Manchester United – A season of Nightmare, Downfall, and Jeopardy

At the end of the previous season, living legend of Premier League and Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson retired as manager. Relationship, which lasted for 25 years, ended and it was time for new face to lead the Red Devils. David Moyes was appointed on that position and everyone was aware that this season will be sacrificed on purpose, so that players and fans can adopt his style of work and play.

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During the preseason, general opinion of fans was that Moyes has core of the team and that claiming another trophy will not be a problem for this squad. During the summer transfer window, while teams like Chelsea and Manchester City were spending great amounts of money, Moyes was constantly repeating he doesn’t need more players in his squad.

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With arrival of Ozil in Arsenal and Liverpool setting their sights on Premier League, he made his first desperate signing – injured Fellaini. Although the Belgian was key player at Everton, he didn’t bring anything new to the performances of Manchester United. Second desperate signing arrived during the January transfer window, when the Spanish midfielder Juan Mata joined the club for the highest transfer fee in the history of club. Mata’s quality and skills are indisputable, but the fact that he spent first half of the season on the bench makes his signing even more absurd. Along with that, Moyes changed complete coaching staff, which turned out to be wrong decision and sent wrong message to the players.

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Another problem came in tactical approach of Moyes – in 35 gameweeks of the Premier League, he never lined up the same starting XI for two consecutive games. Many of the older players were complaining about this, because Ferguson always let players knew who will start the game couple of days in advance. This lead to comic displays in some matches and some negative records set under the Moyes – Everton managed to triumph over Manchester United after 22 years of waiting; WBA won three points as guest on Old Trafford for the first time since 1978; Newcastle won the game against Red Devils after 41 years.

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Potential salvation for Moyes was the Champions League competition. In the group stage, they finished first, ahead of the Leverkusen and Shakhtar. Draw for the knock-out stage set the duel with Olympiacos, in which they barely got away (lost 2:0 in Greece and won 3:0 at home). Next round saw them face reigning European and World club champions, Bayern Munich. In that tie, they managed to remain undefeated in front of their fans (1:1), but were thrashed in Munich (3:1). This was end of their journey in Europe and next season they will not be part of this competition. They are seventh on the table and whoever takes the club in summer will have to earn them a place among top 4 clubs in Premier League in order to return to elite.

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All this lead us to one conclusion – revolution is ahead of the United during the summer. New coach, fresh blood and setting priorities are three things they will need in order to return to the old paths of glory. Fans must be patient with new staff, club owners will have to give their best in order to sign world-class-players and lack of European games can turn out to be a positive side for this squad. Players will play just one game per week, so they will be more rested than their league opponents. Lots of works are ahead of the Manchester United and new season can be the milestone of the new era in the club’s rich history.

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Liverpool 2014 “From Dusk to Dawn”

After 24 years of waiting, Liverpool is just three wins away from claiming the Premier League title. In the past two decades, Reds were runner-ups just twice but this time faith is in their hands.

Previous season, they finished on 7th place. General opinion is that manager Rodgers did that on purpose – he didn’t want to waste time and stamina of players in second tier European competition, such is Europa League. During the summer transfer window, four arrived to the club in June – Mignolet, Toure, Alberto and Iaspas were brought for less than 24 million£, while Sakho and Ilori arrived during the last day of transfer window.

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When it comes to style of play, this season brought different approach for Reds. Rodgers managed to adjust the squad to play in various formations. Season started in 3-5-2, which was later shifted to 4-5-1 following by 4-2-3-1 in the second half of season. Team play is based on ball possession and in this season, Liverpool managed to claim average 54.7%, followed by 84.1% of pass success rate.

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Their winning rate against “smaller teams” significantly improved. In the past season, fans were frustrated with dropping of points in games against Stoke, WBA, Aston Villa, etc. This season, we saw just one defeat on Anfield (against Southampton in Gameweek 5), one draw (against Aston Villa in Gameweek 22), and all other games were victories for Reds.

Second, and probably most important part of the Liverpool game are goals. They scored 96 league goals, and that is 25 more than last, with three gameweeks remaining till the end. Duo Suarez-Sturridge scored 50 league goals, and that number would be even bigger if there wasn’t suspension for Uruguayan. Other player that contributed in this record are captain Gerrard with 13 goals, winger Sterling with 9 and defender Skrtel, who found the net on 7 occasions.

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Also, early cup eliminations gave team chance to keep their strength for the games. Unlike other competitors for top 4 spots on the table, Liverpool squad was always rested during the week. While Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United played two games per week, Merseysiders only had one game in seven days on their agenda. This was important for them, since the subs are not as half as good as the first choice players (Moses, Aspas and Alberto are simply not the players that are capable of improving the quality of play).

To wrap it up, early finished transfers, change of approach and style of play, combined with outstanding form of Suarez and Sturridge seems to be crucial for the title race of Liverpool. Three more gameweeks are ahead of them in which they need to claim seven points in order to secure top spot and find the Holy Grail – Premier League trophy.