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As opposed to writing individual match reports throughout the season..

I thought I would let the dust settle before jumping into the ring and throwing punches left right and centre on how the new look Manchester United and defending Champions of England have begun the season under new boss David Moyes.

Ed Woodward is under scrutiny for his failings this summer

Ed Woodward is under scrutiny for his failings this summer

In truth it has been a stuttering start which many could have foreseen before a ball had even been kicked in anger. If the shambles which was the transfer window was anything to go by then United were going to be fighting a very difficult battle throughout the season. “Luckily” for United fans the incompetent figure of Ed Woodward is confined to Chief Executive role, which is bad enough in itself, and he has nothing to do with the team or the way United play. Looking at his performance throughout the summer it is laughable at how badly he managed to collapse almost every TRANSFER deal he was involved in. I write transfer in that fashion as his business dealings off the pitch this summer were actually commendable with the club signing a number of high profile sponsorship deals across the globe in particular the Middle East and Asian markets which will undoubtedly generate large amounts of revenue for the club. However, titles and trophies aren’t decided on how many sponsorship deals you have in place (otherwise United would almost certainly be champions of everything for a very long time), they are of course decided on the pitch and Woodward’s bumbling attempts to close deals really put David Moyes in an awkward situation.

Cesc Fabregas was always an unrealistic target for many fans

Cesc Fabregas was always an unrealistic target for many fans

It was clear that Moyes had targets in mind when it came to transfers and he had pin pointed central midfield as an area which rightly needed strengthening if we were to defend our title this season. The Thiago “deal” was one which was rumoured to have been set up by David Gill and Sir Alex months before both had left their positions at the club however when his former manager Pep Guardiola expressed an interest in taking him to Bayern there was only one outcome to this particular deal. So, United moved on and the Fabregas saga began, which was where alarm bells started to ring for me as I’m sure was the same with many United fans. Not only is the player an ex-Arsenal hero who has already stated if he was to leave Barca it would be back to the Gunners, but he is playing for his childhood club with whom he fought very hard to get back to in the summer of 2011. The public manner of United’s approach was unbelievable, especially when United fans are so used to hearing very little from the club when it came to transfer deals under Sir Alex. Yet in this instance the club, spearheaded by the aforementioned Woodward made a very public approach for Cesc with a derisory bid of £30m which was predictably rejected and subsequently followed by several more bids which were again made very public and weren’t even close to being the correct value of the player.

Marouane Fellaini: Signed at 10.59pm

From here onwards things took a distinct turn for the worse with a £38m joint bid being made for Everton’s Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini which again was made very public and was immediately rejected by Everton with the club stating is was a “derisory” offer, which was fair enough seeing as United had already bid £18m for Baines and Fellaini had a £23m+ buy out clause at the time.

Rumours spread that the club were in talks with Real Madrid over potential advances for Luka Modric and Mesut Ozil which again came to an abrupt end. With neither of the aforementioned transfers ever likely to happen, United fans began to feel nothing was ever going to happen in the transfer market and this outcome was only minutes away from being a reality.

A farcical attempt to lure Ander Herrera away from Bilbao ended in complete shambles and embarrassment with United claiming three “imposters” had hijacked the bid (the truth being that these men were a team of lawyers hired by the club to complete a deal which would have taken at least a month to complete, NOT 24 hours) and if it wasn’t for Fellaini handing in a written transfer request to Everton thus taking a huge hit to his own pocket, he would still be playing at Goodison instead of completing a £27.5m transfer at 10:59pm on transfer deadline day.

Fabio Coentrao: Left too late

Fabio Coentrao: Left too late

So the window slammed shut at 11:00pm with Fellaini only just signing on the dotted line and yet all was not finished. It emerged that United had made a last ditch attempt to sign Real Madrid full back Fabio Coentrao on a season long loan deal only to realise they had left it far too late. Madrid were more than happy to allow the player to leave if a suitable replacement could be found in time. However, due to the lack of notice given to Madrid, the player Carlo Ancelotti had marked as a replacement for the Portuguese, Guilherme Siqueira had already joined Benfica and was already on the plane. So this left the deal in tatters and yet another failed attempt by Woodward to close a transfer deal. Now I know what you are all thinking and of course no transfer window would be complete without United making an obligatory bid for Wesley Sneijder and we didn’t disappoint as Galatasaray confirmed they had received a bid for the Dutch midfielder earlier in the week. Oh dear.

