David Moyes has again managed to attract the wrath of the Old Trafford faithful after Manchester United were held to a 1-1 draw by Southampton on Saturday.
The Scot's substitutions came under widespread criticism by the fans and this article explains why Moyes' tactical tinkering against the Saints wasn't as bad as people have made it out to be.
Moyes' Task at Hand
Before we start analyzing Moyes' substitutes, it's important to understand the situation he was in and the reason why the likes of Shinji Kagawa and Wilfried Zaha weren't used.
Prior to the kick-off United had slumped to tenth in the Premier League table and securing three points against the Saints was crucial. As the game progressed, United had got the early goal via Robin van Persie and Southampton were beginning to pile pressure on the hosts.
Moyes was under severe pressure to win the game so after the interval, he wanted his team to be more cautious- protect the lead and hit Southampton on the break.
Had Danny Welbeck finished off the one-on-one chance he got against Artur Boruc, United fans would have been lauding Moyes' tactics. But that wasn't to be the case.
Even in the final few minutes, when Moyes withdrew Wayne Rooney for Chris Smalling, he didn't enforce any "negative tactics". Rooney was tiring and Smalling was the ideal defender against the aerial threat of Ricky Lambert and Dani Osvaldo.
Moreover, United were being overrun in midfield so bringing on Smalling allowed Jones to move into the midfield. From a 4-4-2, United went to a 4-3-3 and considering the way the Red Devils were being dominated in the middle of the park, this was a very good substitution.
Many say Moyes brought on a defender for an attacker, but some minutes earlier he had brought on a striker for a defensive-midfielder. Why wasn't that considered as an "attacking substitution"?
The Ones Who Weren't Usedt
Anders Lindegaard- Wasn't needed.
Shinji Kagawa- Could have formed the nexus between the two ends of the pitch but the Japan international would've been needed had United been chasing the game. Kagawa is defensively susceptible and having got the early goal, Moyes was more concerned with not conceding rather than finding the crucial second. Therefore, Kagawa would have been a 'risky' against Mauricio Pochettino's troops.
Javier Hernandez- Southampton were playing with a very high line and Hernandez could have thoroughly exploited this tactic of the visitors. But Moyes was forced to "waste" two substitutions due to the horrendous display of the first substitute (Giggs). So, Hernandez didn't see any playing time.
Wilfried Zaha- Yet to make a Premier League appearance. Moyes was never going to risk him against a Southampton side eagerly looking for an equalizer.
Wrong: Ryan Giggs for Luis Nani
The only wrong substitution Moyes made.
Luis Nani wasn't showing signs of fatigue, however, Moyes decided to bring on Giggs so United could control the game and decrease the tempo. At the same time, the former Everton manager also hoped that the 39-year-old will be able to do some damage on the counter.
But Giggs miserably failed his manager.
During his stint on the right-wing, Giggs offered very little to the attack. His pace is waning and within a few minutes after coming on, Giggs got dispossessed or gave away the ball thrice.
Each time United were trying to build up an attack and Giggs carelessly gifted possession to Southampton.
It's no coincidence that after Giggs was brought on, Southampton enjoyed 56% of the possession.
Corrective Measure 1: Danny Welbeck for Marouane Fellaini
Giggs was clearly struggling out wide, giving away possession and restricting United's impetus on the counter.
As a result, Moyes replaced Marouane Fellaini, who is suffering from a wrist injury, with Welbeck.
United needed a wide player who could have attacked as well as tracked back with commitment.
Giggs wasn't going to do that and Welbeck was the only remaining option.
This substitution also allowed Fellaini to get some rest and Giggs to move centrally, from where he could have had a stronger influence in controlling the tempo of the game.
Corrective Measure 2: Chris Smalling for Wayne Rooney
But in the centre, Giggs wasn't tracking back.
Michael Carrick was doing the work of winning possession as well as closing space in between the lines. But with with Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez continually drifting in, United were outnumbered in the middle.
So reinforcement was required.
One option was to ask Wayne Rooney to drop back with Carrick and Giggs, but instead of forcing the exhausted Englishman to provide defensive cover, Moyes (rightly) felt, bringing on some fresh legs will
be more helpful.
Smalling replaced Rooney and this solved two issues- United got someone to deal with the aerial threat of Osvaldo and Lambert and Jones was able to close the space in between
the lines by moving in midfield.
"We didn't take the two forwards off. We kept them on. We brought Danny Welbeck on, brought Ryan Giggs on.I thought we actually tried to get a second goal. Only in the last three or four minutes when I was trying to make sure we had some height at set-pieces we actually lose a goal from a set-piece."
Moyes post-match comments explain the story. He's been needlessly judged by the fans as most fail to notice that after making one error (bringing on Giggs), it took him only a few minutes to realize his
mistake and to start making amends.
Not all the manager are such quick thinkers. Moyes needs time to adapt to life at Old Trafford and it's best if he's afforded that time.