A new low

February 11, 2014 Tags: , , Reads 40 comments
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The inner chimp, says sports psychologist Dr. Steve Peters, dominates. The chimp is primitive. The chimp is emotion. The chimp is basic needs: power, sex, territory, food. The chimp is 99 per cent of our psyche. This chimp is angry at Manchester United’s performances this season. More specifically, at David Moyes.

The one per cent is logic. The one per cent says ‘give him time’. It says ‘let it stew, allow the rage to pass.’ It hopes that Moyes may turn a disastrous season around. Strange thing, but this rage seems only to have intensified. The chimp has battered logic into submission.

Catalysed by the debate surrounding Moyes’ inept tactics; egged-on by former United coach Rene Meulenstein’s to-the-point analysis of the Reds’ shortcomings. Stirred by a 21-year-old Fulham defender likening United’s approach to ‘Conference level football’. The anger rises to boiling point and above. And it rises, simply, because it is all so true.

Yet, there is a new, as yet unseen, level of chagrin with United’s current predicament. Frustration heaped on growing resentment because United’s fall from grace was all so predictable; fait accompli the moment Moyes was anointed to the job by Sir Alex Ferguson last May. From Moyes’ over-training summer boot camp, and United’s subsequent injury crisis, to the Scot’s penchant for percentage football that coloured so much of his time in charge at Everton. Nothing, bar perhaps United’s disastrous string of results, was beyond the scope of prediction.

United’s draw with Fulham on Sunday night played out like a précis, albeit in extremis, for much of the season gone. United’s possession was recycled quickly into wide areas, with the strategy of delivering countless deep, at times aimless, crosses in the belief that delivery alone will create a chance or prompt a mistake. It is classic Charles Hughes; of a bygone era, a masterclass long consigned to history.

Despite this approach also being the one routinely practiced by Moyes’ sides during a decade at Goodison Park many United fans have rationalised – pushing an abstract theorem that somehow the Scot might change. That with better players at his disposal Moyes will transform a philosophy decades in the making. Fulham debunks that myth if any confirmation was really needed.

With £37 million playmaker Juan Mata essentially deployed on the right-wing, United set up in a wholly orthodox 4-4-2 system, delivering 82 crosses into the Fulham box. The miracle wasn’t, as Moyes suggested in the aftermath, that United failed to score more, but that 21 per cent of those deliveries actually connected with a United player. Against Stoke City a fortnight ago United delivered just 15 per cent of balls accurately from wide areas.

Those 18 accurate crosses against Fulham produced just seven shots and no goals. Or to put that more concretely: United wasted possession on 82 occasions. Little wonder Fulham defender Dan Burn, who was playing for Conference side Darlington Rovers just three years ago, lapped up United’s delivery. The 6′ 7″ defender headed away 22 of the Reds’ 82 crosses alone.

“We knew that was going to happen and I was happy for them to play like that,” said Burn. “I was saying to the lads that I’ve never headed that many balls since I was playing in the Conference. I’m six foot seven so it helps when dealing with those sort of balls. United know they should be doing better. They didn’t have many chances.”

Yet, the frustration with Moyes is that his philosophy is so deeply ingrained that the Scot neither believed United had concentrated on crossing as the primary – some might say only – strategy to break down a stubborn opponent, nor saw any contradiction in the approach.

On the same weekend European Champions Bayern Munich started with two wide players in Arjen Robben and Thomas Muller; they delivered just 11 crosses. Real Madrid’s number was 17, Atletico Madrid racked up 19, Chelsea also 19, Juventus just 21 and Borussia Dortmund fired in 24 balls from wide areas.

It is not that crossing is somehow inherently a proxy for failure, nor that delivery from the wings is absent from the armoury of the very best teams, both contemporary and in the game’s history, but that one-dimensional play will always be easier to repel. It twas ever thus under Moyes’ direction. Indeed, the better the opposition, the more variety United will need if the club is to progress from what is the lowest point to which United has sunk for 25 years.

“Their game plan was straightforward. They put crosses in from wide angles. We defended it well,” said Fulham manager Meulensteen, who left United’s coaching staff last summer.

“If you’re well organised and the goalkeeper is in good positions then, yes, it can be easy. You need a little bit of creativity and a bit of variety at times to open teams up.

“I do think that a few teams have come here with a different approach. Teams have come to Old Trafford and got something. Teams are thinking that there is a chink in United’s armour. We set out as everyone can see, we made it very difficult for them. They have some problems.”

Nor is United’s approach likely to change post Mata’s arrival at Old Trafford. Not unless the manager changes, of course. It certainly hasn’t in the three matches the Spaniard has started to date. Nor, so the word has it on the street, is Moyes even remotely interested in spending time coaching attacking variety during training.

