Manchester United: Why isn’t Moyes using his best players?

When asked about his seemingly one-dimensional tactics against Fulham David Moyes said:

“You need to have a football intelligence, a football brain, to understand first of all,” he said of his tactics.

He’s clearly having a hard time of it and we don’t wish to heap misery on the man. But we really do question the quality of Moyes’s football brain when he keeps picking team like the one that drew a blank in must win games against Arsenal and Fulham.

It seems to us that David Moyes spent £37m on Juan Mata only to play him out wide. Mata has so many talents – he’s a great passer, shooter, has super awareness and lovely technique – but pace is not numbered amongst his virtues.

Mata is clearly not suited to a conventional wide role and he was again marginalised against Arsenal and rarely got into the game. Moyes stuck largely to a 4-4-2 with Valencia out wide on the right and Mata hugging the left touchline.

These tactics don’t work. Gone are the days when Valencia would skin his full back. He had plenty of opportunities to do so last night but instead opted to pass inside or to his overlapping full back. He’s still an honest and hard working player who I don’t mind seeing on the team sheet (particularly if it means Young doesn’t play). But he’s definitely a player in terminal decline.

Meanwhile Manchester United’s player of the season, Adnan Januzaj, is now regularly resigned to the bench the bench.

It seems so glaringly obvious to us, and a growing number of others, that a narrower formation would work better with the tools that the Manchester United manager has at his disposal.

Playing Mata on the left, Rooney in the middle and Januzaj on the left of a three behind RvP would not only give the Dutchman better service but also allow Mata to become more central to the game – figuratively and literally.

Last night there remained a void between defence and attack. Time and again the defenders played long probing balls into the front line. If Mata was more central he could pick up a lot of possession from deeper areas and allow better, quicker and shorter interplay that would make Manchester United an immeasurably more incisive and flowing outfit.

Moyes has got prickly in recent interviews, as if the press has been unfair to him. But he’s making the wrong calls. The 4-2-3-1 is desperately needed. Januzaj’s creativity is sorely missed. But Moyes is overlooking both. Perhaps through pride. But, if he keeps this up, he’ll surely take a fall.

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