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Opinion Piece

No new signings? Is this the best 11 to fire Moyes into the top 4 then?

Retiring-iconic-Manchester-United-manager-Alex-Ferguson-holds-the-Premier-League-trophy-outside-the-town-hall-in-1887512Having watched any realistic chance of overseeing a defence of his new charges’ Premier League crown evaporate following New Year’s Day’s home defeat to Tottenham Hotspur, David Moyes must ensure his team achieve the more modest objective of attaining a place in the top four.

The Scotsman quickly needs to navigate United into finding the consistency of performance and results he has often talked of in recent weeks, to stand any chance of successfully guiding them (and himself) into next season’s Champions League.

This team, given time to develop, in my opinion, equips him with his best chance of achieving that goal if the club (be it Moyes’ fault or otherwise) fail to strengthen the squad during this month’s transfer window.

Goalkeeper: David De Gea

Having been selected in the PFA Team of the Season for 2012-13, De Gea is enjoying another fine season. Vital stops in away games at Sunderland and Norwich City have facilitated narrow wins, and he cuts an increasingly composed figure in the United goal. Unnecessary risks taken by Wojciech Szczesny against Liverpool and Newcastle United, show the immaturity still prevalent in his game, while Hugo Lloris has recently edged from “Sweeper Keeper” towards impetuous liability and Joe Hart’s struggle for form has been widely publicised. All of these factors have served to cement the Spaniard’s status as the Premier League’s best goalkeeper, as he emerges as one of the major positives from United’s first 20 games.

Fabio on his instagram accountRight-back: Fabio da Silva

Intermittent injuries to Rafael have caused Moyes to select Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Antonio Valencia in the right full back role at various times this season, which has undoubtedly weakened United’s right flank. The two England men are clearly centre-backs by trade, and Jones especially needs a run of games in this position, upon his return from injury. The selection of Valencia is designed to account for the loss of Rafael’s energy and dangerous crossing, but his lack of defensive instincts has been exposed on his last two outings in the role; against Hull City and Tottenham. Moyes finds himself in the unique position of being able to replace Rafael with an exceptionally similar player, but has chosen not to do so. There is a perception that the Brazilian twins are impetuous but while Rafael’s prolonged spell in the side has served to dispel many fears, Fabio hasn’t been so fortunate. I feel this is a tad unfair, given that he played in, without being ruthlessly exposed, the 2011 Champions League final defeat to Barcelona and has experienced the grim reality of a relegation season with Queens Park Rangers in 2012-13. Fabio comes closest to providing what the injury to Rafael detracts from the United side, and deserves a run of games, in his brother’s absence.

Centre-back: Nemanja Vidic

The Serbian is another defender who has struggled for form and fitness in a difficult season, but Moyes would be foolish not to show faith in his captain to lead his team out of this difficult period. Still a fine penalty box defender, Vidic’s greatest characteristic is his dogged determination, which United could do with as much as anything else, at the moment. Consequently, any (overdue) attempt by David Moyes to decide on a settled centre-back partnership should include his 32 year old captain.

Jonny EvansCentre-back: Jonny Evans

Having recently turned 26, Evans is approaching the prime of his career, and is United’s form defender. He bailed out Rio Ferdinand to block Stefan Kießling’s shot at 0-0, before going on to score in United’s stand-out result of the season; the 5-0 away defeat of Sami Hyypia’s Bayer Leverkusen side, which provided the catalyst for a decent run of form, even more impressive in a constantly changing back-line. His one blip occurred when his indecision meant he diverted David Meyler’s tame shot past David De Gea at the KC Stadium in December, but he shows the most confidence of United’s centre-backs when in possession of the ball. Given time to build a partnership with the more experienced Vidic, the pair should go from strength to strength, and provide the security necessary if United are to string an unbeaten run together.

Left-back: Alexander Büttner

Given Moyes’ hardly subtle attempts to replace Patrice Evra with both Leighton Baines and Fabio Coentrao, in the summer, it is somehwat surprising that neither Fabio nor Dutchman Büttner has been given an extended run in the side. Evra’s form has been deteriorating over the past two seasons, and the decline has continued into 2013-14. He was exposed by Aaron Lennon and Jesus Navas in humbling defeats this season, was at fault for Kim Bo-Kyung’s last-gasp equaliser at Cardiff, his crossing has been persistently inaccurate and he appears to jog into his defensive position upon the breakdown of a United attack. In an unimpressive season for United, he has been the worst performer, and deserves to lose his place in the side. Büttner gets the nod for now, while Fabio needs to play on the other side, but, given the Brazilian’s aptitude on the left flank, the period before Rafael’s return is effectively an audition for the left-back slot.

