Manchester United's squad is not good enough to win the Champions League, according to David Moyes, who claimed this week that the club have too few world-class players to challenge for the trophy.
According to Moyes, "To win the Champions League, you need five or six world-class players. Look at Bayern Munich, they have it. Look at Barcelona, who had it in the past and Real Madrid, who have maybe got it now. That's the level you have to be at to win it. We've not got that yet but what we have got is experience."
Moyes may not be exactly off the mark in that assertion, but the most important criticism is perhaps this: Why bring this up now? What purpose does it serve? It's easy to say that Alex Ferguson would never have said this, but if Moyes has to be his own man, what advantage is gained by making these comments now? It's understandable from the point of view of a team who are playing above expectations where he'd want to keep the players grounded, but a team that are losing games all over the place and struggling to put a run of form together?
Then of course, we can look at whether or not it's actually true. It's a very vague term, but we'll use the definition of world-class as someone who has a reasonable claim to be among the best in the world in his position - a player who has a chance of making Earth's 24-man squad for the intergalactic Universe Cup. By those criteria, we have the following players:
- Robin van Persie - obviously
- David de Gea
- Nemanja Vidic - unless he suffers a terrible decline this year. Although fitness has been a problem, it hasn't affected his actual performances in the same way it has, say, Rio Ferdinand.
So, four, which isn't too terrible. Wayne Rooney certainly can be on his day, but his inconsistency is as much a part of him as the scouse accent by this point, so we'd have to include him in the tier below, of simply very good players. But when we look at that, that's where we see the real problem lies.
In recent years, Patrice Evra would have been considered among the world-class tier. If he keeps his current form up this whole season, then he might be considered among the 'very good', but that's unlikely. And in those same years, Nani, Antonio Valencia, Rio Ferdinand and Michael Carrick would all have to be considered in that secondary grouping too. Now, that's no longer the case, and that's probably more where the problem lies than in a lack of world-class talent.
Instead, until Shinji Kagawa can justify the fawning and Marouane Fellaini can settle in, United only really have Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez in that tier - made even worse because it's very difficult to fit both of them and Robin van Persie into the same side. That, rather than world-class talent is going to be what holds us back this season.