Slowly but surely, you get the feeling that we're being eased into the new Manchester United. If we manage to digest 2 home defeats in a row, you imagine that we shall have fully morphed into a mid-table side. There was a time, not so far ago, this scenario that we find ourselves in was unthinkable. Whereas we've faced sides with the venom to easily inflict 2 straight home defeats in succession, it was out of sheer will than skill that we managed to avoid such a scenario.
In fact, it could be said that comparing last season's title winners with the current side is a tad unfair for the simple fact that it was the will of the team that got United over the line in many of the fixtures last season, so much so that going behind in games was of little concern compared to this season. After conceding the two goals at Old Trafford this week, you got the immediate feeling that we were not going to recover from those positions. Therein lies the brute genius that is Sir Alex Ferguson.
It therefore becomes a tad unfair to expect the current side to perform as well as they did last season since the once vital ingredient that made them champions is not in the mix. It then calls into perspective what the Moyes era should be about.
David Moyes has inherited a side that plays to the tune of the will of the manager. In the absence of that will, he's got to get the team to adapt to play in a different way from the approach hitherto used. It speaks volumes that in his pre-match press conference, Alan Pardew was sure of how United would play and turned the question to how Newcastle would play to counter it. The traditional wing-play approach of wingers and full backs a like has been utilised as a mode of attack so often by United that they hardly play through teams anymore. It is no secret that our best attacking moves have always involved spraying the ball into the box and hopping for cross into the box. That approach is perhaps the most basic and easiest to defend against. All you have to do is win the header in the box and that snuffs out the attack.
We need o vary the play, that bit more to avoid being easily predictable by opponents. The modern European style is to play a midfield three of only creative players who can occasionally take to the by-line to put in a cross. The idea is that the ingenuity of three creative players in the middle is too unpredictable to effectively plan for. It's what makes Dortmund, Manchester City and (this season) Arsenal that much difficult to plan for. We obviously do not have to completely do away with our wing play but a variation would help add a lot to our attack.
The other aspect of our play that Moyes might have to work on is the speed at which United play these days in the league. We've been slow in our build up to attacks so much so that we've allowed teams to re-organise in time to defend our attacks. What made the Old Trafford love our wing play is the fact that our wingers were always speedy and fast in attacks so much so that we were always a threat on the counter attack. It will help to have the speed of our play increased.
In the end of season projections, the latest defeat leaves us with a total of 56 points in May which is only good enough for 8th based on current projections and effectively out of the European places altogether. The top 4 is increasingly becoming harder to get given that it is now occupied by sides that will more often than not get maximum points from here to the end of the season. Unless United can dig in and fight for the shirt, this season could yet turn out to be our worst nightmare, if it hasn't already been.