A week is a long time in football, and David Moyes will certainly be feeling a lot more positive about things having seen his side record successive victories (with clean sheets), welcome back a sprightly looking Darren Fletcher, close to within 10 points of Arsenal (something that seemed very unlikely a few weeks ago, given the respective form of both teams) and find a favorable draw against Olympiakos in the last 16 of the Champions League.
For now, the European Competition will take a back seat as the Christmas fixture list takes priority, and United will certainly be expecting to come out of December in a far stronger position than they are now. While many of the sides above them face each other over the next two weeks, David Moyes takes his side to Stoke in the League Cup Quarter Final, before a home fixture against West Ham, and two away dates at Hull and then Norwich. Moyes will be expecting 4 victories, and that would mean a Semi Final to look forward to and the gap at the top of the League to be closed further.
The January window will be a particularly interesting one at Old Trafford with the rumor-mill in full swing right now. As many as 10 players have been tipped to be shown the door including:
Nani, Anderson, Hernandez, Kagawa, Young, Valencia and Buttner, with Evra and Rio Ferdinand supposedly not being offered extensions to their current deals, both which expire in the summer. While it’s unlikely that all of these players will go in January, David Moyes is undeniably trying to put his own mark on this team and it would be no surprise to see 3 or 4 leave and a couple brought in. Some names of targets that are currently being banded about consist (unsurprisingly) mainly of midfielders:
Fredy Guarin (Inter Milan) – 27 year old Colombian International, great box to box midfielder, would be available for around €18 million.
Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid) – Out of contract in the summer, not the first time United have been connected with the former Liverpool playmaker.
Bilal Basacikoglu (Heerenveen) – Just 18, this Turkish wide man has been receiving rave reviews from the United scouts said to have been sent to monitor the player and his performances.
Remy Cabella (Montpelier) – Scored 6 goals and 3 assists in 17 appearances, likely to cost €15 million.
Juan Mata (Chelsea) – Remains out of favor with Mourinho and with the World Cup looming, is certain to require first team football to garner a place in the Spanish squad.
Koke (Atlectico Madrid) – A favorite in Madrid, fantastic on the ball. Atletico may not be able to meet his new wage demands.
THE CANTONA EFFECT
There are five or six other players being linked with potential moves to Old Trafford in January, the truth is, unless somebody comes along that represents great value, Moyes is unlikely to go for them. There is no denying that he needs that one player to re-invigorate the side, an almost Cantona-like effect would be the kind of thing that the former Everton boss can only dream of, but anything is possible. Sometimes one fresh face (if it’s the right player) can change everything. The key for Moyes is not to panic (an unfortunate attribute that was so clearly responsible for the deadline day signing of Fellaini), nobody is expecting miracles and he will be given time to make the squad his own, that seems certain, barring a catastrophic sequence of results.
At the moment United can be pleased with Phil Jones and Johnny Evans as a central defensive partnership. They look solid and United have never lost with them as a pairing at the back. The return of Fletcher, who was so pivotal in so many massive games for United, is real bonus too. Rooney remains a constant threat to any opposition and even when he has an off day, his work rate can never be questioned. Wellbeck, Cleverley and Valencia all played well against Villa but it’s only one game, they must all now find that level of consistency that playing for Manchester United demands.
Van Persie and Carrick are now both looking like being long-term absentees which is a big blow, and will perhaps further the need for one of the aforementioned transfer targets to become a very real proposition. One thing is for sure, it’s going to be an interesting few months in the red half of Manchester….