The incoming manager will inherit a fine side, but there are issues to be resolved, and players to buy, before next season
Sir Alex Ferguson's final season in charge of Manchester United started with a 1-0 defeat at Everton, when David Moyes used Marouane Fellaini high up the pitch against the makeshift centre-back Michael Carrick, taking advantage of United's lack of strength at centre-back. That's a poor reflection of United's defensive situation, however. Following too many concessions at the start of the campaign, United have kept 10 clean sheets in their past 18 league games, and the goalkeeper David de Gea's quality is underlined by his presence in the PFA team of the year.
Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand started Ferguson's final match at Old Trafford, playing stereotypical roles – Vidic winning aerial battles and Ferdinand moving forward elegantly on the ball – but Ferguson has rotated his centre-backs excellently this season. Moyes is relatively unaccustomed to that concept but with Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones all excellent alternatives he has a plethora of options.
The victory over Swansea marked Paul Scholes' final Old Trafford appearance, but his partner Michael Carrick has been United's most pivotal midfielder, controlling games with reliable passes and occasionally spraying longer balls to the flanks. Moyes will appreciate his skill set, especially as the Scot encourages players to switch play quickly between wings, forcing the opposition to shift across the pitch. However, with Scholes retiring, Anderson rarely completing 90 minutes, Jones probably a defender in the long term, Darren Fletcher's future uncertain, Ryan Giggs turning 40 in November and Tom Cleverley still developing, Moyes' priority must be to purchase another central midfielder. Rather than a pure defensive player or an attacking playmaker, United require a midfielder who can offer energy, mobility and physicality alongside Carrick – Fellaini, a Moyes favourite, is capable of playing as an all-round midfielder or as an attacking weapon, and is an obvious target.
A key part of Ferguson's gameplan has involved playing with great width, but this has been United's clear area of weakness in 2012-13. Antonio Valencia, Nani and Ashley Young have all endured underwhelming campaigns – Valencia, with four assists and one goal in the league, has been the most productive. Ferguson's final starting XI at Old Trafford featured no proper wingers – with Danny Welbeck, a hard-working but goal-shy forward playing on one flank, and Shinji Kagawa on the other, despite his preference for playing in the centre. The imminent arrival of Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha, a direct dribbler who takes on opponents, will provide a more natural wide option. Moyes likes reliable combinations of wide players that combine swiftly and efficiently – Everton's Steven Pienaar and Leighton Baines are arguably the best wide partnership in the league, because they create and exploit space for each other down the left. Moyes' selection in wide areas may be about who works best with Rafael da Silva and Patrice Evra.
The key issue is the future of Wayne Rooney – his absence from the victory over Swansea was notable but such an omission was not entirely surprising and he is no longer United's most important attacker. He was also left out of the 2-1 defeat by Real Madrid, when Ferguson seemingly decided Rooney was not tactically disciplined enough. Welbeck was favoured because of his work rate, and his defensive job on Xabi Alonso was excellent. Moyes is a keen tactician who gives his players strict instructions, and may consider Kagawa a better option as United's No10. Despite a quiet first campaign, the Japanese playmaker showed during his time at Borussia Dortmund that he could be perfect for a Moyes side – he's brilliantly creative at his best, but also disciplined defensively, capable of marking an opposing midfielder before springing past at attacking transitions.
Having suffered without a top-class striker at Everton for so long at Everton, Moyes will be delighted to have the double Golden Boot winner Robin van Persie at his disposal, while the presence of Javier Hernández and Welbeck means that, even if Rooney goes, a replacement strikerwould be desirable rather than essential.