Manchester United: Moyes’ To-Do List

Feature Image available under Creative Commons (c) Jason Gulledge

Feature Image available under Creative Commons (c) Jason Gulledge

After the emotional retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson and subsequent arrival of David Moyes to begin a new chapter in Manchester United’s illustrious history – the real hard work begins now. Here’s my breakdown of the five key issues keeping Moyes awake at night.

Wayne Rooney:

If the latest reports regarding ‘Rooneygate’ are to be believed, then apparently he will remain with the champions next season, however Moyes can’t afford to tick this one off the list just yet.

If he stays, I fear it will have more to do with a lack of interest from Premier League rivals or La Liga’s big two, despite prospective interest from the now oil-rich French league.

So even if Rooney remains at Old Trafford, Moyes will still have a job to do in order to help his once teenage prodigy get his head down and focus on committing to Manchester United.

The manager will need to be sure Rooney is present in mind as well as body so as to get the best out of him during his peak years as a professional footballer, and, in turn, maintain the harmony of the dressing room.

Moyes must also ascertain Rooney’s best playing position, and if his formation can’t accommodate him, then we may yet see a big-name departure from Manchester United this summer.

Under-performing midfielders:

It is a huge credit to Sir Alex Ferguson that he essentially strolled to his final league success last season, despite under-performing midfielders.

The obvious culprits include Nani and Ashley Young, who have both failed to live up to their respective expectations since arriving in Manchester. Young had a promising start to his United career, however he has since been hampered by both injury and frustrating inconsistency.

Nani too has had a campaign blighted by injury, offering only flashes of brilliance. Many expected him to carry the ‘Ronaldo’ mantel but he has fallen painfully short since his compatriot’s departure. With many potential suitors this summer and a want to depart, my feeling is that Moyes should cash in on Nani while his stock is high; the incoming Zaha providing a ready-made and exciting replacement.

With Paul Scholes having retired and veteran Ryan Giggs expected to fulfil only cameo appearances in the senior team next season, Moyes will also have to bolster his central midfield ranks this summer. A team of Manchester United’s stature deserves a world-class midfielder; actual or potential.

The names of Kevin Strootman and Marouane Fellaini have been strongly hinted at over the last few weeks, with the latter having an obvious connection with the new boss. Fellaini would provide a touch of power and muscle to the middle of the park, complimenting the ever-improving Carrick’s composure, however they may face competition with Arsenal for his signature. Anderson must surely be shown the exit door after yet another mediocre contribution last term.

2013/14 is also a big season for Shinji Kagawa, who either side of injuries last season showed the technique and flair capable of unlocking defences and winning games. If he can stay clear of the treatment table, he can deliver dictation and drive to an already potent attack.

Defence in transition:

Despite being regarding as a fan’s favourite from many sections of Old Trafford, Rio Ferdinand is another former stalwart who has long since enjoyed his peak years. It is up to Moyes to add vigour and energy to this famous Premier League rear-guard – and also fitness – as his defence finds itself in a transitional phase.

The progress of Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling has only been steady, and Phil Jones is dangerously close to falling into the dreaded ‘Mr Versatile’ category, having not been able to stamp his authority in one position. Jones and Smalling found themselves struggling for fitness multiple times last year, which will surely worry the new manager, as well as the recent injury history of captain Nemanja Vidic.

Despite the obvious defensive talent in their ranks, I still feel the Reds require a touch of class and agility at the back to compliment the brute strength of Vidic. Argentinian centre-back Ezequiel Garay has recently entered numerous transfer gossip columns not for the first time, and the Benfica man may well fit the bill. De Gea proved to me last season that his development in England has taken significant strides towards propelling him closer to the world-class bracket after a shaky start.

Evra has been tipped to leave for Monaco, with many expecting Goodison Park favourite Leighton Baines to join up with his former manager. Baines echoes Evra’s marauding style up the left flank – and even became the most prolific chance creator within Europe’s top five leagues last season – so would have little adapting to do.

Rafael was by far the most improved player for me at Old Trafford last season. Beside his obvious attacking talent which saw him notch three Premier League goals in 2011/12, the young Brazilian showed a solid defensive quality to his game, proving he can also be relied upon in the big games. The Reds are also reported to have added twenty year old Uruguayan right-back Guillermo Varela to the squad, providing Rafael with some healthy competition.

