2014 has been a roller-coaster for Manchester United, starting with the darkest doldrums of the David Moyes era and progressing through to the shoots of hope under Louis van Gaal.
After what seemed like millions of years, Manchester United did hit a rock bottom, if not the rock bottom this year. David Moyes, who had inherited a so called ‘Champion’ side from the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson, had no ostensible idea as to what was going wrong for the Old Trafford based club. The side which consisted of Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata, Robin van Persie and Nemanja Vidic could never uphold their stature and status throughout the torrid season of 2013-14. Although, nobody in the world expected them to finish as low as 7th in the 2013-14 campaign, but when it comes to football, that’s how quickly things can change. The lopsided nature of the game came into focus when a side who were crowned the Premier League Champions some months ago floundered to even qualify for the Europa League .
2014 would be that year, which Manchester United faithfuls would adore overlooking, especially the first half of it. It was an year of turbulence, disappointments and minor or minuscule celebrations. Nothing seemed to going right for David Moyes. It was like, if he said “Good Morning”, people would instantly come to know that it must be “Good Evening” and not what the Scotsman said. The universal fact that the Red Devils were in dire needs of a central midfielder came to haunt Moyes continuously, in almost every game he managed. Marouane Fellaini’s signing was beginning to be sarcastically lauded as the best ever. Everything he did came under stringent scrutiny and the social media was filled to the brim with debates regarding to position. The Manchester United-esque feeling was shed and torn apart time and time again by the opposition, who came to Old Trafford confident enough of beating United at their once feared turf. The build up to goals, which were few and far in between, was ridiculously slow and being a United fan, I must use the ‘disgusting’, if you please.
The January of 2014 kicked off in a manner which couldn’t have been more disappointing. A 2-1 loss at the hands of rivals Tottenham Hotspur on an auspicious New Year’s Day, signaled the advent of another shattering half of the season. Although, the month of January did bring a cheer just a day after their League Cup exit at the hands of Sunderland on penalties in the form of the signing of Chelsea play maker Juan Mata for a fee in the region of 37 million euros.
But, what sounded like a cheer never came close enough. Although, the Spaniard impressed in almost every game he featured in, United couldn’t find the winning momentum throughout the remainder of the season. A humiliating 2-0 defeat in the Round of the 16 of the Champions League at the hands of would be Greek Champions Olympiakos at the Karaiskakis Stadium meant that United had to win the return leg at Old Trafford with a 3 goal margin. Without Juan Mata cup tied and the back of a hapless defeat against Liverpool, United weren’t expected to turn the tie around. David Moyes fielded his 40 year old guard Ryan Giggs in the midfield with talisman Robin van Persie up front. The pressure was immense. United weren’t playing for a spot in the Quarter Finals, but for the badge on their chest and for their manager’s helm.
And the day of 19th March of the ill fated year of 2014 turned out to be Moyes’ brightest of his reign. A thrilling Robin van Persie treble rescued the Reds and helped them set up a Quarter Final clash with European Champions Bayern Munich. And after that trademark comeback win, everybody had a glimmer of hope that maybe, United would kick on or rather move on.
But the League run never improved and the inconsistency and an ailing midfield saw them virtually own the 7th spot. Below Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham and Everton.
The encounter at home to Bayern Munich was as much anticipated as it was feared. The Bavarians stepped onto the Old Trafford pitch, dictating possession comfortably, knowing that United had no speed to unleash in their ranks. United soaked up as much pressure as they could and frustrated Pep Guardiola’s side till their resolve was finally broken. But it was broken in a manner in which nobody expected it to be broken. Nemanja Vidic, the United skipper who was unmarked in the box during a Wayne Rooney corner, found the back of the net and Old Trafford literally exploded into pandemonium.
The joy was short lived as Bastian Schweinsteiger rifled in an equalizer to hand Bayern an away goal advantage, only to be sent off late in the game.
A 4-0 win over Newcastle United saw Juan Mata find his first goal in United colors for the first time through a delightful, curling free kick. And as a colossal trip to the Allianz Arena awaited, a performance resembling the one at St. James’ was found wanting.
United started off the game in Germany in a manner similar to the 1st leg. They defended deep and hoped to break on the counter and they knew that they just had to score, if they were to go through and achieve the impossible. Bayern did what they usually did. Dominating left, right and centre and carving out enough opportunities only to be broken down by a resilient United side. And United struck once again, Leaving neutrals in disarray. This time through a sumptuous Patrice Evra volley.
But, the dreams came down in a heap once and for all. The Bavarians tore United to shreds, who lost concentration and lost the tie 4-2 on aggregate. The defeat was convincing but reminded the world that United still were a force to be reckoned with.
Moyes’ disastrous reign came to an end just days after another 2-0 defeat at former club Everton. And United fans were one of the happiest bunch in the world wide world after veteran Ryan Giggs was appointed as a caretaker player coach. Rumors had already started doing the rounds that Dutch gaffer Louis van Gaal would join either of Spurs or United after the campaign drew to a conclusion.
Giggs’ reign started off in a scintillating fashion as United scored 4 against relegation threatened Norwich side who were taken apart from the first blast in the whistle. And as United stood glued to their 7th spot, James Wilson’s debut and Ryan Giggs last game as a player was witnessed in sublime fashion during a 3-1 win against Hull City. A 1-1 draw at St.Mary’s drew curtains on a season which would go down as something which United fans would hate to retrace the footsteps of after buckets of trophy laden seasons.
Currently 3rd in the League table, new manager Louis van Gaal is getting to grips with his side. The marquee signings of Angel di Maria, Ander Herrera, Luke Shaw, Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo and Radamel Falcao brought back the long forgotten optimism among the fans as Louis van Gaal vowed to help the Reds finish inside the Top 4.
An opening day defeat to Swansea did little to lift the gloom but victories over Everton, Liverpool and Arsenal and a draw against leaders Chelsea has indicated that possibly, Manchester United have turned a corner. Although their defense has been shambolic but their attacking riches have proved their might time and time again. Marouane Fellaini’s renassaince has shown that Louis van Gaal could be the man to rescue Man United from the trenches. The Dutch gaffer’s tactical mastermind would come in handy and although, their recent performances haven’t been convincing enough but they’re far more convincing than the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham who haven’t performed to the level you expect them to.
Although, there still is a lot of work to do. But, when there’s a positive aura surrounding a team, you can expect better things from them. And with a side not devoid of attacking flair and fluidity, you can see them take apart any team but rip themselves to shreds in doing so, owing to an unorganized defense.