David Moyes; the name on every football fans lips at present.
It’s ironic how the name ‘Moyes’ derives from French name ‘Moses’ who we all know lead the Israelites out of Egypt and across the Red Sea. Moyes’ plan to lead United to a sea of red success, to the Sir Alex Ferguson heights, the heights which have notoriously been acknowledged as the norm for Manchester United over the last 15 years, has let’s say, not set-sailed as first intended.
But let’s be honest, the Manchester United managerial role was always going to be a thankless task, regardless of the man in charge. No-one, not even Jose Mourinho (yet!) can match SAF’s record, man-management and world-class reputation. He was one of a kind. After so much success under Fergie, this sudden, but short-lived demise was inevitable.
I realise many Manchester United fans, will have hit the ‘escape’ button by now, but let me, if I may (without getting shot), put up a case in the defence of “out-of-his-depth” David Moyes…..
Moyes who let’s not forget was the ‘chosen one’ by SAF, was given a six-year-contract. A statement of intent from the United hierarchy. If those same United gods were to now sack Moyes, not only would it go against the Manchester United ‘way’ but would undermine the great Sir Alex Ferguson. And anyhow, who would replace him? The Special One never had the attributes to commit long term and many more are not proven Premier League managers…. Many United fans are sick of hearing this, but patience is a virtue – Ferguson was the first to admit that. It has got worse and it will get even worse, before it gets better, but it’s naive to simply point the finger at David Moyes as I plan to outline.
The succession of Moyes was poorly handled by United. How was Gary Neville allowed to leave, Roy Keane become an enemy? Ferguson’s autocratic style prevented new blood and the smooth grooming of the ‘chosen one’.
Now let me touch upon last season. Yes it’s a fair point to say this is the same United squad that won the Premier League title by 13 points, but in my opinion, last year’s opposition failures, if I can call them that, made an average United, look good. This had much to do with the rebellion within the second placed, Manchester City camp, which ultimately saw Roberto Mancini leave the blue half of Manchester.
City, like the rest of United’s rivals; Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs and Everton to a lesser extent, all considerably strengthened their talented squads in the summer. Apart from the acquisition of Marouane Fellaini (who is adjusting to a new position in central midfield at United), the Reds didn’t. And you cannot blame Moyes for bringing in the rangy Belgium, after it treated him so well in his days at Everton. Many will say it is David Moyes’ fault United did not strengthen and yes he does have to take partial blame, but let’s not forget, SAF wasn’t the only influential figure to exit the Manchester United door last season, David Gill was too. That left a rookie in Ed Woodward to take up the reigns of the mind-field that is the transfer market.
Anyone who thinks that is a recipe for success given one summer to stage a revolution, when a whole back line and midfield is needed, is living in fantasy land.
The January signing of Juan Mata however, has given Moyes a dilemma all United fans have called out for, for years. It gave him the added push to drop the traditional Man United wing play for first time in 20 years and go with the more modern ‘front four’. Like anything, the ‘transition’ of natural wingers to a talented front four of Mata, Rooney, Januzaj and RVP, does not happen overnight. However it’s interesting to see that the few times performances have impressed (vs West Brom and Olympiacos) they have involved Danny Welbeck who stretches defences, leaving space for Rooney Mata and RVP to operate. The point is, Moyes is still fathoming out the best formation to proceed with in this new-look Manchester United.
‘Transition’ is a key word and Moyes is under transition himself. It will take time for him to adapt to expectancy as well as the fact that at Everton he would act defensively astute against top teams (as you would with Everton’s team), but here it’s expected to attack at all costs. After 11 years at Everton it’s a culture shock for Moyes himself. He has abandoned the 5 man midfield and lone frontman that gave him so much satisfaction at Goodison and is now experimenting with a new club and personal system. It’s foolish to tinker with an 11 year successful method too much, but he is learning he has to at a club like Manchester United.
When I talk about ‘transition’, you only need to look at last Sunday’s victors and rivals Liverpool. Out of Europe, out of the top 4 and 28 points behind Man United last season, but with Rodgers given time to build HIS squad they are now 14 points ahead of United. Yes that is one hell of a turnaround, but with United always going to struggle in this new era and Liverpool’s squad restructure, it again proves that patience is a virtue.
