Jan Molby

Fickle optimism must not mask major problems at United

Jan Molby

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We see an astonishing overreaction to every single result in modern-day football and the relief and delight from Manchester United’s win over Olympiacos should not mask their problems.

A great deal of work is still required on every front for United and some crucial matches are to follow in quick succession as they look to salvage some respectability from their domestic campaign.

If David Moyes is the man to take the club forward beyond this season then the summer is just the start of the huge rebuilding work that needs to take place to get the side back to where they should be.

If you look at the team against the Greek outfit there were five players over 30 and a 40-year-old was comfortably the best player: that says it all, and it’s a very troubling picture for the club.

Olympiacos were easily the weakest team left in the competition and United managed in the end to avoid a real humiliation - but perhaps the widespread acclaim that has come their way since the result has not been warranted.

There is a real risk that United could be hit hard in the next round and there are a few teams that could beat them heavily, which would provide yet another major setback. We should not forget that Olympiacos were a limited side.

Ryan Giggs gave Moyes exactly what he needed in the midfield and he brought the touch of quality that was desperately needed. The problem comes when he will likely not be able to bail the side out again in the league at the weekend.

There has to be a cut-off point for United in the league to prevent the season further deteriorating into a total farce and Moyes will know that they cannot afford to tail off domestically just because they have progressed further in Europe.

It was good to see Robin van Persie fire against poor opposition, but it does not mean everything is now rosy. Having said that, it makes very little sense for him to go this summer as there are few realistic destinations for him at his age.

Van Persie is unlikely to allow his career to take a real slide by heading to a smaller club, so there really are few options for him going forward. For that reason I believe he will stay at the club beyond the summer.

The problem for United as they attempt a major rebuilding job is the level of competition for the players they will be targeting from their Premier League rivals and big clubs on the continent.

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Putting myself in the situation of an established star in Europe, if I was offered the chance to join United or Liverpool this summer, for instance, it would now be a very difficult decision to make with Champions League football on offer at Anfield.

The longer United’s slump continues the more attractive their rivals’ offers become and the harder it will be for Moyes to bring top names to Old Trafford. So they must make their key moves this summer and no later.

For me, I think United will be looking at the players just below the world-class level this summer as that will be realistic given their struggles – so it really would be a toss of the coin between them and Liverpool for many players if the situation arose.

The other factor to consider is: who would you prefer to play for out of Moyes or Brendan Rodgers?

Rodgers now has a clear track record of dramatically improving certain players and making the whole team function effectively as a unit, bringing the best out of the individuals within it. His side are on the up and that reflects the progression in his own managerial career.

A lot of players would really fancy the opportunity to work with Rodgers and he is beginning to finally get the credit he deserves across Europe for the job he has done at Liverpool and the progressive tactical knowledge he clearly has.

In stark contrast, it’s very hard to get a hold on what is going on at Old Trafford. With the Glazer family being so aloof, fans and pundits are equally unclear as to how they are going to approach improving the squad this summer.

A key period in the club’s history awaits, that is for sure. But it's a little early for United fans to settle back with too much new-found optimism.

Jan Molby

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