Devils lost in a tem­pest

> United’s strat­egy of chaos proves how far they have fallen as Man City show them the way for­ward

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

term growth and long-term gain.

If United have a strat­egy, it is cer­tainly not one they have adopted from City.

Yes, United have spent big, but they have rarely spent wisely. Wood­ward was un­fairly crit­i­cised for the sham­bolic trans­fer win­dow in the sum­mer of 2013, when Moyes’s dither­ing and in­de­ci­sion re­sulted in just Marouane Fel­laini be­ing signed, min­utes be­fore the dead­line, for more than his es­cape clause had de­manded just a month ear­lier.

Since Fel­laini, how­ever, Wood­ward has se­cured many big money sign­ings at the man­agers’ re­quest, but we are still wait­ing for one that could be de­scribed as good value.

That term cer­tainly does not ap­ply to Mem­phis De­pay, Bas­tian Sch­we­in­steiger, An­gel di Maria and the seem­ingly in­vis­i­ble Hen­rikh Mkhi­tarayan. Da­ley Blind, per­haps, at £13.8 mil­lion (RM69m), but Mour­inho would prob­a­bly ar­gue against that in the wake of his per­for­mance at Chelsea.

Hand­ing a de­clin­ing Wayne Rooney a five-year con­tract in Fe­bru­ary 2014 was an­other odd de­ci­sion – by Moyes as much as Wood­ward – but then so was re­tain­ing Louis van Gaal in his po­si­tion last De­cem­ber, when the team was clearly go­ing back­wards – or side­ways, as his pos­ses­sion-based game sug­gested.

Wood­ward backed Van Gaal, but when Mark Hughes be­gan to hit a trough at City, the Welsh­man was dis­missed and re­placed by Mancini to avoid the club drift­ing through the dol­drums and hav­ing its progress halted.

Drift was a good word to de­scribe Van Gaal’s fi­nal months, when United fin­ished fifth, but at least won the FA Cup less than 24 hours be­fore the Dutch­man was sacked.

The drift­ing has con­tin­ued un­der Mour­inho, how­ever, and that should be a ma­jor cause of con­cern for United.

Per­haps he un­der-es­ti­mated the scale of the job he had taken on, but the weeks of pre-sea­son prepa­ra­tion al­ready ap­pear to have been mis-spent.

United lack cre­ativ­ity and author­ity in mid­field, de­spite lav­ish­ing £89 mil­lion (RM445m) on Paul Pogba, and they still do not pos­sess a de­fender who is com­fort­able enough to bring the ball out of the back four.

Up-front, Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic’s im­pres­sive start has now evap­o­rated, with the Swede pro­duc­ing the kind of im­po­tent per­for­mances which led to Wayne Rooney ques­tion­ing his own fu­ture as a cen­tre­for­ward.

Mkhi­tarayan, Michael Car­rick, Luke Shaw, Mor­gan Sch­nei­der­lin, Mat­teo Darmian, De­pay and oth­ers have been cast into some strange kind of hold­ing pat­tern, rarely used, but al­ways there on the fringes.

Quite sim­ply, Mour­inho in­her­ited a mess, but ap­pears to have done lit­tle more than throw the fur­ni­ture around in a des­per­ate at­tempt to make it look bet­ter.

It is the strat­egy of chaos and it has been United’s prob­lem for too long.

But the most painful re­al­i­sa­tion that they have fallen be­hind City is that, when the two clubs meet at Old Traf­ford in the League Cup to­mor­row morn­ing, Pep Guardi­ola’s team will be ex­pe­ri­enc­ing their own “cri­sis” while sat on the top of the Premier League.

How United would love to be in the same po­si­tion as their neigh­bours. – The In­de­pen­dent

Pe­dro (right) scores Chelsea’s first goal dur­ing Sun­day’s English Premier League match against Manch­ester United at Stam­ford Bridge. –

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