Football Season Review

№7: Manchester United

Manchester United endured a season of hell as they dropped from first to seventh in barely 12 months and will not be playing Champions League football for a first time since 1996. The legendary Sir Alex Ferguson stepped down into retirement after winning the club their 20th league title at the end of the previous season and David Moyes was the man tasked with the impossible job of filling in while maintaining a level of success. There was a suspicion that the fellow Scot did not have the required pedigree at the very top level and cannot cannot handle the pressure, something that would prove completely right as the season panned out. The close season was a mess for the entire club with the Wayne Rooney contract situation and the collapse of several proposed transfers. Moyes clearly saw that midfield needed to be bolstered with some big players but ended up with his protégée from Everton, Marouane Fellaini. Rooney was persuaded to stay and signed a new long-term contract midway through the season but at the cost of the entire club, and mostly Moyes, going out on a limb for him. The start of the season was a tough one for the champions and they suffered a couple of defeats in their first five games in the league, at the hands of bitter rivals Liverpool and Manchester City. The complete capitulation against the latter was a very worrying sight for the fans and the body language of the players did not seem right from the start as they seemed to have no confidence of the new man in charge. The form of the team improved towards the end of the year and they stayed relatively close to the top places after getting a number of wins against lower sides. But Robin van Persie was either injured or nowhere near the form of last season and there was distinct lack of attacking creativity and imagination from the Red Devils. Adnan Januzaj was the one shining light as the teenager made a rapid breakthrough into the first team and quickly became one of the vital players in the side. The start of 2014 would be a disastrous one though and a rather shallow defeat to a poor Tottenham side on January 1 would prove a foreboding for the rest of the season. The team went out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle within a few days and further defeats to Chelsea in the league and to Sunderland in the League Cup added to the doom and gloom. Suddenly, all kinds of reports came out about the players completely losing faith in Moyes and the manager soon became embattled and desperate. The club tried to dampen the negative vibe by pulling off a major signing in Juan Mata but the Spaniard was not really what the team needed at this point and he has not yet justified the huge amount of money spent on him. As for Moyes, he resorted to long-ball football in an attempt to halt the crisis but things only got worse and any hopes of a top-four finish were over by mid-February. A dreadfully inept display away at Olympaikos was a new nadir but the team at least managed to overturn the 2:0 deficit in the second leg, before going down at the hands of Bayern Munchen in the next stage. Yet, there was little else to cheer the fans as they once again lost to Liverpool and City in March, both times at homes and both times being utterly outplayed. Despite being on a six-year contract, Moyes was under increasing threat of being sacked before the end of the season and that became official in mid-April. Ryan Giggs finished the season, taking charge of four dead-rubber games, while the club tied up Louis van Gaal as the new manager. The Dutch visionary will have a very tough job at his hands in restoring United to their former glory but a massive transfer war chest promises an interesting summer ahead for the Red Devils.

Player of the Season: David De Gea