The Manchester United manager now needs to be bold and adventurous – and set out a vision for his team
Danny Welbeck says: "It's the hardest thing in football – maintain consistency throughout the whole season. But that is what Manchester United have done for as long as I've known. We need to see if we can get that consistency in our performances and results, and gather momentum. We need to set a platform that we can build on."
The killer line here is the last one. The uneven form may be a function of injuries, but the idea of an overarching philosophy is that personnel can change but the vision remains. A valid question then is what is David Moyes's vision for Manchester United? How does he want the 20-times champions to play for the foreseeable future? No one seems to know. The first move in taking control again may be to set this out.
This is easier said than done, but the indecision over when to treat Rooney properly for the abductor problem cannot have helped the star striker and the dressing room, with him being asked to carry his injury through matches before he was finally sent to Egypt this week. When Van Persie will return is also confused as the recent work done with his former trainer at PSV Eindhoven has still been unable to give Moyes a time-frame. If the manager can have them back for an extended period surely fortunes will rise.
Moyes says: "The situation we currently find ourselves in is not something I envisaged, and I'm sure that is the case as well for the players for you supporters. We are in a difficult period and on several occasions we have felt that fortune has not favoured us, but we have to make sure we turn things around." A trip to the sunshine of Qatar, as has been pencilled in, would surely allow Moyes to reboot the season and get his players smiling again to recapture a vital element that went awol a time ago: the fun factor.
Moyes retains the support of almost three-quarters of hard-core match-going United fans, according to a poll by the club fanzine Red Issue. These findings are broadly matched by a survey carried out by United We Stand, another of the most-read fanzines about the champions. But the sense is that unless Moyes starts gambling more when needed this support may ebb away as the United way is to attack.