— B/R Football (@brfootball) July 1, 2016
The 2013/14 season is one any Manchester United fan would be fond of forgetting. Replacing Sir Alex Ferguson was never going to be an easy task. However, the successor United executives chose to fill Fergie’s shoes still left much to be desired.
The previous season, David Moyes had led his beloved Everton to a reasonably successful campaign. The Toffees qualified for European football, finishing above Merseyside rivals Liverpool who finished in seventh.
United, on the other hand, had secured a record 20th Premier League trophy, the perfect send-off for Sir Alex. Moyes was awarded the vacant United job, an appointment many experts thought to be the perfect fit. United’s success in the Scot’s debut season, however, proved otherwise.
Moyes’ Forgettable Reign
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) September 3, 2013
Moyes inherited more-or-less the same exact side that won the league the previous year. Yet the only player he brought in in his first transfer window was Marouane Fellaini in a £30m deadline day panic-buy.
In January, Spanish attacking midfielder Juan Mata was brought in after landing in Carrington via private helicopter. Though, the signing was one that did not necessarily suit the needs of United’s football.
United already had too many central attacking midfielders. With Wayne Rooney regularly featuring behind Robin Van Persie, even Shinji Kagawa was forced out wide. The Red Devils’ abundance of central attacking talent unsurprisingly forced Mata out onto the right-wing – a position he is still struggling to shrug.
However, one night towards the tail-end of the season encapsulated United’s frustrations of months prior. And perhaps even shows the state of the club in the post-Fergie era.
United’s 2013/14 Champion’s League Journey
— Premier League (@premierleague) March 20, 2014
The Red Devils kicked off their Champions League campaign in style. David Moyes’ men were pitted in a tough group made up of Bayer Leverkusen, Shakhtar Donetsk, and Real Sociedad.
United topped the group undefeated with four wins and two draws and advanced into the knockout stages where they matched up against Olympiacos.
After a shaky away first leg, the Reds went into the second needing a win in front of the Old Trafford faithful to secure their place in the quarter-finals.
A hat-trick courtesy of Robin Van Persie sent Moyes’ men through to the next round.
Where It All Went Wrong
Man United may have lost to Bayern Munich, but Patrice Evra got the goal of the day.
— FS1 (@FS1) April 9, 2014
For the Quarter-finals, United were drawn against German giants, Bayern Munich. The side managed to hold Bayern to a 1-1 draw at home in the first-leg, meaning it all came down to the reverse fixture at the Allianz Arena.
The opening moments were pretty tame, but in the 57th minute, Patrice Evra gave United the lead through a remarkable first-time shot from outside the box.
That lead was short-lived, however, as Mario Mandzukic brought the hosts level just two minutes later. Further goals from Thomas Muller and Arjen Robber then secured a triumphant win for Munich, while United stumbled out of the Champions League, failing to make up for an otherwise dire season.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) April 9, 2014
By this point, United were already well out of the Premier League title race, as well as being eliminated from all other domestic competitions.
The Champion’s League was the only way Moyes could reel his men into bringing at least one positive from the season. However, it seemed the only positive that came was the sacking of Moyes himself.
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) April 22, 2014
A few painful weeks later, Moyes was booted out of his role at Old Trafford. Fans seemed elated by the news of Ryan Giggs stepping in as interim boss for the remaining few games – which shows exactly how bad the situation at the club had become.
United finished seventh in the Premier League, their worst since 1990, prior to the Premier League era. Though, this period in United’s history has left a deep-rooted scar that doesn’t seem to have healed even to this day.
The team had lost its identity under David Moyes. Having inherited a side who had won the league the previous year, it was remarkable to see the shell of their former selves the players had become.
QPR sign Rio Ferdinand on a 1 year deal. How will this signing help for the forthcoming season? pic.twitter.com/Zo0vJ50hFZ
— Betfair (@Betfair) July 17, 2014
Their confidence was at an all-time low, and the departures of defensive enforcers Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra, and Nemanja Vidic meant that whoever came in to turn United around had an even tougher job on their hands.
United have always been a defensively stable side. But even five years later, this area of the field still leaves a lot to be desired.
That fateful night in Munich began United’s downwards spiral. Through the guidance of David Moyes, many of United’s key stars left the club with wounded careers. Some of those departures may have been physical. But for those remaining at the club, it was their mentality that left.
Manchester United spending since Fergie left. Just look at what Van Gaal brought in. pic.twitter.com/mt9dVlDkyl
— L F C (@Anfield54074) December 30, 2017
The club quickly learned that the United ethos of building a squad to glory from the grassroots was no longer sustainable. Instead, through Louis Van Gaal, they adopted the tactics of other clubs in throwing money at players and hoping something sticks.
Unfortunately, Van Gaal’s football turned out to not be worthy of the transfer budget he was given, leaving Jose Mourinho to once again pick up the pieces. Mourinho’s transformation of the United side has been more gradual than most anticipated, but is still one that should be applauded.
Despite a season lacking in silverware, the squad still look as though greatness is in their future. There’s no denying they’re in a much better place now, but who knows where United would be if they won that game against Bayern.