Centre Midfield: Michael Carrick

Carrick is undoubtedly the Red’s best central midfielder, and his return to form cannot come soon enough for Moyes. There are still doubts over the former West Ham man’s ability to dictate the toughest of matches, doubtless intensified by Yaya Toure and Fernandinho’s commanding performances at the Ethiad Stadium in September, but he has to make any first choice United side. His composure, experience and accurate passing will be crucial if United are to build a route to either silverware or the top four and with the World Cup on the horizon, Carrick will look to impress.

Centre Midfield: Anderson

Yes, Anderson. Let’s get the negatives out of the way first. His record when it comes to complete the whole ninety minutes is atrocious. He is erratic, unpredictable, injury prone and has at times appeared to be overweight. He has just nine goals in 179 apperances for Manchester United, and it appears that Moyes shares his predecessor’s mistrust in the 25 year old. However, it is my view that Anderson is the only current member of the Manchester United midfield ranks who possesses the drive and energy that this side so obviously needs. Mousa Dembele, Yaya Toure and Jack Wilshere are just three midfielders who demonstrate the rise in popularity of deep-lying central midfielders who can dribble the ball, and I believe Anderson can fulfil a similar role for Moyes. In a way, the Brazilian is a microcosm of my vision for this United side. He will need games to develop, he is raw and liable to make a mistake or two, but ultimately will perform with intensity, quality and speed.

shinji-kagawa-manchester-united-wigan-athletic-community-shield-fa_3004811Right Attacking Midfield Shinji Kagawa

At first glance, it appears that I have put the Japanese’s shirt where Adnan Januzaj’s should be, but I do want to play Kagawa from the right. The selection represents a large diversion from the traditional right-sided players whom have graced Old Trafford; David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, and more recently Valencia. However, the theory behind it is to aid United in an area in which they desparately struggle; the transition between defence and attack. Where Valencia, Nani or Young’s instinct would be to run towards the touchline, giving Carrick or Anderson a player to bypass when playing their pass out from a defensive area, Kagawa’s instinct to move inside creates a simpler option. While the Japan star does not possess the pace of United’s four traditional wingers, he is the most adept at retaining the ball in tight areas. Thus, he provides a perfect contrast to the brave, dribbling-orientated approach to Janujaz, on the left and his narrow runs should create plenty of space for Fabio to gallop into.

Left Wing: Adnan Januzaj

There is a reason that the Belgian’s shirt is positioned wider on the diagram than Kagawa’s, and that his role is described as a winger, by contrast to “attacking midfield”. The 18-year old also has a role at the transition; to dribble the ball away from United’s goal to relieve the pressure. Januzaj’s fearlessness provides this side with an unpredictable and dangerous streak, and he is the Red Devil’s form winger, at this moment in time. He has already provided more goals than his more experienced fellow wingers have in recent seasons, and has shown, in home matches against Southampton and Tottenham, an ability to thread an intelligent through pass to the strikers. Moyes’ team has so far shown a surprising loyalty to crossing from wide areas, given the poor form of many of their wide-players (and Evra), but Januzaj’s inclusion facilitates a diversion from this approach.

Number 10: Wayne Rooney

The former Everton man has been Manchester United’s best player this season, with nine goals and nine assists from seventeen Premier League matches, so this is an obvious selection. While a new contract remains unsigned, reports about his future will intensify, but his commitment to United has remained undiminished. Despite his brilliant form, there has been a worrying displays of petulance against Newcastle United, Cardiff City, Hull City and Tottenham Hotspur, which Moyes must move to swiftly eradicate. A groin injury kept him out of the recent home match with West Ham, and poor performances against Hull City and Spurs suggest he may have been rushed back too soon. He needs to be managed more carefully than Robin van Persie has been, only returning to the side when 100% fit, but there is no doubting his importance to this United side.

WelbeckStriker: Danny Welbeck

The Carrington graduate spent most of last season playing in wide areas, for both club and country, so it is easy to forget that Welbeck actually led the line for England at Euro 2012, following a season in which he scored 15 goals in 32 games. His link-up play defies his inexperience, and the 24 year old looks a very threatening prospect now that his composure in front of goal has improved. Welbeck has shown maturity to step into the breach left by Robin van Persie’s injury and a prolonged spell in a central role should plunder more goals. Further to resolving United’s issues with turning defence into attack, Moyes may want to consider deploying Welbeck as the deeper forward when United are out of possession, as he did at Carrow Road, given that he possesses greater speed than Rooney.