You will have noticed that ‘new’ is another key word I have used. New style, new coaching staff, new training methods, new manager – a new era at Manchester United.
“You don’t become a bad manager over-night” is another term often branded around the footballing mouth and it is true in David Moyes’ case – Back in 2002 when Moyes inherited Everton, they were in free fall, lying in 15th place in the Premier League. After a re-building process, which is in need at United, he patiently and successfully guided Everton from bottom half strugglers to a consistent top 6 team which included four seasons in Europe, three cup semi-finals and a final defeat to Chelsea. You don’t become a bad manager in one season.
Let me now talk about the current United squad…..Moyes inherited an ageing squad. It’s as simple as that. Ryan Giggs, 40 (despite his magical performance against Olympiacos), Rio Ferdinand, 35, Nemanja Vidic 32, Patrice Evra, 32…the list goes on. You may notice three out of those first four names are defenders and defending has been one of Moyes’ major headaches this season. It’s shocking to see the demise of Vidic in such a small space of time, and well Ferdinand, he demised a few years back! That leaves Evra, who I have always said, is fantastic going forward, but ask him to track back, follow his runner and he is a liability as most of United’s left-side conceded goals this season have emphasised.
The midfield has always been a problematic area for United. This is mainly due to the fact that Ferguson neglected the central midfield role for over 6 years and instead relied on the ageing ginger-maestro that is Paul Scholes. The United strike force and defensive minded players are not performing this year, mainly because they have not had the ‘service’ and ‘bite’ from the crucial engine room. Oh what we would do to have Roy Keane back in a United shirt and Ryan Giggs a tenth younger!
Then there is the player, who in my opinion, single-handily won us the title last season, RVP. The Dutch maestro, not only lead the scoring charts with 30, but was also United’s leading chance-creater with 71, 9 of those being out-right assists. This season however, RVP has been a shadow of his former self netting just 15 times (3 of those against Olympiacos), creating 16 chances with 3 assists. Having said that, RVP’s performance and link up with Rooney in-particular (something which many people have said is non-existent) against Olympiacos was certainly ‘promising’ and that is a word that has been used sparingly since the former Everton’s man appointment at United. SAF’s signing of RVP was up there with his best. Continuing with Fergie and the phrase ‘Fergie time’ has come back to bite SAF’s successor. Having done all he can with an average, ageing squad, which is filled with the likes of Cleverley, Nani and Ferdinand, SAF “got out” at the right time with Moyes being left to pick up the pieces.
Give Moyes credit where it’s due, he has handled the torrid press well, although damned for protecting his players with positive comments about negative displays. However, don’t get me wrong, I am not naïve, questions do need to be asked as to why David Moyes opted to abandon the coaching staff success that remained following the departure of SAF. Yes you can see he wanted to make the club his own, stamp his authority early on, but in hindsight I think he will admit he made a mistake there.
What I am trying to say is; let’s judge David Moyes’ ‘success’ at United come the end of next season, when he brings in HIS players and solidifies HIS way of working.
Confidence plays a big part in football. United have never been short of confidence and the shock of defeat has stripped Moyes’ men of that confidence this term. United fans, in the main, have never seen their side fail so miserably, but that is what a lack of confidence does. That was the one-off beauty of Ferguson; he bred confidence in his side, and success does that in equal measure.
To me, Moyes has similar traits of our dearly loved SAF. A Scottish disciplinarian who demands respect behind the scenes and I am one of a few who truly believes Moyes will prove that in the years to come – if given the chance!
Yesterday’s performance against Olympiacos was full of pace and the desire that has eclipsed Manchester United for years. It certainly filled the United faithful, and Moyes himself, with a sense of well needed optimism and that optimism is something we all need to hold on to as we patiently stick with David Moyes.
So on a final note, let’s hope, ‘Moses’ or ‘Moyes’ as he is more commonly known, is given time to continue the success of this great club and does not ‘part the sea of red’ before he is given the time to prove to his great predecessor and the rest of the #Moyesout brigade, that he was right to be named ‘the chosen one’.
You can follow Jamie on Twitter: @Jamie_Journo