Should Moyes Model United On Liverpool?

That's the question posed by Matt Stanger, as he ponders how David Moyes can squeeze Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie into his starting line-up...

Last Updated: 07/04/14 at 08:55 Post Comment

Latest Articles

United Can't Rely On Force Of Personality Alone

Post comment

With only two weeks to go until the start of the season, Man United still have plenty of work to do in the transfer market. It seems the enormity of the task is dawning on Van Gaal...

Mails Come From A Land Down Under

Post comment

We have an example of league-owned clubs from Australia while Kiwi boys want more respect for refs. Plus, Van Gaal won't stick with 3-5-2 and worried if Koeman will cut it...

All Articles

Two good results in the space of five days earned with two very different starting line-ups. Perhaps those doubts over the quality of Manchester United's squad have been overplayed in a disappointing season, with David Moyes' eight changes to the side that battled to a 1-1 draw against Bayern Munich resulting in an impressive 4-0 victory at Newcastle.

This should have been a low-key affair - with one team already on the beach and the other in Munich ahead of Wednesday's Champions League quarter-final second leg. But nothing can ever be termed 'low key' when Juan Mata is involved, and the Spaniard tied Newcastle in knots, excelling in his favoured role as United's No 10.

It was the third time in four matches Mata has started in the centre behind a single striker and, while his performances against West Ham and Aston Villa offered promise, the playmaker's match-winning display at Newcastle provided an emphatic argument that he should remain in the position. Everything positive about United's performance ran through Mata, and Saturday was a rare occasion when there were plenty of positives.

With Shinji Kagawa also returning to the first XI, there was an encouraging balance to United's attacking midfield that Moyes must wish he could recreate against Bayern. There have been rumours that Kagawa could leave in the summer after struggling for opportunities this season, but in recent weeks he has been able to demonstrate his talent through an intuitive understanding with Mata.

The pair's link-up play was a key feature in wins over West Ham and Villa, but they flourished even further against Newcastle, with Mata grabbing two goals and a delightful back-heeled assist for Adnan Januzaj, and Kagawa setting up Javier Hernandez for his second strike in two matches. "It's a pleasure to play with Shinji. We connect very well," said Mata in his post-match interview, while Moyes also had praise for the duo. "Mata was terrific and so were Shinji Kagawa and Darren Fletcher," said the manager. "We had some great performances today."

Indeed, United's stand-ins made a compelling case to be awarded more first-team involvement in the final five matches of the Premier League campaign. Moyes has recently been able to experiment with his line-up to great effect against inferior opponents but, with Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney both set to return from injury in the near future, it is likely that Mata will be pushed back to a wide role as Kagawa drops to the bench.

There is clearly a difficult decision for the manager to make. Should he stick with Mata as his No 10 and play either Rooney or Van Persie as a single centre-forward, or will he risk getting less out of his £37m January signing by moving him to the right wing again? Liverpool's system this season perhaps offers a third way, although Moyes will want to be discreet about 'aspiring' to mimic another of United's rivals.

In frequently adopting a 4-3-1-2 formation, Brendan Rodgers has been able to partner Luis Suarez with Daniel Sturridge in attack, but also field Philippe Coutinho behind his strikers in an attacking line-up that has yielded 88 goals in 32 matches. Rodgers' approach has been crucial in a remarkable run of form that has suddenly transformed Liverpool into title contenders, and helped the Reds ease to a 3-0 win at Old Trafford three weeks ago.

One of the requirements of this system is that Suarez and Sturridge both offer counter-attacking options down the flanks - as United found out to their detriment in their embarrassing defeat in March. Whether Rooney and Van Persie could fulfil similar roles is uncertain, but it is food for thought for Moyes as he ponders how to squeeze his best three attackers - three of the best attackers in the league - into his first XI.

The last five games of the season afford the manager a chance to continue working on his preferred playing model. For much of the season, United have tried the same approach - get it wide, get it in the box - with this system descending into parody in the 2-2 draw against Fulham. However, recent performances have shown Moyes can be flexible in his tactics, and United have maintained the best away record in the top flight while tinkering with personnel and formations.

There are signs of encouragement. United have dropped a long way behind their rivals in a season of struggle - as heavy defeats to Liverpool and Manchester City have emphasised - but they have exhibited much more attacking incision in recent weeks to the credit of their beleaguered manager. If Moyes can maintain this steady improvement in performances over the next six weeks, perhaps he will earn the chance to continue his work into next season.

Matt Stanger - he's on the Twitter.

Football365 Facebook Fan Page

The Football365 fan page is a great place to meet like minded people, have football related discussions and make new friends.

Most Commented

Readers' Comments

C

lassic management. Build them up and then knock them back. Raise expectations and then dampen them. Create a dynamic where by you demand the most from your team, but where the team are given room to manoeuvre unexpected or unwanted results. Classy work by Van Gaal, he really reminds me a lot of me. A smart cookie, make no doubt.

hump3.
Van Gaal: 'I struggle for first three months'

H

e will be the England left back for ten years or more, and then you will have to thank MUFC for that. *smiles*

london saint
Shaw: Criticism spot on

P

urely because of that little diva moment he had last night, I don't want him coming to my club. DESTROYED ? Grow up and give something back to the club that helped put you up there on the world stage.

bale doubt
Saints' Schneiderlin stalemate

Latest Photos

Footer 365

Transfer news: Gus Poyet confirms Sunderland talks with Liverpool striker Fabio Borini

Sunderland boss Gus Poyet has indicated a move for Fabio Borini could still be on after confirming talks with Liverpool.

Transfer news: Southampton midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin hands in transfer request

Southampton midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin has handed in a transfer request, according to Sky sources.

Van Gaal: 'I struggle for first three months'

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has hinted that it will take time for him to be successful at Old Trafford, claiming he may struggle for the first three months...

Mail Box

Mails Come From A Land Down Under

We have an example of league-owned clubs from Australia while Kiwi boys want more respect for refs. Plus, Van Gaal won't stick with 3-5-2 and worried if Koeman will cut it...

Youth Development Has To Be The Future

A varied Mailbox has thoughts on transfer targets, youth development, the obsession over 3-5-2, some innovative Blackpool suggestions and why Real bought Kroos...

© 2014 British Sky Broadcasting Ltd. All Rights Reserved A Sky Sports Digital Media property