Adnan Januzaj has impressed so far

Adnan Januzaj has impressed so far

So moving on to matters on the pitch where United had an indifferent pre-season with their tour of the far east and Australia with 2 wins, 2 losses and a draw. One high point to come out of the tour was the emergence of young talent and in particular Jesse Lingard and Adnan Januzaj who came into the squad and performed well with Lingard ending up top scorer on the tour. Januzaj also showed his quality with some excellent performances throughout the tour and gave the manager another option in that midfield three behind the striker. There was of course the whole Rooney situation where United’s number 10 was subject to numerous bids from Chelsea and several “injuries” which kept him out of the tour and subsequent friendly fixtures including the Community Shield. The club, commendably remained strong over Rooney, insisting the player wasn’t for sale and the injury he had was genuine and he would be ready for the new season.

A trademark Robin van Persie finish

A trademark Robin van Persie finish

When it came to the season’s opener David Moyes was thrown right in at the deep end with a tricky away trip to the Liberty Stadium to face last season’s League Cup winners Swansea who boasted a host of new signings and of course their star man Michu. Many United fans would have been forgiven for thinking this was a tough opener and a point would have been respectable given how tough a place Swansea has turned out to be in the Premier League. With Rooney starting on the bench questions were again raised about his future and again batted away by an increasingly frustrated David Moyes. It took United and last seasons top scorer just 34 minutes to get things going as Robin van Persie converted with a well improvised volley before Danny Welbeck doubled the lead 2 minutes later. After the break David Moyes brought Wayne Rooney into the match (to an excellent reception from the travelling away fans) and United continued their dominance as RVP bagged his second with an absolute rocket form outside the box. Wilfried Bony bagged a Premier League debut goal to get the Swans on the scoresheet however the game and result were rounded off with a sumptuous lob from Danny Welbeck after an excellent ball from Rooney. All in all an excellent start for the new manager and a potential banana skin avoided.

Daniel Sturridge's goal was enough for Liverpool

Daniel Sturridge’s goal was enough for Liverpool

Next up came the first home game of the season and again United and Moyes were thrown it at the deep end as they welcomed the “Special One” and his Chelsea side to Old Trafford. In all honesty the less said about this one the better as Chelsea started the game without a recognised striker and a packed midfield whilst United handed Rooney his first start of the season (again to an excellent reception for the fans) and he didn’t disappoint being one of the only highlights in a dull 0-0 under the lights at Old Trafford. Another tough one was to follow with a trip down the road to arch rivals Liverpool and a fixture which United haven’t performed particularly well in of late despite picking up a couple of victories. The game didn’t get off to the best start and it took only 4 minutes for in form striker Daniel Sturridge to capitalise on some sloppy defending from a corner as he nodded in from inside the 6 yard box to give Liverpool the lead. United never got into the game and Liverpool were able to comfortably hold on to their lead, never really looking threatened until a late appearance from Nani gave United a small spark and forced Mignolet into a first save of any note with a rasping 25 yard strike. However, United couldn’t find any route to goal and Moyes succumbed in his first derby match with the old enemy, continuing a personal drought against Liverpool and leaving United in a tricky situation in the league with the Manchester derby fast approaching.

Wayne Rooney made it 2-0

Wayne Rooney made it 2-0

The second home game of the season followed for United and newly promoted Crystal Palace made the trip to the North West to face a United side desperate to return to winning ways and get back in amongst the early front runners. United controlled the first half and it was Ashley Young who was the main focus for attention, sadly not for his footballing skills but his acrobatics as he picked up a booking for very unconvincing fall in the box which sparked a media frenzy in the days to come! Young was again at the heart of controversy on the stroke of half time as he raced through only to be brought down by Kagisho Dikgacoi who conceded the penalty and was subsequently sent off for his troubles. However on second viewing the contact with Young came some way outside the penalty area before he tumbled after crossing the white line. Now this isn’t to say that he dived as there was clearly contact from Dikgacoi and it was a foul with the offence which brought down Young being committed inside the area however the ambiguity of the offence is what caused questions to be asked. Van Persie stepped up and stroked home the penalty to give United the lead on half time. United started the second half strongly and Young was unable to capitalise when he fired a one-on-one straight at the keeper but the second goal always seemed likely.

Marouane Fellaini makes an Old Trafford bow

Marouane Fellaini makes an Old Trafford bow

On the hour mark David Moyes introduced Marouane Fellaini to the Old Trafford crowd as the big Belgian made his debut alongside compatriot Adnan Januzaj who had impressed during pre-season. Januzaj added a spark down the left and caused numerous problems for the Palace full back in a performance which has been compared to a certain Cristiano Ronaldo who he made his debut versus Bolton all those years ago, I wonder what happened to him…. Fellaini also made an impact and had a powerful drive palmed away by Speroni in the Palace goal. It was Januzaj however who had a hand in the second as he darted in from the left only to be felled 25 yards out. Wayne Rooney stood over the ball and curled a sumptuous free kick over the wall and into the corner, 2-0 and game over.