Develop and nurture youth:

David Moyes has a strong history with nurturing the finest products of the Everton academy. The likes of Wayne Rooney, of course, as well as Jack Rodwell, Ross Barkley and even powerhouse Victor Anichebe were all developed by The Scot and drafted into the Goodison first XI.

At Manchester United, the academy is one of the most talented in the world and they have also recruited very highly-rated youngsters. But potential doesn’t guarantee world class talent, and without the right balance of exposure and correct nurturing, talent may never be fulfilled.

I’m concerned that since Robin van Persie’s arrival, Danny Welbeck’s first team opportunities have been stunted and he has been unable to capitalise on the excellent form that saw him play a key role in England’s Euro 2012 adventure. Fabio has just completed a strong developmental season, albeit being relegated with QPR. Although after a season of top level football, we may see him become an important squad player as the club prepare for serious challenges across four competitions, along with fellow full-back Alexander Büttner.

Tom Cleverley has showed glimpses of his talent, but for me, he has really not pushed on as many expected him to. I don’t think he would have accrued the number of England caps had Wilshere not been injured and even in the Premier League he has failed to live up to early promise. Consistent match-time may prove crucial, although he will have to up his game to earn it.

Moyes must find a way of giving his young talent opportunity in the first team or be prepared to send them out on loan; otherwise we could see a batch of highly promising players reduced to simply average.

Finish in the top three:

This may seem like a huge step backwards, and many Reds fans may expect to retain their Premier League crown, which is more than understandable. However, the magnitude of replacing the greatest manager in English football, let alone the most successful manager of a club, is a more than daunting task.

I think finishing outside the automatic Champions League places would be a mini-disaster and set him off on a nervous and unsteady footing; however a top three finish would signify stability, relative continuity and an excellent platform to push off from the following season. His tenure is expected to be a long and successful one, and fans will need to display the patience and understanding for such a protracted project and for the Scot to make his own mark.

Next season is set to be arguably the most challenging Moyes will face in his entire management career.


  1. where's_the_white_ball_going? says:

    He also needs to get a haircut and fix those bug eyes.

  2. I think it’s going to be a harder year for Moyes than many are predicting, particularly with Mourinho and Pellegrini, men with more experience at Champions League level clubs, refreshing the big rivals.

    I’d agree that a solid top three finish could end up being a respectable finish.

    • I agree, it would be a daunting task for any top manager to follow SAF, let alone Moyes who hasn’t the experience of winning competitions and playing regularly against European sides.

      With the managerial shakeup towards the top of the league, it’s certainly shaping up to be one of the most open and exciting seasons in the Premier League in 2013/14.

  3. Ihiitthebackofnetz says:

    Does it seem slightly odd to anyone else that several of the big teams have at least one defender playing out of position for parts of the season? This is in reference to Phil Jones being in danger of falling into the ‘mr versatile’ category. I guess most teams at Premier league level want to buy players who can cover other positions in case of injury, but you would think teams with the infrastructure of Manchester United would buy at least one more out and out centre back or holding midfielder. Maybe not world class, but good enough to maintain consistent form in the EPL and cup competitions. When you look back at the last few years of transfer activity, it does seem that those CB rumours circulate for a long time, and clubs are almost more reluctant to let them go than other positions. Like Hangeland to Arsenal, Jagielka possibly moving, or Ashley Williams of Swansea being linked with a number of clubs. Even Barcelona play Mascherano (one of the best Defensive midfielders around) at Centre Back. You would think with the amount of money spent on attacking talent, managers might think about buying some defensive cover, or at least trying to incorporate more Youth team defenders into the squad. Maybe it is more important to appear as if you are competing with the other top teams in the league and simultaneously appease fans by making bids for big name attacking players.


  1. […] David Moyes fan, but their pre-season transfer plans are, very publically, not progressing well. I’m sure the intention was to give Moyes a marquis signing to create a sense of momentum. But the back and forth on Fabregas, Thiago, Rooney etc. has created the opposite sense – of a […]

  2. […] Read the original Moyes’ To-Do List article here […]

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