• Premier League

10 things Moyes has got right at United

Nick Atkin
April 18, 2014
If only David Moyes had known what was in store for him... © Getty Images

David Moyes just can't catch a break at the moment. Not only is he going to lead Manchester United to their lowest Premier League points total, it looks like he might deliver that spectacular feat at the same time as Liverpool win their first title since 1990.

After Sir Alex Ferguson went about knocking Liverpool off English football's perch over his 27 years at Old Trafford, United could have a fight on their hands for the mantle of most successful domestic club if Brendan Rodgers brings a 19th league title to Anfield.

There continues to be speculation surrounding Moyes' future with his position reportedly far from safe despite assurances from owners the Glazers, as he sets about securing early deals for his summer targets.

The 3-1 Champions League quarter-final second leg defeat against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena was Moyes' 50th competitive game in charge at United - match No.51 comes at his former club, Everton, who still have a very real chance of finishing in the top four and claiming a place in the Champions League next season.

The negatives may outweigh the positives at United under Moyes, but here we give you 10 things he has got right in his brief time at Old Trafford.

1. The emergence of Adnan Januzaj

Moyes predecessor let the precocious Paul Pogba slip away into the hands of Juventus. Pogba is set to rack up his second consecutive Scudetto since leaving, with his performances catching the eye of Real Madrid - and United again, reportedly.

The fact Moyes would have to pay about £40 million to bring back a player he should already have at his disposal says a lot. Ferguson got it wrong with Pogba, taking umbrage at such a young player supposedly demanding high wages and a place in the team. But Pogba would have been worth it, and should have already been playing in Ferguson's side.

Moyes has also taken care to ensure Januzaj avoids burnout ahead of next season, picking and choosing the games he plays him in and never being over-reliant on him even when the team needed him most (Olympiakos away, anyone?)

2. Rooney is still a United player

Wayne Rooney couldn't control his excitement during last season's trophy celebrations © PA Photos

Let's face it - Wayne Rooney wasn't a happy bunny at United over the summer. Having fallen out with Ferguson last season, Rooney seemed destined for Chelsea - not least because his relationship with Moyes, the manager who allowed his talent to emerge at Everton, had been fractured since he moved to Old Trafford.

OK, most players would probably stay at their club if they were offered £300,000 a week and the captain's armband.

But Moyes fought off two bids from Chelsea in the summer and convinced Rooney that Old Trafford was still the right place for him, by getting him into the best shape he's been in in years. Being the main man has helped, too, but at least he's showing an appetite for the game that had turned into a different appetite altogether in latter days under Ferguson.

Rooney has again proved how key he is to United with 17 goals and 15 assists in all competitions.

3. He bought Juan Mata

Juan Mata and David Moyes - BFFs © Getty Images

United fans are likely to get a lot of joy over the years out of seeing £37.1 million January signing Juan Mata play football.

A tracksuit-donning Moyes looked just as shocked as most United fans were feeling when a suited-and-booted Mata stepped out of a helicopter onto the muddy fields of Carrington to sign for the club from Chelsea, where he was twice player of the season.

But after a slow start, the goals and performances have finally started to come for Mata - who has shown unwavering faith in Moyes. The club may have its next icon on its hands.

The capture of Mata will surely have also been refreshing for United fans who had been used to seeing Ferguson baulk at paying over the odds for star players on many occasions, and letting the likes of David Silva and Wesley Sneijder slip through the net.

4. How to solve a problem like Kagawa?

Shinji Kagawa is finally finding his feet at United © Getty Images

It wasn't impossible, then - Shinji Kagawa can be effective playing from the left.

It had looked like Kagawa might be on his way out of United in the summer. A botched pre-season that saw him rushed back from holiday to play a meaningless friendly in his native Japan ensured Kagawa's campaign got off to the worst start possible, with Moyes questioned increasingly over the player's absence in the first team as the season got underway.

Kagawa didn't help himself either by putting in the same insipid displays from the left wing as he did last season, looking like he was meeting Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie for the first time with each occasion he stepped onto the pitch with them.

But in recent weeks Moyes has - perhaps accidentally - found a way to get the best from Kagawa and it will throw up some serious selection dilemmas for him next season.

Kagawa has thrived when playing in a front three with Juan Mata. Both men prefer to play in the hole as the No.10, but both have been shunted out to the wing in favour of Rooney, who likes to drop deep and spray cross-field passes instead of execute the intricate, incisive passing moves that are Mata and Kagawa's trademark.

With Van Persie injured, though, Rooney has gone up top against West Ham and Aston Villa, with Mata and Kagawa interchanging to devastating effect in the 2-0 and 4-1 wins. They then ripped Newcastle apart with Januzaj on the right and Javier Hernandez up front, winning 4-0 at St James' Park.