Wayne Rooney makes it 1-0

Wayne Rooney makes it 1-0

Another debut for Moyes followed shortly after as he took charge of his first Champions League Group game as a manager with what looked like a tricky tie against Sami Hyypia’s Bayer Leverkusen. The Germans, who had started the season well and sat 3rd in the table boasted some strong names including Lars Bender, Simon Rolfes and Stefan Keissling as well as emerging talent Sidney Sam and would be no pushovers especially with ex-Liverpool skipper Hyypia in charge. United started well however and looked every inch like the team who had strolled to the title last season taking a deserved lead after only 22 minutes when Rooney continued his goal scoring form and smartly converted a Patrice Evra cross, although questions were raised against Antonio Valencia who conveniently stumbled into the goal keeper on the line just as the shot came in. The goal stood and United continued to apply pressure without adding to their tally. The second half began in similar fashion and the home side should have doubled their lead when Rooney rounded the keeper and was left with a gaping goal and an unmarked Robin van Persie to aim at. He managed neither and his cross/shot rolled harmlessly across the face of goal and out for a goal kick with many of the OT faithful rubbing their eyes in disbelief. In true footballing fashion United were made to pay for this miss almost instantly as Leverkusen skipper Simon Rolfes curled in an absolute beauty, via a deflection from Michael Carrick and silenced the crowd.

Antonio Valencia finished off a great move to make it 4-1

Antonio Valencia finished off a great move to make it 4-1

This sparked United into action again and it took five minutes to get back in front. Some excellent work from Valencia down the right followed by a lovely cross was met beautifully by RVP whose volley flew through the despairing hands of the keeper and put United back on top. The third followed soon after and it was a landmark goal for Rooney who capitalised on a defensive mix up after a long goal kick from De Gea completely bypassed the defenders and the United number 10 slammed home his 200th goal for the club. With that goal Rooney joined an elite club consisting of Dennis Law, Jack Rowley and Sir Bobby Charlton in reaching the double ton for United. It was four shortly after this as a classic Manchester United counter attack culminated in Antonio Valencia crashing home from the edge of the area in a sweeping move similar to that of Wayne Rooney versus Bolton back in 06/07 season. The visitors managed to pull back a scrappy goal in the dying minutes but they were well and truly put to the sword by United who topped the group after matchday 1.

Yaya Toure doubled the lead on half time

Yaya Toure doubled the lead on half time

Back to the League and another huge fixture looming as United travelled down the road to the noisy neighbours for the first Manchester Derby of the season. After a strong win in Europe United headed into the fixture with confidence and were looking to emulate last seasons success at the Etihad. However, things started badly and City took the lead after only 16 minutes when Antonio Valencia failed to track the run of Pablo Zabaleta who crossed for Sergio Aguero to convert a superb volley giving David de Gea no chance. The hosts continued to press United and were rarely put under pressure with United again failing to turn up for a big game. The first half came to a miserable end as slack marking from a corner left Yaya Toure of all people unmarked to tap in the second and double the lead. Many including myself expected there to be a reaction in the second half as no doubt David Moyes will have unleashed hell upon the players and rightly so, yet the second half started just as lack lustre as the first. This time it was Aguero who was left unforgivably open and he connected with a Samir Nasri cross and slotted the ball through De Gea who could have done better. City weren’t finished yet and three minutes later added a fourth with Jesus Navas crossing deep and Samir Nasri firing in on the half volley. An abject display all round and the team really looked a class apart from their cross city rivals who swept over United with worrying ease. However despite the torturous display on the pitch travelling fans proved why United are one of the best supported teams in the world as they sang until the bitter end much to the surprise of the home fans. They did have something to cheer though as Rooney again got his name on the scoresheet with a truly excellent free kick which he curled into the top corner with three minutes remaining. Final score 4-1 to City and United looking in dire straights, especially with a League Cup tie against Liverpool to follow.

