David Moyes must regain Manchester United's winning mentality

Sports Mole assesses one major change that David Moyes needs to make to his philosophy at Manchester United.

Three minutes of stoppage time remained of the 1999 Champions League final when, with Bayern Munich leading 1-0, commentator Clive Tyldesley asked: "Can Manchester United score? They always score." They did, twice.

It was a match that encapsulated not only that treble-winning campaign, but United's ideology for large parts of Sir Alex Ferguson's 27-year tenure.

Be it Steve Bruce's double against Sheffield Wednesday or Mark Hughes's volley against Oldham Athletic in the 1994 FA Cup semi-final, right through to Robin van Persie's winner at Manchester City last season, the Old Trafford history books are littered with late, vital interventions.

Indeed, of United's 1627 Premier League goals between August 1992 and May of this year, 80 (4.92%) were scored in the 90th minute or later.

Ryan Giggs, who has been present for every single one of those goals, spoke of the club's never-say-die attitude during the recently released 'Class of 92' film, with particular onus on a 1999 FA Cup tie against Liverpool, where 11th-hour strikes from Dwight Yorke and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sealed a turnaround 2-1 victory for Ferguson's charges.

"When you are 1-0 down and you score that equaliser, you know that it is coming. [The Liverpool match] sort of set the tone for the rest of the season - for me it was the turning point. Teams knew that no matter what the score was, we would still come back at you. It was always at the back of their minds that we always came back," said the Welshman.

Manchester United's midfielder Ryan Giggs controls the ball during a friendly football match between AIK and Manchester United on August 6, 2013© Getty Images

It's been seven months since Ferguson abdicated his throne, leaving David Moyes, 'The Chosen One', to fight the good fight. However, as Moyes arrived, that famous winning mentality was heading in the opposite direction.

At the time of writing, Moyes's United have collected 22 points from a possible 45, leaving themselves ninth in the table. While a lack of quality available to the new manager and players bereft of hunger are valid accusations, the Scot must shoulder some of the responsibility.


Sunday, September 1 2013: Liverpool 1-0 Man United
An early goal from Daniel Sturridge was enough for Moyes to lose his first match in charge against United's bitterest rivals. Despite falling behind in the fourth minute, the visitors mustered just four shots on target.

After the defeat, Moyes told BBC Sport: "I thought we played really well. We had long periods of the game but couldn't score.

"Apart from the lapse in concentration for their goal, we played well. From what I saw today, I'm more than happy with what I've got. It's the best we've played this season. I wouldn't be worried if I didn't add to the squad."


Sunday, November 24 2013: Cardiff City 2-2 Man United
Cardiff City substitute Kim Bo-Kyung converted a header in stoppage time to peg United. Talking to MUTV in the wake of the match, Moyes said: "It's a tough place to come after international duty and I would have taken the result before the game."

Cardiff's Kim Bo-Kyung heads in the late equaliser against Manchester United during their Premier League match on November 24, 2013© Getty Images


Saturday, December 7, 2013: Man United 0-1 Newcastle United
United's third home defeat of the season - their second in succession - was inflicted by Yohan Cabaye, who scored in the 60th minute. In the 30 minutes that followed, the hosts only had one meaningful effort as Wilfried Zaha curled wide, while Van Persie had a headed goal correctly chalked off for offside.

Prior to the fixture, Moyes was quoted as saying: "They come to Old Trafford and we're going to make it as hard and difficult for them as we possibly can."



Such quotes, particularly those from the Cardiff and Newcastle encounters, are hardly likely to instil a victorious mentality into a group of players, regardless of their previous success and triumphs. With the greatest of respect, those words are acceptable for the manager of either Aston Villa or Norwich City to say, but it won't be approved for too long by the boss of the English champions and one of the world's biggest clubs.

In short, United are not creating enough opportunities and consequently, in their last two outings, one goal has been enough for the opposition to claim maximum points. Quite simply, the team that Giggs described, the one that had so much belief even when it appeared that all hope was lost, has vanished.

Against the Magpies they failed to record one shot on target in 30 minutes of football and in a 2-1 home defeat at the hands of West Bromwich Albion earlier in the campaign, just three shots were fired in the direction of the away side's goal after Saido Berahino had scored what proved to be the winner in the 67th minute.

Saido Berahino of West Bromwich Albion celebrates with team mates after scoring during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford on September 28, 2013© Getty Images

"They are drifting aimlessly through matches. When a team score a goal against them – it's like 'oh, we've lost'. There's no fire out there, no urgency. Things just aren't happening. They are just drifting through matches in a very comfortable mode," is how former United defender Gary Neville described United's season when asked by Sky Sports News.

"No fire" and "no urgency" is a damning, yet worryingly accurate assessment. Once the 11 players cross the white line, Moyes is largely powerless to what unfolds, but only he can restore that motivation, that desire to press forward, even with seconds remaining.

At Everton, it was often endorsed when Moyes instructed his side to retreat and adopt the safety first outlook. They would tend to hold on to what they had when either in a leading or drawing position, especially during contests with the division's bigger sides. United, though, are a different animal.

There is a terrace chant among the United faithful that includes the line: "We often score six but we seldom score 10." Although factually incorrect, that, if nothing else, should tell Moyes what is demanded of him now.

Manchester United manager David Moyes reacts on the touchline during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford on September 28, 2013
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