I hate starting a new job. You don’t know anyone and the pressure is on immediately to impress everyone, especially the boss. When I started my current job, my boss gave me 3 priorities to focus on for the first 3 months in the role. These weren’t objectives, just short-term areas that needed my immediate thought and attention. Admittedly, I work in a role a million miles from his, but I imagine David Moyes will have some similar short-term priorities as soon as he takes over the Old Trafford hot-seat. Moyes officially starts work as the Manchester United manager on 1st July, but some areas will need his consideration, input and even active involvement before then. Here are the top three immediate focus areas I would ask him to consider.
Priority 1 – Wayne Rooney (& Shinji Kagawa)
We’ve been here before, haven’t we? In October 2010 Rooney released a statement
“I met with David Gill [United’s chief executive] last week and he did not give me any of the assurances I was seeking about the future squad, I then told him that I would not be signing a new contract”
Later that same month Rooney signed a new 5 year contract with United, he then stated his desire to win back the trust of the United fans.
“I am sure the fans over the last week have felt let down by what they have read and seen. But my position was from concern over the future. The fans have been brilliant with me since I arrived and it’s up to me, through my performances, to win them over again.”
Less than three years later and Alex Ferguson has revealed again Rooney’s desire to leave the club. While Rooney has stayed tight-lipped this time, many fans now feel let down by Rooney, particularly those who supported him last time around. As far as I am concerned, once is a mistake, twice is a choice and he must be very serious about leaving to do this a second time; or he’s stupid. Both are possible.
Rooney is quality and reaching his prime, but it need not be a disaster. Moyes does have options, and not just in the transfer market. Kagawa is a gem, Moyes just needs to devise a system to get the most from the Japanese international. Kagawa’s former boss as Dortmund, Juergen Klopp, agrees. Klopp said of Kagawa’s opportunities at United to date
“Shinji Kagawa is one of the best players in the world and he now plays 20 minutes at Manchester United – on the left wing! My heart breaks. Really, I have tears in my eyes. Central midfield is Shinji’s best role. He’s an offensive midfielder with one of the best noses for goal I ever saw.”
Ironically, the departure of Rooney could actually benefit United by elevating Shinji to his favoured position and allowing him to shine next term.
It is unfortunate that Moyes’ attention short-term will need to be on Wayne Rooney (whether that’s attempting to sell or retain), but the situation could be an opportunity for Moyes to demonstrate his strength early into his United career. If Rooney leaves, he can reinforce the view that no player is bigger than the club; if he stays, he can highlight his excellent man-management skills. A win-win for the new boss? Maybe I am being simplistic, but there is an opportunity for Moyes to be decisive with regards to Rooney. Let’s hope it is dealt with quickly, one way or the other, and that what ever happens we start to see the best of Kagawa.
Priority 2 – Central Midfield
If they’re honest, most Manchester United fans look enviably at the likes of David Silva, Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Santi Cazorla. Ferguson just hasn’t managed to secure the services of a world class central midfielder, who has been able to consistently hold down the available spot next to Carrick in the centre of the park. With the retirement of Scholes and the remaining uncertainty surrounding Darren Fletcher’s on-going illness, this should be an immediate focus for David Moyes. There are a number of candidates being discussed in the newspapers presently.
(i) Cesc Fabregas – Moyes may decide to make a substantial bid to test Barcelona’s resolve to keep Cesc Fabregas. He is a proven performer in the Premier League and still only just 26. Whether Barcelona would be prepared to sell and whether Fabregas would be prepared to join United remains to be seen. Fabregas refers to Barcelona as ‘home’, and would be well aware of how a move to United (especially to team up with Van Persie) would be viewed by his old friends at Arsenal.
(ii) Marouane Fellaini – Once the appointment of Moyes was confirmed, the potential transfer of Fellaini to United was the obvious rumour to start doing the rounds. It has. The potential addition of Fellaini will not sit well with many United fans, who won’t see him as a midfielder cut from the traditional United cloth. He would though add some steel to the United midfield and provide an alternative in attack with his height and strength in the final third, something United do not have in their locker currently. I think Fellaini would be an interesting acquisition, and at 25 years of age would represent a realistic proposition for a big money outlay over summer. I don’t believe he’s the player the fans will be hoping for though.
(iii) Kevin Strootman – The 23 year old PSV midfielder is widely tipped to move on this summer. The Dutchman is a classic box-to-box midfielder, with bags of energy and creativity. He would make an excellent partner for Carrick.
Interestingly, PSG Manager Dick Advocaat also believes it may be in Strootman’s best interests to move on this summer
“For PSV it would be good if he stays, but for Strootman himself it’s better to leave…he’s a fantastic player because he knows exactly what his qualities are.”
Strootman would be available for less than £20 million this summer and so well with United’s reach.
Clearly the individual targeted by Moyes will be dictated by the outcome of priority number one, and how the United manager plans to use both Rooney and Kagawa in the United squad.
Priority 3 – New Goalkeeper
Many United fans will likely disagree with this, but I believe that United need a stronger support for David de Gea. I choose the word ‘support’ deliberately here; often a second ‘keeper is there to provide competition and United already have that, to an extent, in Lindegaard. De Gea though would benefit from an experienced number two, who he could learn from day-in day-out in training.
As good a ‘keeper as Lindegaard may be, he hasn’t the experience or pedigree to provide that and I don’t believe he will ever be the United number one. A second choice goalkeeper should be a young player learning his craft, a quality ‘keeper providing genuine competition or an experienced professional sharing his knowledge. Unfortunately Lindegaard is none of these, and that doesn’t help de Gea.
David de Gea does look more comfortable as he gains Premier League experience, but he has still looked unconvincing at times this season and United fans shouldn’t let his inclusion in the BPL Team of the Season fool them into thinking they have the finished article. He still has much work to do.
I believe Moyes could do a lot worse than bid for Shay Given from Aston Villa over the summer. Given, at 37, has vast experience at both club and international level and would be a sound replacement should De Gea be out of action for any period during the season. He might as well sit on the bench at Old Trafford, if that’s all he’s doing at Villa Park.
Moyes could surely tempt the veteran Irishman with the promise of domestic cup games next season and the possibility of Champions League football if he impresses. Given is under contract at Villa until the summer of 2016, but a bid of £2-3 million would probably be enough to bring in an excellent addition to the United squad.
With Scholes retiring and both Rio Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs probably looking at just one more season, Moyes would do well to bring in some additional experience to the dressing room to support the younger players, Given would fit the bill.
As Moyes takes over the United reigns, two things are certain. One, he will have much work to do over the next few months to ensure the club are primed for an aggressive defence of their Premier League crown and for a genuine assault on the Champions League. Two, the footballing world will be watching, judging and making comment.