Javier Hernandez lost his marker to score

Javier Hernandez lost his marker to score

Things didn’t get any easier for the new manager as after the drubbing at City there came a league cup tie versus Liverpool who had already chalked up a victory over United earlier in the season. Liverpool also welcomed back star man Luis Suarez after his 10 game ban for biting Branislav Ivanovic at the end of last term. The visitors fielded a very strong side with Suarez, Sturridge, Moses and Gerrard all starting and Rodgers clearly and rightly felt United were there for the taking. Moyes also fielded a strong side which many of us aren’t used too in the League Cup with the likes of De Gea, Kagawa, Rooney and Hernandez all starting. The match was exciting from the off and United had their edge back. Liverpool created the better chances however and a sublime bit of skill from Suarez to pluck to ball out of the air was thwarted by De Gea who bravely smothered at the Uruguayans feet, had Suarez been match fit he surely would have finished this with his usual aplomb. The match stayed at 0-0 with United having several attempts closed down and half time arrived without the hosts having really tested Simon Mignolet. After the break United came out with purpose and Nani immediately won a corner in front of the Stretford End. Rooney swung the ball into the box and Hernandez lost Enrique with ease to steer the ball home passed Mignolet and give United the lead. The visitors had chances to draw level with the best falling to Jordan Henderson whose attempted side foot shot drifted harmlessly wide when he should have done better. United saw the game through and Moyes had his first win against Liverpool for a good while and revenge for the league defeat was claimed and a home tie against Norwich was the reward in the fourth round.

Morgan Amalfitano with a cheeky finish

Morgan Amalfitano with a cheeky finish

With the team getting back to winning ways with a spirit lifting win versus Liverpool in midweek, United welcomed West Brom to Old Trafford in a match many expected the home side to dominate. This sadly didn’t come to pass as United slipped to their first home defeat of the season and their third already in the League this term. West Brom played their hosts off the park for most of the game with Moyes choosing to rest players with the Shakhtar tie obviously in the back of his mind. Vidic didn’t make the squad and Van Persie dropped to the bench as did Fellaini and Welbeck. Baggies new signing Stephane Sessegnon dominated in the middle and they took the lead early in the second half with a superb solo effort from Morgan Amalfitano as he left Ferdinand for dead and cheekily dinked the ball over De Gea. It was Wayne Rooney again who drew United level with another free-kick effort as his cross bypassed everyone and drifted into to the far corner for a fairly fortuitous goal.

Saido Berahino bags the winner

Saido Berahino bags the winner

This didn’t halt West Brom however as shortly after Jonas Olsson crashed a header against the bar before 20 year old England U21 star Saido Berahino lashed home from 20 yards on the 70 minute mark. United were unable to find a way through the stubborn Baggies defence and another disappointing performance got what it deserved as Steve Clarke and his team left with all the spoils. A poor display from United who looked slow and sluggish and were second to every ball in the middle of the park which is something which was unheard of under Sir Alex. As Gary Neville pointed out in the week, United didn’t have that intensity we are so used too even after the equalising goal. West Brom were given time on the ball and space to run into with players not closing down or not being switched on to the impending threat. After this result United now sit 12th in the League with 7 points from 6 games having suffered their worst start in 25 years and worst start ever in a Premier League season.

Danny Welbeck turned in Marouane Fellaini's cross

Danny Welbeck turned in Marouane Fellaini’s cross

So with another disappointing result in the League behind them, United headed to Donetsk for a tough Champions League fixture against Shakhtar and in a stadium where no English team has ever won. Vidic returned to the starting line up as did Danny Welbeck, Robin van Persie, Marouane Fellaini and Patrice Evra. Rio Ferdinand didn’t make the squad and Wayne Rooney missed out due to a shin injury picked up in training. As expected the atmosphere in the stadium was electric and United kept the ball well in the opening exchanges and when RVP picked the ball up 20 yards out and swivelled onto his left foot many expected to see the net bulge however the Dutchman fired just over. United didn’t have to wait long though as Fellaini picked the ball up down the right hand side and battled his way into the area where his cross was missed by the defender and slotted home brilliantly by Danny Welbeck at the near post to give United a deserved lead. The hosts felt they should have had a penalty late on in the half when Tom Cleverley felled Alex Teixeira in the box although his theatrical dive was probably enough to put off the referee. Shakhtar started the second period strongly and began creating chance after chance as United dropped deeper and deeper into their own half and the pressure finally told as Brazillian Taison smashed home an unstoppable shot from inside the box too beat De Gea and level things up. The hosts continued to press and United again dropped deeper inviting the pressure on with RVP cutting a lonely figure up top. Shakhtar almost grabbed a winner when a deflected shot off Smalling was brilliantly palmed over by an impressive De Gea. Vidic was a rock at the back all night and had the big Serbian not been there then the scoreline could have been much worse. All in all though a very good point to take away from the Donbass Arena where many teams will go and come away with nothing this season.