Moyes has a chance to keep the experiment going for the remaining five games of the season. If Kagawa and Mata keep excelling to such an extent, Moyes might have to consider moving Van Persie on, as outlandish as that might seem, because the Dutchman won't hang around happily on the bench.

5. Has anyone seen Anderson?

Anderson and Quinton Fortune. Manchester United legends © Getty Images

Thought not. Moyes did what Ferguson should have done years ago and shipped the perennially underachieving Brazilian midfielder out of Old Trafford.

Anderson may only be on loan at Fiorentina, but the fact he is even struggling to get a game there suggests there will be no way back for him at United.

Anderson showed rare glimpses of his rich promise in his first season following his £25 million move from Porto in 2007, but for such a fee you expect more than potential and Moyes should be applauded for starting to clear out the dead wood. More are sure to follow.

6. Making Welbeck matter again

From two goals last season to 10 this time around, Moyes has developed Danny Welbeck's goalscoring touch.

This is also down to the masterstroke of not playing him on the left wing every week like Ferguson did.

Welbeck was arguably man-of-the-match for United in both legs against Bayern Munich (yes, yes, that miss in the first leg aside), and stepped into the breach admirably in the absence of the injured Rooney and Van Persie earlier in the season, even going on a run of scoring five goals in as many Premier League games over December and January.

7. Sink or swim for Smalling and Jones

Phil Jones and Chris Smalling excelled alongside each other at West Brom © Getty Images

Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand weren't going to last forever. Once the best centre-back pairing in Europe, Vidic is on his way to Inter Milan this summer and Ferdinand could also be shown the door.

It seems Moyes' has known this fact for quite a while, and has wisely decided to throw Phil Jones and Chris Smalling in at the deep end in preparation for the increased responsibility they will have next year.

In isolated instances (the 3-0 win at West Brom, for example) Smalling and Jones have excelled alongside each other, and looked like the future England pairing they were once touted to be.

With the experience they've gained this season, Smalling and Jones could have breakout campaigns next time around. Either that, or Moyes will go out and buy two new centre-backs this summer. What was that about Moyes going to watch Ezequiel Garay and Eliaquim Mangala the other day...

8. Problem solving

Maybe Marouane is just missing Leighton? © Getty Images

He's at least trying to sort out United's problem positions, isn't he? Ferguson did a great job of covering up deficiences at left-back and in central midfield - though bringing Paul Scholes out of retirement was a fairly blatant admission that the latter was a mess - but it had to catch up with United eventually.

Knowing Patrice Evra had been over-the-hill for three years, Moyes spent half of the summer trying to take Leighton Baines to Old Trafford, with a last-minute attempt to bring in Fabio Coentrao on loan from Real Madrid falling apart.

He spent the other half trying to get at least one central midfielder, but Thiago Alcantara, Cesc Fabregas and Ander Herrera all had other ideas. And who honestly thought Marouane Fellaini would be this bad?

9. The man who followed Fergie

Following Sir Alex Ferguson wasn't a tough job. No, not at all. © PA Photos

Not only did Moyes take on a seemingly impossible job in following Ferguson, he has done it with reverence, keeping the club's principles in place and remaining dignified despite United's dire situation.

And it is certainly hard to retain your dignity when you're losing at home to almost every other team who turns up, so give the man a break.

Would Jose Mourinho have done so? Highly unlikely. Mourinho's 'us against them' philosophy works at Chelsea and worked at Inter Milan - less so at Real Madrid - but would never go down well at a club like United.

Moyes has kept his cool this season, only once losing his rag when he felt Adam Johnson dived to win a penalty for Sunderland against United in the League Cup.

Mourinho on the other hand has poured gasoline on several burning fires this season, even at his own club. He's had rows with Arsene Wenger (again) and Manuel Pellegrini, as well as castigating his own strikers in public.

In contrast, Moyes has continually shouldered the blame for United's defeats - probably because it's mostly been his fault, mind - bar a few exceptions, such as hitting out at the "schoolboy defending" in the second leg defeat to Bayern. He had a point, though, Patrice...

10. Leaving an Everton legacy

David Moyes waved goodbye to the Everton fans in May © PA Photos

It shouldn't just be Roberto Martinez that takes all of the credit for Everton's success this year. Yes, they have won more Premier League points already than they ever did in a single season under Moyes, but he left them in good shape when he departed for Old Trafford.

He tied down Baines at Goodison Park to such an extent that he couldn't pry him away from there last summer, and created more than just the spine of the team that is thriving under Martinez.

No one paid any attention when Moyes bought Steven Naismith to the club in the summer of 2012, but the forward was instrumental both against Fulham and the seemingly generation-ending victory over Arsenal in recent weeks.

Everton's shock 3-2 defeat to Crystal Palace in midweek is perhaps evidence that Martinez hasn't got all the answers. How sweet it would be for Moyes to prove that point on Sunday.

Nick Atkin is an assistant editor at ESPN. You can follow him on Twitter @natkinESPN

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