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THE MONTH: What did United get up to in August? No, really. What?

The monthWriting The Month at the start of the year – 2013, in case you forgot – was easy. The column started in January, not August of 2012, and that meant last season’s uncertainty period was pretty much skipped over. In years previous, that uncertainty period would have ended a lot later, but things were looking so good for Manchester United by the time the first column appeared (seven points clear at the top) that there was never any need to be panicky. Granted, it’s not hard to keep up that appearance when you’re reviewing a whole month of football rather than a single, frustrating game of it.

What also added to the relative comfort of those times was that United had Sir Alex Ferguson overseeing things. Sure, things don’t always go for Ferguson, even, as we know, accompanied with the luxury of a points lead, but there was a feeling then, no matter how not-that-impressive United had looked, that they were going to coast to a 2oth title. The opposition was not only meek, but did not have Robin van Persie in their team. This time, of course, it’s different. United’s nearest rivals still don’t have Van Persie, but have sought to close the gap – and make new ones – with statement signings of their own. All this, and Ferguson has retired. This is the uncertainty period, baby.

As these words are written, David Moyes still hasn’t signed a player. He’s definitely trying to, but, right at this moment, it almost feels futile to draw any conclusions until those players arrive. Not that you could get much from two games anyway, but it would definitely be easier to say “Manchester United can win the title!” with confidence with players like (like! such as!) Herrera and Fellaini already bedded in. As it stands, who knows where United are going? And what they will look like?

Thankfully (because there is money at stake), there are things to talk about. United’s transfer policy, for one, has so far been sorta-kinda-very embarrassing. But, hey, the club can easily make up for that. It’s just that August had its promise in this area but nothing of note has happened yet, and it’s preferable for all concerned to be ready when everyone else is ready. This isn’t supposed to sound spoiled because, well, it isn’t how a spoiled fan sounds. Moyes and Ed Woodward probably feel a little embarrassed on some levels. To buy players ready for the start of the season is to buy Christmas presents before the 25th. Well, more important than that. Now it feels like we’ve got a Malcolm in the Middle plotline on our hands, with Woodward (or Moyes) playing Hal, who slips out of the house early with time running out and takes a drive in search of anything resembling a gift. It is worth noting that things usually come good by the end of the episode, and, however late, the gift is what was wanted and needed all along.

Where actual football is concerned, United have been impressive enough. As said, it’s unknown what this means for the rest of the season, or even what it means for ‘now’, because ‘now’ is ever-changing. In isolation, things looked quite good. United lacked a bit of ambition against Chelsea at Old Trafford – even with three forwards – but, in turn, they helped make the visitors look much the same. (It should also be said that Chelsea’s lack of a striker did not mean they came out to defend, necessarily: Jose Mourinho talked about his side’s “mobility” before the game that made sense when you consider the two 30+s United had at the back.) Anyway, Moyes has not made any missteps as yet; the 4-1 win over Swansea proved how devastating they can be when they use their attacking options and acts counter to where they perhaps failed against Chelsea. What does that mean? Probably nothing, except United are a capable side and who knows what else. That’s important. The United that play Liverpool on the first day of September will almost certainly be different to the United that play Crystal Palace on the 14th. We’ll only know how things look in the long run when we’re absolutely sure that’s how United want to look in the long run. If they don’t sign any players, then maybe there’s no need to isolate anything. But, for everyone’s sanity, let’s not look at it like that.

While there aren’t any new signings to speak of, while Moyes channels his inner Fergie and complains about the fixture list and then claims the Community Shield was just another achievement for his predecessor, all of this does feel distinctively new. Moyes is trying to move United in a different direction, even with much the same personnel. The Reds did not play a proper left-sided player in any of their three games in August. Danny Welbeck, Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney might have chased balls in that area, but no player has played on that side the way Wilfried Zaha or Antonio Valencia have on the right. Indeed, the Scottish FA’s Director of Football Development Jim Fleeting said back in May that Moyes noticed how “everything was going through the middle area of the park.” Shinji Kagawa is yet to make to an appearance but when fully fit, it might be the sort of position he’d have to take up. Or not. Moyes might do away with it as he tries to figure out what’s best for his team.

Many things have happened in August, but a lot of that is expected to be forgotten by the end of September. What was it that Rooney fella was doing, again?

