relatively lack of physicality which is associated with breaking up play within the English game.

However, looking at Kagawa’s questionable time at Manchester United and the past Dortmund players that have moved onto bigger clubs and have come back with nothing to show for, would this be off-putting to a move?

Only time will tell, for now though, Manchester United is still a massive club, but it needs to retain that title for the fans and for the people that built that reputation from the bottom-up, and more importantly the 44 that lost their lives in the Munich Air Disaster, and to give substance again to that little quote, sprawled across Old Trafford.


Written by James Clark

Follow James on Twitter @JamesMRClark

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