After the dark days of the brief Moyes era, LVG has led Manchester United to third place near the halfway point of the EPL season. Fans eagerly await a return to the Champions League and delighted in the recent 3-0 win over Liverpool. However, both a closer look and glance at the big picture show cause for concern.
First off, the win over Liverpool was the least convincing 3-0 victory I may have seen. Brendan Rogers started Sterling up front, and he regularly blazed by the central defenders. Only poor finishing and great saves by David De Gea kept a clean sheet: the defense looked shapeless, in particular Ashley Young and Tony Valencia were suspect at the back. Yes, the fine finishing of Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney were a lovely sight, but the team lacks a commanding, physical central defender and misses Daley Blind’s mix of grit and composure.
In terms of the big picture, this was a game of fallen giants. For the last decade, Liverpool and United were virtual locks for the quarterfinals of the Champions Leagues. Liverpool recently returned to the Champions League but couldn’t beat FC Basel at home to advance out of the group stages. They are languishing midtable after the sale of Suarez and injuries to Sturridge have robbed them of goals. United have bounced back from last season, but lack the consistency and defensive solidity of Chelsea or Manchester City. By mere coincidence, both those clubs were sanctioned by UEFA for violating Financial Fair Play.
Still, the game had a “seat of your pants” thrill similar to some of my favorite games under Sir Alex. The Scotsman often preferred to win 4-3 to grinding out a 1-0 result, and LVG, while sometimes fielding a 3-5-2 (that’s really a 5-3-2), has realized that his team’s offense is the best defense for now. LVG has done a great job of clearing out the roster and cutting the wage bill, and also found a way to field Rooney, Van Persie, and Mata without imbalancing the side. With those three players scoring goals, fans may dream of a title run, but I’ll just be happy to fully turn the page on the Moyes era.
Then we can start talking about a golden one.