Premier League table: Not pretty reading

Premier League table: Not pretty reading…

So with the first 7 games in the League done, Champions League under way and the League Cup in full swing how are United looking? League form has been the main area of concern and United have already lost 3 games which is why the table is not happy reading as the club sit 12th, three points off the relegation zone and 8 points off the top. In last season’s title winning campaign United only lost 5 games so if a serious title challenge is to be mounted this year then a serious U-turn needs to be made. Admittedly the fixture list hasn’t been great with ties against Chelsea, Liverpool and City making up the first 7 games but that shouldn’t be an excuse. The team needed strengthening during the window and it simply wasn’t done and add to that the shambles which surrounded the market there is no wonder Moyes started on the back foot. More worryingly for me is the manner of the defeats which we have sustained. I have no problems with a defeat if we play well and put up some kind of fight but the performances during the Liverpool and City games were just unacceptable. Again we didn’t turn up at Anfield and suffered and again we were lack lustre against City and were well and truly shown up.

In the Champions League, United have started well sitting top of the group and with two matches against Real Sociedad to follow should really be looking to take maximum points and have the group sewn up early. Leverkusen will drop points at Shakhtar and vice versa so if United can get six points from Sociedad they should qualify and will then be able to concentrate on their League campaign. In the League Cup United have a favourable home draw with Norwich which many will expect them to win and I wouldn’t be surprised if Moyes targeted this trophy as one he feels he could win in his first term in charge. The FA Cup will kick in soon so the fixture list will be full and Moyes needs to use his squad to its full capacity if United are to compete on all four fronts.

RVP: The first name on the team sheet

RVP: The first name on the team sheet

However, from looking at the team choices it doesn’t seem as though Moyes knows his strongest XI yet and outside of RVP, Rooney, Carrick, Vidic and De Gea it could be any number of players who fill the gaps. Kagawa hasn’t been given a chance and when he has he is played out of position on the left which is a total waste of his talents, Ashley Young has really not pushed on and looks to be getting worse every time he plays. Valencia has struggled with form for well over 18 months now and we see glimpses of what he can do here and there but not enough. The club splashed £16m on Wilfried Zaha last January and he has yet too make an appearance outside of the Reserve and Youth teams which is strange considering what a promising pre-season he had. Ferdinand seems to be looking his age as his performances against City and West Brom showed and Moyes clearly doesn’t have too much faith in Evra with repeated attempts to sign Baines and Coentrao in the summer failing.

Anderson…. well where to begin! He hasn’t lived up to his potential and although had a fairly good game against West Brom he has become a bit of a laughing stock amongst football fans across the league. Januzaj has been given his chance and has impressed, in particular against Palace when he made his debut, however is this simply a ploy from Moyes to get him to sign a new contract amid interest from City or is it a genuine attempt to promote a youth player which we have seen him do in the past at Everton with Coleman and Barkley. Nani has been handed a new 5 year deal and many United fans (me included) have decided to give him one last chance to prove his worth. His class isn’t in doubt as he is a highly skilled player with bags of talent but his application is what drives fans insane and Moyes appears to have placed his eggs in the Nani basket! Chris Smalling isn’t a right back and hopefully the manager has realised this now and gives him his chance in the middle along with Phil Jones who is in danger of becoming the new John “utility man” O’Shea.

We’ll keep our red flag flying high, cause Man United will never diePersonally I have faith in the manager and to be hand picked by Sir Alex means something. So all those fans calling for #MoyesOut need to seriously have a look in the mirror and remember only a few short months back and Sir Alex’s final speech to Old Trafford: “You’re job now is to stand by our new manager.” Moyes has a plan and this is a long term plan which will take time to implement and make his own. The club was always going to suffer when Sir Alex decided to call it a day and that’s no surprise. One of the greatest managers to ever live will be missed and it is an unenviable task that David Moyes has in following the great man into the hot seat.

Moyes will build his own team and will have his own methods in how he wants United to play and as fans it is our job to support him and get behind him. This club is the greatest club in the world and even though we are going through a tough period at the moment we will never give in and we will never turn against our own. For all the doubters I have one thing to say:

“We’ll keep our red flag flying high, cause Man United will never die!”

Post written by Dave Garghan
Blog: Gargs Football Chat, Twitter: @DaveGarghan9

Note: The views expressed within this blog post are those of the contributing author, and may not necessarily reflect those of MatchDayApp Limited, its representatives or associated partners.

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