Ten things we learned about Manchester United in 2013
While Man United spent the second-half of 2013 trying to learn how to function without the managerial presence of former supreme leader Alex Ferguson, we spent it learning lessons of our own about the Red Devils.
Nooruddean Choudry, AKA Twitter's Bearded Genius, runs through 10 things he learned about Manchester United in 2013.
1. The boy's a keeper
De Gea is the bottle of red that Fergie left for Moyes and Round when they moved into his old gaff, to make up for the dry rot and creaky landing he neglected to mention. Having been allowed the time to falter and learn in previous years, de Gea is now playing like a seasoned pro at 23, still embryonic for a keeper. He’s been the one calming constant in an otherwise up-and-downy old season.
2. Rafael is golden
If the new coaching team at United were in any doubt as to who was best right-back at the club, then the last few months must surely removed all doubt. Smalling and Jones can ‘do a job’ there in the same way that a nightwatchman can defend his wicket; with difficulty, out of pure necessity and with zero adventure. Rafael on the other hand breathes life into the right side of the team with his flight, fight and hutzpah.
3. Phil Cool
For so long mocked and derided for the unfortunate gurns he pulls during matches, Phil Jones’ feet are finally stealing the spotlight away from his ridiculous face. No closer to having a set position in the team, he’s dealt with this by being mostly excellent wherever he’s played. Centre-half is surely his ultimate calling, but his mature and forceful cameos in midfield have very much begged to differ.
4. Thank Evans
All things must pass (apart from Chris Smalling to a teammate), and so there needs to be a resolution at the club that the Vidic-Ferdinand axis is glorious history. The new world order is and must be Jonny Evans. The Norn Irishman has overtaken his more celebrated colleagues as the main man in defence, and although not blessed with remarkable physique or noteworthy skill he’s just a wonderful pain in the arse of anyone who wants to score.
5. Broken wings
Is there any club in the world more synonymous with dazzling wing-play than Manchester United? Why then is the current lineup so beset with fraudulent wideboys and useless flankers? Valencia seems to have recalled some of his long-lost luster, but the others are either intermittently okay or frothy cut-inside nothingness.
Without genuine width you don't stretch defences, so they remain obstinately compact and narrow. That’s fine if you happen to have a ginger prince lying about, but…
6. Void of creation
Watching the superb ‘Class of 92’ documentary and less accomplished Chaddy Park YouTube clips, I won’t have been the only one who wistfully hoped for Paul Scholes to come out of retirement for a second time and once again walk into the starting XI. This team is aching, crying out for some invention and playmakery in midfield. It’s a weakness that requires urgent and expensive attention.
7. Strike action
You can keep all of your strikers happy some of the time, and some of your strikers happy all the time, but you can’t keep all of the time… of your strikers… oh I dunno. But Moyes seems to have trouble keeping each of his goalscorers sweet. If Rooney’s not in a huff then Robin’s got a cob on, or Hernandez is retweeting passive aggressively. If one or more continues to give him public jip, a high-profile departure may be required...
8. The kids are alright
Let’s be honest, it’s not been a great half-season at United. Nor should anyone have rightly expected otherwise following Fergie’s departure and a cack-handled transfer window. But the future at least seems bright. De Gea (23), Welbeck (23), Jones (21) and Rafael (23) all continue excite with precocious maturity, whilst loaned out talent such as Nick Powell (19), Jesse Lingard (21) and Tom Lawrence (19) are creating buzz elsewhere.
9. Januzaj Januzaj Januzaj
That being said, the one jewel in United’s slightly faded crown is undoubtedly Adnan Januzaj. It’s difficult not to get overexcited about a youngster who at 18 looks anything but raw. The poise and balance in his movement; the effortless grace with which he glides past opposition lunges as if they were choreographed; the end product that takes others half a career to perfect - everything points to a greatness that United must match.
10. Fergie’s crime
Finally, the one uncomfortable truth that this season has taught us is that Sir Alex Ferguson’s legacy was less than perfect. There’s an odd notion amongst certain sections of United’s support that Fergie is beyond reproach; that to criticise him in any way is blasphemy. Is it not - neither is it ungrateful or disloyal – it’s pure reason. The current squad has clear and obvious weaknesses that need fixing.
The truth is that Ferguson left David Moyes with an uneven squad that only a genius could make champions. Moyes must start again.