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313 Comments

  1. Ash says:

    Wakey

    “TBH I would be happy if he has taken a knock because flying off to Japan for a week again isn’t helping him catch up on his fitness program”

    Even not playing for us isnt helping him to gain fitness. If he has injured himself then I see a point of him not featuring but if Moyes has not selected kagawa becaause he has to travel to japan then that is fucking stupid decision

  2. The Hound says:

    Not feeling confident about today’s game at all. Is anyone surprised Giggs is starting though? You just knew Moyes would stick him in the first 11.

  3. Diego says:

    Costas:
    It seems we are going into this game with the Hodgson approach.
    Experience is all fine and dandy, but I think the pace of the game will be too much for Giggs and he will again be a passenger in the middle of the park.

  4. Lawman10 says:

    Sorry but giggs should not be starting games now!
    But it does show the need for recruiting a midfielder or two?

  5. Marq says:

    I’m pretty fine if they use an excuse that Kagawa gpt a knock so that he can be excused from the internationals. But he is so important to them i dont think it will happen. Then he will come back jetlagged and we wont see him again until 3 weeks later.

    Nvm all that now. We got a small little busines in front of us to settle. Go United!

  6. Rukky says:

    C’mon now, this giggs preference is becoming alarming even: if i could argue he understands the essence of the match i still dont get it. Kags is not even on bench

  7. Wakey says:

    @Costas

    Evans has spent all summer getting niggles and only has a single reseve game under his belt so I’m happy they aren’t rushing him. With Rio maybe not being able to play every game and both Smalling and Jones still at that stage that you often see with a young players where they are suspetiable to knocks its better to ease him back while there isn’t a desperate need for him to be available.

    Zaha I’m not surprised. Moyes said he is still trying to come to terms at this level so its not the best kind of game for him to be involved today. Think he may be involved against Palace

  8. OrangeSpatula says:

    @wakey

    Firstly, Sportwitness doesn’t “report” anything, they take all their sources from foreign papers, name them, explain the motivation of the paper, and then underline the likelihood that the papers report is true. SW themselves were actually quite sceptical about the Thiago move, it was Graham Hunter (SkySports) who was main source, perhaps he was given mis-information.

    Herrrera has a release clause of £31m; this is a non- contract promise to the player that Bilbao will let him leave if a club (respectfully) pays that amount to Bilbao (plus VAT and a small fee). Martinez (and Llorente) were both disrespectful, in the clubs eyes, which caused difficulties and complications in their transfers.

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/writers/sid_lowe/01/29/atletico.buyouts/index.html

    Notice how City ended up paying £39m for Aguero, his buy-out, by simply paying the money to Athletico, and Ath honored their promise, as Aguero wanted to leave.

    Bilbao has stated that if Herrera wants to leave, they will not block his way, but United have to pay the amount that they promised would allow Herrera to leave (No negotiating at all, as is Bilbao’s custom) . I say again, the exact same circumstances happened with illarramendi and Thiago (though Bayern paid Barcelona more so to soothe their shame in letting him slip).

    I don’t have knowledge of Herrera, and I’m am glad I don’t have to make these transfer decision; but I agree with you on Fabregas, if we had started the bidding at £35m, or even £40m and not dragged our feet, we could have perhaps forced Barca’s hand, before they had time to settle. It was poor transfer dealings, same if we buy Fellani and Baines for anything more than £35m – simple time wasting.

  9. Tom says:

    Moyes doesn’t rate shinji? What a shame he’ll probably leave come January

  10. Maltamanc says:

    Giggs ? Again ? Fuck, this is getting boring now…. Why would players want to join Man United when they are stuck behind a 40 year old every fuckin week until he decides to call it a day and retire…. It hurts me to say this coz I adore Giggs but no one is bigger than the club and that rule should be applied here.

  11. OrangeSpatula says:

    Rooney gets a gash on his face, out for both England games, but will somehow miraculously recover for first game back after international break, typical.

    Sadly I think Hodgson will benefit from not being forced to play Rooney.

  12. Wakey says:

    @Ash
    The thing is though its a 14.5 hour journey from Manchester to Toyko and he will almost certainly be expected to play most of both of those games in what could be fairly tough conditions. As he is reportedly a good few weeks behind on his fitness program due to his international commitments already if you were to play him today as well you would almost certainly rule him out of the Palace game. Now the Palace game is perhaps the perfect stage for his first start of the season (along with Zaha) and that game may be what he needs to be ready for city so playing the long game may be smarter. We have to atleast give Moyes and the fitness team the benefit of the doubt as they have a better overview of what the players are capable of doing at this stage

  13. rickyshepp says:

    Is it just me that thinks kagawa is a world class creative “cam” who has so far been injured & completely underused?

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