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Cox: Window pain

Tactics & Analysis Jul 17, 2014
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Tactics: U.S. defend deep

Tactics Board Jul 1, 2014
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Apr 23, 2014

United's statistics under Moyes make for grim reading


Talk of a "David Moyes effect" this season has tarnished the name and reputation of a manager who had previously enjoyed vast success over a prolonged period with another top-flight club. Whatever joy he had at Everton now seems long since forgotten given the extent of his failure to defend Manchester United's Premier League crown in his first -- and only -- season at Old Trafford. The criticism he has received has been justified to an extent. Moyes was tasked with the impossible job, following another title-winning Sir Alex Ferguson-led campaign with a squad that many thought was barely good enough to win the league last season. Tom Cleverley and Rafael, to name but two, are far from the best in their positions in the league, but Ferguson knew how to get the best from them in a way Moyes did not. Moyes had his way of doing things at Everton, and unfortunately for him it was not transferable to the defending champions. Bound for a seventh-place finish, there has undoubtedly been serious decline in performances this season despite Moyes boasting a better squad. Old Trafford is no longer the fortress it once was. In the previous two seasons, United dropped points only seven times in 38 home games. Already this season, they have failed to win nine of their 16 matches on home soil, losing seven times in the league alone. The so-called Theatre of Dreams has lost its intimidatory element, and visitors not only come to the ground confident of picking up a positive result, but also arrive with attacking game plans of their own rather than plotting merely to restrict and stifle the home side. A lack of game plan on Moyes' part has been extremely problematic for the team. Far too often the players have looked rather lost, bereft of attacking ideas and without inspiration. Take the 2-2 draw at home to lowly Fulham back in February. United launched a Premier League-record 81 crosses into the opposition area, which Fulham's well-positioned centre-backs gladly ate up. There was no innovation to United's forward play, no variety, and very little success as a result. That game largely summed up the Red Devils' problems under Moyes. Although crosses haven't shot up dramatically this season (they have attempted 26.6 per game compared to 25.3 per game last season), a dearth of creativity has been a hallmark of the campaign and Moyes is hugely responsible for the problems.United have attempted vastly fewer through-balls this season (1.62 per game) compared to last (2.71) and have struggled to dismantle opponents with the regularity they did when they won the league last season. They have fashioned an average of 1.35 clear-cut chances per game this season, down from 2.31 in 2012-13, and the goals have resultantly flowed less readily. Possibly the most striking of United's attacking flaws is the frequency with which they are having attempts on the break; they're averaging a counterattacking shot every 4.8 matches this season compared to one every 1.9 matches last season. With teams less susceptible on the counter, they can commit more men forward, and United's shaky defence has not been able to stand up to greater pressure. The most marked of the players who have underperformed under Moyes is Robin van Persie. The Dutchman was widely regarded as having carried United to the title last season, netting 26 goals and setting up eight more. In the current campaign, he has been plagued by injury and thus has just 11 goals and three assists to his name. He was on hand to finish off moves last season and put away 17 clear-cut chances, but this season the club has missed his creative input. Van Persie attempted the second-most through-balls last season of every United player (19), and laid on 69 chances -- a full 20 more than any teammate. Comparatively, this term he has tried just two through-balls and has played just 16 key passes. He is far less involved in the buildup play (34.0 touches per game compared to 43.2 last season) with Moyes asking his centre-forward to stick to striking duties rather than rotate with Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck $amp; Co. to drop between the lines in search of space and possession. With Shinji Kagawa, Wayne Rooney and later Juan Mata in his ranks, Moyes should have had sufficient creativity in his squad for Van Persie to be able to stay higher up the pitch and finish off the moves they started. However, the Scot simply couldn't find the formula to mould those players together into a winning machine, and that was ultimately his downfall. Individual performances have unquestionably been worse, but Moyes' United has been decidedly less effective than the sum of all of its parts. While Ferguson was able to extract the best from his players, Moyes was barely able to get enough to stumble to a Europa League challenge. All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.

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