David Moyes has faced a fair amount of criticism since replacing Sir Alex Ferguson, but, in fairness to the former Everton boss, his task was always far more complex than the fact that he was taking over a team that had just won the Premier League title at a canter would suggest. Arguably since the Champions League final humbling by Barcelona in 2009 and subsequent departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, United’s success has been more to do with the acumen of Ferguson than the individual quality of the players at his disposal. It would be hard to argue that United had the best squad in the Premier League last season.
In the Champions League they have been found out and Moyes was correct, if unwise, to recently point out that United lack the players necessary to compete with Europe’s elite. In the short term he should be expected to lift the club up the table, but going forward there are several players on the club’s books who he will doubles be thinking about moving on.
Here are eight players who should fear for their Old Trafford futures.
Perhaps the most obvious name on this list. Moyes showed plenty of confidence in Young early in the season, valuing his work rate and frequency of delivering balls into the box. But the England international has been woeful in his appearances this campaign, increasingly reliant on his trademark shift back onto his right foot and whipping in an in-swinging cross. He was arguably never up to United’s standard and he has regressed in his two-and-a-half years at Old Trafford. The former Aston Villa winger’s propensity for inept dives only adds to the feeling that it would be better for all concerned if his career is continued elsewhere.
Another all-too-predictable name on the list. Anderson has now been seemingly fighting for his United future for at least three seasons. Having arrived for a fee of £20 million as an attacking midfielder, the Brazilian found himself converted into a midfield workhorse. Just five Premier League goals in more than six years speaks volumes. Yet, while the United coaching staff may have diluted his natural flair, Anderson has not helped himself with an alleged lack of dedication off the pitch and his questionable fitness. Aged 25, he still has time to fulfill his talent but it is increasingly difficult to imagine that happening at Old Trafford.
The Portuguese winger arrived in the same summer as Anderson and for a similar fee. And, while he has made more of an impact than his fellow 2007 signing, he has still largely been a frustrating presence. Nani had a fine season in 2010-11 when he was rightly voted the club’s Player of the Year but has regressed since. Unlike his fellow Sporting Lisbon youth product Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani has failed to develop his undoubted talent into producing a reliable end product. He started just seven Premier League games last season and reached his nadir when being booed off against Stoke City on Saturday after a typically exasperating display.
After several years of seemingly being in decline as he was beset by niggling injuries, Ferdinand confounded expectations with a fine campaign last term when he was rightly voted as a part of the PFA’s Premier League Team of the Year. This season, though, the creeks have set back in and, aged 34, it is hard not to think that the decline may be permanent this time around. Ferdinand was granted a one-year contract extension to keep him at the club this season, but may not be the recipient of another.
There was much surprise, not least in his homeland, when Manchester United signed Buttner from Vitesse Arnhem last summer. That he was not especially highly regarded in the Netherlands can be seen in the fact that he has never been capped by his country despite their lack of a standout left-back in recent years. A meager total of five Premier League appearances to his name perhaps shows that neither Ferguson nor now Moyes trust his raw talents. Decent going forward but, as was shown in the recent defeat to West Brom, positionally challenged defensively, the 24-year-old was set for a loan move away this summer before transfers failed for both Leighton Baines and Fabio Coentrao.
It seems a long time ago now, but the future looked bright for Fabio when he was selected to start the Champions League final in 2011 at right back, ahead of his twin brother Rafael. But things have gone downhill ever since. A loan spell at Queens Park Rangers last season failed to yield any progression and it may now be that he has to permanently continue his career elsewhere if he is to truly develop.
It is becoming make-or-break time for Smalling at Manchester United. After making a meteoric rise from non-league to Old Trafford, via Fulham, in just two years, the defender’s potential looked sizable. But his career has stalled of late, due in part to injuries as well as being forced to play out of position at right back. Still, the 23-year-old has also yet failed to show that he should be in the team ahead of Ferdinand or Nemanja Vidic and be United’s future at center-back for the next decade.
The midfielder was much-hyped after returning from a loan spell with Wigan and helping to turn around the 2011 Community Shield against Manchester City in United’s favor. However, a player can only dine out on a performance in a glorified friendly for so long. Increasingly, Cleverley has shown himself to be a neat-and-tidy midfielder but lacking the ability to really influence a match at the highest level. Aged 24, he should be coming into his prime, but Moyes may decide that Cleverley’s best just isn’t good enough.