It Seems Moyes Hasn’t Left The Blues Behind After All
The hot seat at Old Trafford was always going to be a difficult place for any manager replacing Sir Alex Ferguson, but it may well be feeling more like the Iron Throne from Sky Atlantics’s Game of Thrones for David Moyes. For those of you not familiar with the hit fantasy TV show or George RR Martin’s books, the Iron Throne is described as being ‘cold and hard, with many jagged edges… A monstrosity of spikes and jagged edges and twisted metal…It is uncomfortable, and the back is fanged with steel which makes leaning back impossible.’ Given Moyes’ current predicament at United after their dismal start to the season, a spell of mere ‘squeaky bum time’ would most likely feel like a Godsend in comparison.
It would be unfair to suggest Moyes has hit the ground and fallen flat on his face but, like countless schoolboys returning after the summer break, the trouser knees of his swanky new uniform have certainly been scuffed and torn. United have made their worst start to a season for 24 years and it would have been even worse if not for the rather flattering 4-1 defeat of Swansea City on the opening day of the season. Despite the score line United didn’t impress and their league performances have not improved since.
Moyes has been defensive when dealing with the media and has often seemed overwhelmed by the enormity of the task at hand. Defeats in the Premier League to arch rivals Liverpool and Man City led to him reiterating his pre-season comments concerning a tough opening run of fixtures which also included another main rival in Chelsea. His suggestion that the fixtures had been rigged was frankly embarrassing and was a worrying addition to a growing list of negative vibes designed to play down United’s chances of success this season and alleviate some of the pressure that goes hand in hand with the top job at a club like Manchester United . Although his recent assertion that United need five or six world class players in order to challenge in Europe again is accurate, fans of the club are not accustomed to such negativity. Within the space of just a few months a sense of gloom has descended upon Old Trafford. Cynics would say the appointment itself was the catalyst for the pessimism, but the slightly fairer minded would point to the amateurish and humiliating transfer dealings of the summer. The majority of the blame for this particular debacle must be laid at the feet of Ed Woodward but, unfortunately for Moyes, fans will view him guilty by association if the results don’t quickly improve.
The Chosen One
Moyes was Fergie’s Chosen One based on his achievements at Everton and it seems like sacrilege to question Sir Alex but there are glaring examples of poor judgement in the past. His treatment of Stam, Beckham and most recently Rooney has been rightly questioned, and to be fair, in some cases, accepted as mistakes by the man himself. But the disastrous signings of Djemba Djemba, Kleberson, Blanc, Taibi, Mame Diouf, Bebe etc., combined with what many have seen as the misplaced confidence in the ability or effectiveness of players such as Phil Neville, Nicky Butt, Darren Fletcher, John O’Shea, Nani and Anderson prove that Sir Alex is not infallible.
Fergie is rightly regarded by many as the greatest manager in the history of British football. United’s achievements have been remarkable over the last few years, in particular, when Chelsea have thrown the kitchen sink at displacing United as the dominant force in the English game and more recently Man City have emerged as a new monolithic threat. Both have so far been thwarted, but by Fergie’s genius and not the team’s superiority. Of course, the players at his disposal have been of a high standard, and a few such as Rooney, van Persie and Vidic would fit into most sides in Europe. But would the likes of Cleverly, Anderson, Valencia, Young, Carrick, Giggs (currently), Nani, Evans, Jones, Smalling, Buttner and Welbeck play at Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Barcelona or even Chelsea and United’s city rivals?
A Team On The Slide
Sir Alex was a one-off and the true Special One. His methods, tactics and football philosophy have brought him unparalleled success at both Aberdeen and Manchester United. However, after over a quarter of a century at one of the greatest football clubs in the world, the signs have been there for all to see that his power had begun to wane. The style of play he has always favoured and his admirable commitment to young talent developed at Carrington was no longer effective enough to compete with the other giants of European football. Too often in recent years have Fergie’s teams played with caution and allowed their main continental and domestic rivals to dominate possession and dictate the play. Even teams outside the higher echelons of the game such as Athletic Bilbao and Ajax have recently outplayed United teams lacking the creative flair of sides from the past.
The decision to allow Fergie to nominate Moyes as his successor was seen as a masterstroke in some quarters. Who better to continue the work of the Master than the man seen as his nearest character match? A tough, no-nonsense, hardworking Glaswegian loyal to his club and players and hungry for success. Some saw the appointment as the obvious choice; a continuity so sorely lacking in the managerial appointments of many of their rivals. However, what was seen as a decision designed to strengthen and improve the team and club as a whole may well turn out to weaken and gravely damage the club’s fortunes. What was needed after Fergie was not a continuation but a change in direction; an injection of new, modern ideas which would enable the team to rise to the challenge set down by the other major European forces.
Passing, pace, power and possession are vital ingredients for success in modern football. Without these it is impossible to compete with the powerhouses of the game who have all evolved whilst United have stood still and been overtaken. Moyes has taken over a squad in need of a major overhaul if United are going to force their way back to the top table of European football and avoid scrapping for the minor league placings and the relatively insignificant prizes of the league cup and Europa league.
The Right One?
Despite the assurance from the United board of awarding a long term contract to Moyes, failing to achieve a top four finish will be a devastating blow. Poor results for a manager also equals pressure on the hierarchy. If Jurgen Klopp has another good season at Borussia Dortmund his name will surely be linked to the job. A young, ambitious manager with previous success in the Champions League would be an exciting choice for fans grown used to cavalier football, edge of your seat drama and, most important of all, a successful team.
Other names such as Antonio Conte at Juventus and Laurent Blanc at PSG will inevitably be mentioned, but should Roberto Martinez achieve a top four finish – almost unthinkable just three months ago – and should he accomplish this feat whilst playing the brand of football currently getting the Everton faithful licking their lips, then Manchester United fans and boardroom alike could well be raising the question ‘Did Fergie choose the right one?’
There is some cause for optimism amongst the United faithful . Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney are two of the finest players in the world. David De Gea has grown into the number 1 shirt and looks on the verge of becoming one of the best ‘keepers in Europe. Phil Jones has the potential to become one of the best centre backs in the country and Rafael is already one of the most gifted right backs in the Premier League. Add to that the latest fledglings waiting for their chance to impress and the future looks promising. Jesse Lingard, Adnan Januzaj, Wilfried Zaha and Nick Powell are all highly regarded, technically accomplished attack-minded players. The question is whether Moyes, under growing pressure, will entrust these kids to help him turn things around. Everyone knows that you won’t win anything with kids!