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Jack: The one thing Moyes needs to improve immediately

Kristian Jack
9/29/2013 1:46:30 AM
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Let's get this out of the way first. David Moyes is not getting fired anytime soon. Not today, not tomorrow, next month or next year.

Saturday's home defeat to West Bromwich Albion was certainly a setback for the Scot and he undoubtedly has some concerns; after all, Manchester United' s seven points from their opening six matches is their worst start since the 1989-90 season.

Cohesion in attack and Rio Ferdinand's form are just two items that will be on his list, but nowhere on it will be a concern for his job and anyone writing or talking otherwise is misguided.

Moyes was given a six-year contract for a reason. "Football managers cannot ask for time," so said the manager this week, but in reality he has some.

He was always going to hit a difficult patch at some point and the security of a 72 month deal sends the message to him, his players and the fans that he is the chosen one to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson. For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.

Like any relationship, work is needed on both sides. The honeymoon is over and things are a little tense six weeks into their first Premier League season together.

The biggest concern for the manager right now will be squad rotation. One of the most crucial areas Moyes must get right, if he is to win trophies at Old Trafford, is to get the best out of the entire playing staff.

Eight months ago, while in charge at the club, Ferguson made headlines by declaring that this current crop of players is "a stronger squad than the treble winning side of 1999." Such a statement, while certainly celebrating the club's current strengths, also highlighted the need in 2013 for depth.

Thanks to his transitions through different eras and a seamless ability to move with the times, it is quite possible that Ferguson is the greatest manager of all time when it comes to getting the best out of a squad.

"He knows how to encourage the players and use the players," former player Ji-Sung Park once said. "Managers now don't just use 11 players, they have to care about all the squad of 25 or more players. He can't make everyone happy because only 11 players play, but the other players have to give 100 per cent of themselves for the club, and he can make them do that. That's a great ability of his."

On Saturday, Moyes thought he was doing the right thing by playing six squad players from the start. The performance and the scoreline would suggest this backfired. How he reacts to this could shape his future. Now is not the time to turn his back on these players.

Ferguson, a master motivator, already had one advantage over Moyes with the current crop of players, because he signed most of them. Only one player truly knows exactly what his manager thinks of him at the moment and that's Marouane Fellaini. The others can be told repeatedly by the coaching staff how much they are liked, but it is only natural for them to go out of their way to impress at this early stage in the relationship between player and manager.

The most disturbing thing on Saturday was the poor form of the fringe players. The lines of Alexander Buttner, Anderson, Shinji Kagawa, Javier Hernandez and Nani (aside from the last 10 minutes) did not compete at a level that Manchester United requires.

As Moyes walked quickly away down the tunnel at the final whistle this must have been firmly entrenched in his mind. He needs these players and on Saturday they let him down.

Last season, on their way to the title, 25 players played for Manchester United in the league. Moyes will know that template can lead to success, but keeping the fringe players keen and in form will be his biggest challenge.

Goalkeeper

-David De Gea started 28 matches and played in 74% of total minutes.

-Anders Lindegaard started 10 matches and played in 26% of total minutes.

This is one area Moyes is likely to change, barring injury. De Gea has never been better than he is right now and at Everton, the Scot was very comfortable playing Tim Howard every game. Expect something similar with De Gea.

Defence

-Patrice Evra started 34 matches and played in 89% of total minutes.

-Rafael started 27 matches and played in 68% of total minutes.

-Rio Ferdinand started 26 matches and played in 68% of total minutes.

-Jonny Evans started 21 matches and played in 58% of total minutes.

-Nemanja Vidic started 18 matches and played in 47% of total minutes.

-Phil Jones started 13 matches and played in 35% of total minutes.

-Chris Smalling started 10 matches and played in 28% of total minutes.

-Alexander Buttner started 4 matches and played in 11% of total minutes.

Vidic, Jones and Smalling all suffered injuries last season and Moyes will hope to feature all three more than they were last season. However, playing Vidic and Ferdinand together in each of the first five matches points to some trust issues he has with the other defenders. He will need to use them more and Ferdinand (currently at 100 per cent of total minutes through six games) a lot less going forward.

Midfield

-Michael Carrick started 34 matches and played 89% of total minutes.

-Antonio Valencia started 24 matches and played 65% of total minutes.

-Tom Cleverley started 18 matches and played 42% of total minutes.

-Ashley Young started 16 matches and played 38% of total minutes.

-Shinji Kagawa started 17 matches and played 36% of total minutes.

-Ryan Giggs started 12 matches and played 34% of total minutes.

-Anderson started 9 matches and played 24% of total minutes.

-Paul Scholes started 8 matches and played 23% of total minutes.

-Nani started 8 matches and played 21% of total minutes.

-Darren Fletcher started 2 matches and played 5% of total minutes.

Wide players have been placed in this category as well as central midfielders and it is quite remarkable that only two men featured in 50 per cent or more (the equivalent of 19 full games) of the season. The addition of Fellaini is sure to help this with Cleverley taking time away from Scholes and Fletcher, and perhaps the perennially disappointing Anderson. But the likes of Young, Kagawa and Nani (a combined 41 starts last season) will need to play an important role for Moyes this season, but have so far been very underwhelming.

Strikers

-Robin Van Persie started 35 matches and played 91% of total minutes.

-Wayne Rooney started 22 matches and played 59% of total minutes.

-Danny Welbeck started 13 matches and played 38% of total minutes.

-Javier Hernandez started 9 matches and played 36% of total minutes

-Nick Powell started 0 matches and played 1% of total minutes.

A combined 57 starts from a possible 76 (75 per cent) isn't disappointing for the pair of Van Persie and Rooney but it certainly could be improved on if the duo can stay healthy and if Rooney maintains his current form, which forces Moyes to start him no matter the opposition. So far, they are currently at eight out of a possible 12 in Premier League starts this season(66 per cent). There is a definite over reliance on the pair – they are without doubt the only two genuine game changers at the club – but when one isn't available Moyes will need Welbeck and, in particular, Hernandez to be on their game when called upon. Hernandez had more goals than starts in the league last season and is a perfect example of a squad player performing when required.

Walk outside Old Trafford a couple of hours before kickoff and the number of different names on the back of shirts is startling.

Fans from all ends of the globe come to watch Manchester United in action and players' names on their backs are also diverse.

Of course, Van Persie #20 and Rooney #10 are the favourites, but on a recent visit, I noticed almost every squad player was represented. In my section alone sat Cleverley #23, Valencia #25 and Jones #4.

United fans are used to a collective effort. Manchester City and Chelsea have spent much more money than Manchester United in the last few years and you could argue their best XI's were probably more talented than the Old Trafford outfit but repeatedly they lost the league to them. United have won titles in the last decade because their squad has been stronger and it is now up to Moyes to get back to that.

This time last season, United struggled at the back, Ferdinand looked slow and they were very poor for long stretches of matches against the likes of Everton, Fulham, Wigan and Tottenham. They had already conceded nine goals through six matches and trailed 1-0 in five of them.

In the next six months, from October through March, they won a remarkable 21 of their next 24 Premier League matches. All 25 players played a part in that run.

The script has been acted out once; it is now up to the new director to find roles for the returning characters.

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