David Moyes is overseeing probably the worst Man Utd season since 1988-89. In every season since then – excepting 2001-02 and 2004-5 – the Red Devils have contributed to the trophy room; in both those intermediate seasons without sparkles, the club finished third in the table.
With a 2-1 home loss to an understrength Swansea culminating in elimination from the FA Cup, the rancor surrounding David Moyes’ viability the club’s manager increased. After surrendering another injury-time goal today to lose at Sunderland today in the first leg of their League Cup semi-final, it might be best hold place the official Manchester United Twitter feed under 24-hour guard.
With the team in seventh position in the league, a Cup victory now a precarious proposition, the team almost completely devoid of central midfielders and unpromising Champions League hopes, there are influential voices suggesting Moyes and United must win the League Cup to ensure 2013-14 is a campaign the club doesn’t want to scrub from the annals.
The fact is that for United, this is already a disappointing season and a League Cup victory would do nothing to change that. As enjoyable as it might be, wins over Sunderland and Man City wouldn’t paper over the holes Moyes has to fill. Unless there is a remarkable sprightly second-half turnaround any reasonable goals for the season will remain unfulfilled – therefore, the season has been a disappointment.
Now equipped with half a season of hindsight, achievable aims for United would have been the provision of hope for the future – with a bonus coming in the form of a title challenge or Cup win – due either to player development, squad refreshment or a masterful new tactical system that saw the club entering the post-Ferguson/Gill era with hope.
Red Devil fans have seen none of this, and no amount of success – and for clubs like United, League Cup victories only marginally count – can hide how deficient their squad is.
Despite its respected position, the League Cup has no place in defining a successful season for a club the size of United. The old axiom that success begets success is somewhat true in football. Trophies – and sometimes, the money they bring – can attract players to your club that otherwise might sign elsewhere. But it’s unlikely Arturo Vidal (or other similarly-talented players) would be enticed to Manchester on the strength of League Cup silverware – and thus United, winning this competition is merely a bonus and completely unintegral to defining this season’s fortunes.
Were United to win the League Cup playing outstanding football, or with a lineup featuring Nick Powell, Wilfried Zaha, Alex Buttner and a revitalized Anderson – that would be a fine platform on which to build the next great United XI. Such a scenario is so unlikely as to be practically impossible.
The Champions League? Player-to-player comparison of United with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern, City and even Atletico and PSG is an unfavourable exercise. Any hopes in this competition now rest with a Great Escape similar to that of Chelsea’s of 2012, in which an inferior squad managed to hole up against superior opposition in three straight rounds. Possible, sure – but highly unlikely.
This coming offseason looms as another of great change at Carrington. It needs to be, as the club continues to tread timidly, turning often and conspicuously to the image of Grandpa, retired and safe but still a presence in the Director’s box.