As Liverpool toyed with a 10-man Manchester United side-who looked more like a disparate bunch of players waiting to be put out of their misery than champions- you would have forgiven Manchester United fans if they turned on their team- and their manager. Such was the scale of ineptitude of their performance. That such a poor performance came against their arch-enemies Liverpool would have hurt more. But, quite remarkably, United fans began singing lustily even as the wreckage of a wretched season was being laid out before them. One would have expected the crowd to turn mutinous; they didn’t.
But this seemed a bit different. It seemed they were singing more for the club they love than for the manager in charge. United fans have been incredibly supportive of David Moyes despite clear signs of the former Everton manager being clearly out of his depth in the Old Trafford hot seat. He was The Chosen One- chosen by Sir Alex himself. The citadel that was-Old Trafford- now resembles a crumbling edifice. But as Moyes and his support staff presided over another abject performance at Old Trafford, one couldn’t help but wonder if the United fans grudgingly approved of what Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has done over the past 12 months.
Watching United play one cannot help but wonder what David Moyes’ footballing philosophy is. It may be argued that Ferguson’s United did not have a distinct footballing philosophy. Yet, they always found a way to win; always committed to an attacking style of football. The contrast could not have been starker. Rodgers’ Liverpool have an identity, a philosophy they adhere to; Moyes, one gets the feeling, does not have a philosophy or- if it exists- is struggling to impose it on this group of players. This contrast in fortunes of the two great rivals is illustrated in our “Corresponding Fixtures Table” below.
Quite symbolically, Liverpool and Manchester United are at the opposite ends of our Corresponding Fixtures table. Liverpool’s improvement this season, as we have seen in this series of columns over the last few weeks, has been massive; United’s decline has been equally calamitous. While Liverpool have amassed 23 points more from this season’s corresponding fixtures, United are deep in red – and at the bottom of our table- with a Corresponding Points Difference of -21. By any standards, it is a shocking number of points to drop.
Staying with Old Trafford, it is quite amusing to see United struggle on their own turf. Even after the win at the Hawthorns a couple of weeks ago, Moyes pointed out while their away form was OK they needed to improve on their home form. Moyes was right; United’s home form has been very poor this season. The Corresponding Home Fixtures Table shows us how difficult it has been for United this season.
United are at the bottom of this table too, having taken 15 points less from the corresponding fixtures this season compared to last season. This in a season which has seen all the top sides improve on their home record. As we can see from the table, Liverpool have a points difference of +13, Chelsea +12, Manchester City +9 and Arsenal +4. Everton too have a difference of +2.
Delve deeper and the decline of results at Old Trafford is laid bare. Manchester United have the 9th best record at home -21 points from 14 games-with the same number of points as Norwich and Newcastle and one less than Crystal Palace who are fighting relegation. With 18 goals from 14 games United only have the 10th best scoring record at home. Even Swansea, Southampton, Stoke City and West Ham United have scored more than the Red Devils. Newcastle and struggling Fulham have scored the same number of goals. Those numbers are quite damning.
While they are the 3rd best away side in the league- with 27 points from 15 games- the corresponding Away fixtures table shows that they have taken 6 points less this season from the corresponding fixtures. The table is shown below
All said and done, patience is wearing thin at Old Trafford. The Champions League offers a window of redemption but given their current form and their abject display at Olympiakos, only a brave man would bet in favour of them overturning a 2-0 deficit. If they go out of the Champions League too, will the crowd still refrain from baying for Moyes’ blood? It remains to be seen.