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Who Has David Moyes Been Able to Rely on at Manchester United This Season?

PIRAEUS, GREECE - FEBRUARY 25:  Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on before the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Olympiacos FC and Manchester United at Karaiskakis Stadium on February 25, 2014 in Piraeus, Greece.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images
Rob DawsonManchester United CorrespondentFebruary 27, 2014

It's been a trying season for David Moyes.

And, as unlikely as it is, only if Manchester United lift the Champions League trophy in May can it be considered a success.

Even if United finish in the Premier League's top four—as impressive as that would be from the position they're in now—that was the minimum target before the season started.

The reasons for United's problems have been pawed over again and again.

The summer transfer window was a disaster. Sir Alex Ferguson left behind a team on its last legs. Moyes is not up to the job.

There are supporters of all these theories.

But perhaps most significantly, those players who won the title by 11 points last year have not played as well this season.

In fact, in a first-team squad of about 24, you wouldn't need one hand to count the players who can honestly say they've had a good season.

PIRAEUS, GREECE - FEBRUARY 25:  (L-R) Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick and Robin van Persie  of Manchester United react as they restart the game after conceding the first goal during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Olympiacos FC
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Moyes hasn't been helped by injuries to key players.

Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Michael Carrick have all missed chunks of the season (together they've started just 12 of United's 41 games this season).

It's not a massive leap to suggest that if all three had remained fit, United wouldn't be in the position they currently find themselves.

Moyes has at least been able to rely on van Persie whenever he's played, with the Dutch striker scoring 14 goals in his 21 appearances so far.

Rooney, too, has played well when he's been fit. For the most part.

Carrick had one of his best seasons last year but, in late February, he is only just starting to get back to that level.

He's not alone.

Alastair Grant/Associated Press

Rafael was one of the league's best right-backs last year but has looked more like the rash and raw Rafael of 2010 at times this season.

Antonio Valencia has been a regular under Moyes but still hasn't rediscovered the form that won him the club's Player of the Year award in 2012.

The rest—Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra, Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Tom Cleverley, Danny Welbeck, Shinji Kagawa, Ashley Young and Javier Hernandez—have all struggled for fitness and/or form. Or, in the case of Marouane Fellaini, both.

Adnan Januzaj is still a teenager and only halfway through his first season as a member of the first team. As such it would be unfair to heap too much pressure on someone so young, which explains in part why he was left out of the squad to face Olympiakos. Juan Mata has only just arrived.

In fact, you can make a case that only David de Gea has been consistently at his best this season.

Scott Heppell/Associated Press

Still only 23, and in just his third season in England, de Gea has missed two games this season (both cup ties when he was rested in favour of Anders Lindegaard).

Even he hasn't been faultless—his horrific mistake against Sunderland in the Capital One Cup semi-final contributed to United's exit—but he's been pretty close.

PIRAEUS, GREECE - FEBRUARY 25:  Manchester United manager David Moyes reacts on the touchline during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Olympiacos FC and Manchester United at Karaiskakis Stadium on February 25, 2014 in Piraeus,
Michael Regan/Getty Images

His handling has improved to the point that he's almost unrecognisable from the scrawny youngster who arrived from Atletico Madrid in 2011. He has continued to make saves that have helped win games—at Norwich, for example, or more recently at Crystal Palace.

And therein lies United's problem.

In a squad of 24 players, who this time last season were marching towards the title, Moyes has only been able to consistently rely on one.

Moyes, of course, isn't blameless. The players have been under his guidance for more than six months and they're following his instructions on the pitch.

But, ultimately, he has inherited a squad of champions who haven't lived up to their billing. 

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