Moyes' struggles may shift focus to Glazers

Posted by Musa Okwonga

Today's reading starts in the New Testament, in the Book of John, chapter 8, verse 32: "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." And the truth is this: Manchester United are not going to win the Premier League this season. They are not only 12 points behind Arsenal, but they are the picture of inconsistency, more unpredictable than Forrest Gump's box of chocolates. Unfortunately, they are unable to play Bayer Leverkusen every week. United are as grand and as in decline as the Millennium Falcon, but sadly Han Solo is no longer the pilot.

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The truth is also this: The horror of the summer-transfer window looms larger with every passing week. The failure to acquire anyone other than Marouane Fellaini -- whose performances have been desperately disappointing thus far, though his showing against Everton hinted at slight improvement -- may have the gravest of implications for manager David Moyes. There is an argument, which we shall come to, that Moyes is not being given the financial support he needs. However, Fellaini was not cheap, and there were arguably other better options available at similar or cheaper prices. But criticism of Fellaini -- who, after all, is playing injured and had no preseason with his new club -- should probably end there before it becomes disproportionate. The true problem is this: Manchester United's owners have had a ruthless business plan, and its success has been based upon the over-performance of possibly the greatest club manager of all time: Sir Alex Ferguson. But he has departed, and as legendary investor Warren Buffett once said, "It's only when the tide goes out that you see who's been swimming naked."

The truth is this: Manchester United are swimming naked. In some areas, their squad is shallow as a splash pool, and most notably their central midfield often looks as hollow as honeycomb. They need reinforcements, and due to this summer's dithering they will not be able to make them from a position of strength. While Manchester City brought in four signings, including two -- Alvaro Negredo and Fernandinho -- who are already looking central to their title push, United hesitated. They faltered when Mesut Ozil's future was still in the balance. They were outmuscled in midfield by a Spurs team that bulked up in that area during the offseason. Another fruitless summer like the last one, and Manchester United's stars, both young and old, may start getting restless.

Now they arguably need two new midfielders, one new winger, and at least one new full-back. Rafael needs a more natural deputy than Chris Smalling. Patrice Evra needs a vastly better understudy than Alexander Buttner, while neither Tom Cleverley nor Anderson look likely to fulfill the huge expectations once placed upon them.

Though Moyes' early missteps have been well-documented, that 5-0 destruction of Leverkusen in the Champions League offered the most exciting glimpse of what he can do. His tactical conservatism has held his team back at times this season, but that is nothing compared to the financial conservatism of the club's ownership, who in 2005 placed a black hole at the centre of the club's assets which quite literally sucked out anything that wasn't nailed down.

This is a sobering moment, and the Glazers should take it as an opportunity for rare reflection. They no longer have a superhuman manager to divert attention from their debt-sapped accounts, and a refusal to strengthen the squad will possibly invite a greater scrutiny of their legacy than has previously been the case. Many fans who feel dissatisfaction with the way that things have gone this season are already channeling their unhappiness beyond Moyes and his bench toward the boardroom, a clamour that is only likely to continue to grow. It is to be hoped that they will address it with further investment, and not a moment too soon.


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