Man Utd's Summer Failings Have Created an Imbalanced, Confused Side

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJanuary 6, 2014

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Manchester United's abject performance against Swansea City on Sunday saw them knocked out of the FA Cup at the earliest possible stage.

Boos rang around Old Trafford after the final whistle sounded, with Wilfried Bony's powerful 90th-minute header condemning David Moyes to a fifth home defeat of the season before February has even begun to flicker on the horizon.

Watching the team's performances back from the first half of the season, it becomes abundantly clear that United is in deep transition, yet it remains haunted by an awful, awful summer.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 05:  Wilfried Bony of Swansea City celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the FA Cup with Budweiser Third round match between Manchester United and Swansea City at Old Trafford on January 5, 2014 in Manchester, Engl
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In the loss to the Swans, United looked tactically imbalanced and out of ideas when on the ball; over the course of the first 30 games, the shape of the side has been all over the place at clearly identifiable moments.

Distances between the lines (forward to midfield, midfield to defensive) has been mightily inconsistent, and there appears to be at least one change to the XI every time United take to the field.

This is a product of chopping and changing, not just with players, but with formations and systems too. Moyes doesn't know what he wants to play, and the reason for this is that this side resembles a derelict structure, covered in scaffolding and work tools preparing for an overly expensive renovation.

Marouane Fellaini is an easy scapegoat, but don't buy into the idea that he's a flop so easily. If Moyes deserves two years, why doesn't the Belgian?

From the summer targets that the manager failed to acquire—Kevin Strootman, Cesc Fabregas and Ander Herrera among them—it is abundantly clear that the plan was always to entirely revamp the midfield.

Michael Carrick is perhaps the only player currently on the books who Moyes feels he can trust implicitly.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04:  Marouane Fellaini of Manchester United competes with Ross Barkley of Everton during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Everton at Old Trafford on December 4, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (P
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Fellaini was the first part of a two-part plan, and all of his failings are borne out of him not fitting in the current climate. If Moyes can secure his preferred midfield target this January, the Belgian's fortunes could transform instantaneously.

One such player to unlock his best would be Ross Barkley.

It's all coming down on Moyes' shoulders, but he wasn't solely responsible for the summer transfer window disaster. Ed Woodward has made a career out of getting value for money, but when you're punching at the weight United are, you are forced to overpay.

The Red Devils lost the best manager in world football this summer, and then they messed up the chase for several impact players. Moyes, clearly daunted by the pressure this job brings, was then forced to lead a title charge with the fifth- or sixth-best squad in the Premier League.

GETAFE, SPAIN - DECEMBER 22:  Cesc Fabregas of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring Barcelona's 5th goal during the La Liga match between Getafe CF and FC Barcelona at Coliseum Alfonso Perez on December 22, 2013 in Getafe, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/G
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The imbalances in the team, the tactical disparities, the seismic shifts in results; all of these factors point to the truth: The summer setbacks placed a spanner in the works of an already near-impossible job.

Firing Moyes would get the club precisely nowhere, and fans need to understand that even Jose Mourinho could walk through the door, peruse the roster and declare: "I need £100 million to rectify this."

That's not even to say that the current crop are horrendously poor—they're not—but Moyes started a tactical shift that he couldn't finish after signing just one player in August.

Caught between a rock and hard place, the winter transfer window and the grace of time really are the only things that can bail Manchester United out this time.