Manchester United has swayed from crisis to recovery in a turbulent first few months of David Moyes’ tenure at Old Trafford. A week ago, the English champions were celebrating early qualification from the group stage of the Champions League after its biggest away win in Europe in nearly 50 years. Seven days later and their Premier League title chances appear to be in tatters after a 1-0 home loss to Everton that left United in ninth place, 12 points off leader Arsenal.
With the top three of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City finding some good form, United cannot afford another slip-up at home against Newcastle on Saturday. Moyes’ task will be made all the more difficult, with the suspension of Wayne Rooney and the possible injury-related absences of striker Robin Van Persie and midfielder Michael Carrick.
United has picked up only two points from its last three matches to slip way off the pace set by Arsenal, and the frustration at the club’s slide is showing on Wayne Rooney. In the 2-2 draw at Cardiff late last month, the striker was fortunate to escape with a booking after kicking out at an opponent. Then, against Everton, he earned another yellow card for leading with his elbow on Phil Jagielka, his fifth booking of the season, leading to a suspension.
That’s a major blow for Moyes, with Rooney having been easily United’s best player this season with 10 goals in all competitions. Throw in Robin van Persie’s continued absence with toe and groin injuries and United’s problems in central midfield that have been exacerbated by an injury to Michael Carrick, and Moyes has problems ahead of the Newcastle game.
Arsenal’s tough fixtures
After ending a 21-year wait for victory at United, is it too much to ask for Everton to secure a first win at Arsenal since 1996? Probably, given Arsenal’s recent run that has seen the team win its last four games without conceding a goal, but Everton is in good form itself after backing up a 4-0 victory at Stoke with that win at Old Trafford.
In Roberto Martinez, Everton has one of