Last season United won the Premier League at a canter, this season it is proving rather difficult to defend their title. Any thoughts of them repeating the ease at which they won the Premier League has been thrown out the window. In fact right now it is looking as though they are facing a battle to be in top four, yet alone sustain a title challenge - who would have said that last May? No one. So what has changed?
The biggest change has been managerial. David Moyes is no slouch as a manager, truth be told he is a rather good one. His time at Everton showed him to be a manager highly skilled in the art of organisation. As a result he was able to coax the very best out of his team, consistently getting the best out of the likes of Tony Hibbert, Tim Cahill and others to perform above their skill level through sheer hard work.
Ironically, the very same skills that served him so well at Everton have seemingly deserted him at United. Consequentially, this is currently hindering United's performances.
Since Ronaldo's departure, United have slowly over the years declined in quality, yet they remained a threat through Sir Alex Ferguson's managerial skills. When you compare how United have played this season, in comparison to how they played last season, then apart from a stylistic change the performances have remained steady. Yet, they are due to post their lowest points tally in Premier League history.
For whatever reason, the United players are not giving Moyes the extra 10% that they gave to Ferguson. Take the recent Cardiff match of example, last season United would have seen off the threat Cardiff, this season they succumbed to the pressure. Of course, this claim is not the most quantifiable, but considering United are due to score their lowest points tally in the league it is something that holds up.
Nonetheless, the biggest problem United are facing right now is that they are not good enough. Ferguson's successes with the squad masked that fact, they had the perfect chemistry and any other manager taking over Fergie would have struggled to emulate him.
The two best players for United last season (Carrick and Van Persie) have picked up where they left off, however today their absence was keenly felt as their deputies failed.
Hernandez (screenshot four) was just as ineffective. Today he had no shots, and although service was lackadaisical, he was unable to create space for himself like Van Persie (screenshot three) is able to. Add on further deficiencies from first team players such as Rio Ferdinand, Chris Smalling, Antonio Valencia and Nani it becomes apparent United do not have the quality to retain their title; the title race will be beyond as well, top four is the most they can achieve.
*All statistics courtesy of WhoScored and Squawka