Yet, in Mata, Adnan Januzaj, Shinji Kagawa, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie United boasts some of the most talented and flexible attacking options in European football. What might some of the continent’s best coaches do with the riches on offer? It is an opportunity wasted.

And whatever the complaint about United’s style of football, the approach has not been successful either. There is no rejoinder to the criticism other than United supporters should ‘wait and see’. While it is clear that many of Moyes’ squad are under performing for the new coach, it takes not a crystal ball to believe that the Scot is unlikely to get the best out of his roster of creative talent with the approach currently employed.

United’s 10 defeats in all competitions this season leaves Moyes hanging on to the Champions League as his only hope of silverware in the coming weeks. The odds on a successful United victory at Estádio da Luz in May is now 20/1 according to some bookmakers. It’s a far better deal than the 4/6 being offered on Moyes finishing his time with United trophyless. No, Rant doesn’t count the Community Shield.

Then comes the summer and Moyes’ reported £100 million budget. He’ll spend that on three new defenders and a midfielder of note alone; to replace the departing Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra, and to augment United’s weakest position. Indeed, the Scot may need a far greater budget if he is to transform the squad into one that maps against his philosophy more closely.

Yet, in that there are few guarantees new signings will change United’s fortune. Less still, it seems, that Moyes is prepared to bend his approach. Fear rarely does that, and with United’s management insistent that Moyes will be given significant time, there are likely to be many more games like Monday’s. The chimp will surely stir again.


red devil - February 11, 2014 Reply

everyone is having a go at moyes, and its been an awful season, but a few things have to be calculated in before you put him up against a firing squad:

1. he has never won any silverware
2. he has next to zero european experience
3. he was CHOSEN by fergie and the board, and no one else was considered.
4. fergie left a team in need of a major overhaul
5. fergie said “now its time for you to get behind and support your new manager”.
6. fergie did nothing for his first 3 years!!!
7. do we want to have as many managers as chelsea, city, and liverpool have had over the last decade?!?!?!

european qualification is about all we can hope for this season, and every coach deserves at least a full season before the daggers come out.

RedArmy1974 - February 12, 2014 Reply

You make some good points “red devil”, but there is one major flaw around point 6.
Fergie didn’t inherit the current English Champions, he inherited a team of ageing, injury prone drunks!!
The team fergie inherited was languishing around the relegation zone.
1986 didn’t have the same football pressure or coverage that is present in 2014.
Fergie didn’t fire a successful back room staff, that knew the players inside out. Or bring in a squad of nobodies.
Fergie didn’t spend over the odds on wasters – Fellaini.
I’m not defending fergie’s 1st 3 years, but you can’t compare the two!!
Moyes was advised to keep the Training staff intact. Something he has ignored.
Personally I never thought Moyes was the right man, but I don’t have much say. I won’t call for Moyes to be sacked, but I struggle to find a way of supporting him.

Dave - February 12, 2014 Reply

1 & 2, so you think it was a good idea to give some who’s basically a ‘rookie’ the biggest club in the uk.

3. You don’t know what the board wanted. Fergie and Charlotte wanted moyes.

4. Fergie did not leave a team in need of an overhaul. Moyes was left a team filled with talented youth players and seasoned pros. You don’t seem to understand that moyes doesn’t want talented technical players, that’sBurnum beaches not how he plays his game. Moyes tactics are the reason our team plays shit.

5 means nothing, I bet your mum told you not to drink when you were younger but I bet you did.

6. God yawn…. Fergie tick over a side already screwed… For god sake.. And by the way how many years ago was that????? Do you honestly believe that is a valid argument?

7 I want a manager fitting of running a club of this scale, a manager with the guile to push hard in europe, not some inept one dimensional prat clutching at straws.

Say good by to CL qualification. No hope of that this season.

The_Philosopher - February 13, 2014 Reply

Liverpool, City and Chelsea look to be doing just fine despite the managerial revolving door.

I don’t know about you, but I really don’t think there’s any shame in admitting that Moyes is not the man and getting rid.

Liverpool, Chelsea and City have not suffered much ill effects.

Especially Liverpool. They finally found their man.

Lets not give Moyes more time to do more damage before we realise his leadership of this club is irrepairable.

Lets get rid and see what the next can man can offer us. . .

Jon Jepp - February 11, 2014 Reply

Spot on once more Ed.

Matthew Owens - February 11, 2014 Reply

Do you think we have the midfielders to play, say 4-3-3. I’m not convinced we do. He hasn’t got much option but to use crosses

Tollnes - February 11, 2014 Reply

We can easily play 4-2-3-1 if we want to with Carrick/Fletcher/Cleverly/Fellaini(?) as the two,and Mata/Januzaj/Rooney/Kagawa as the three behind RvP

Subterranean Steve - February 12, 2014 Reply


giggyjon - February 11, 2014 Reply

Really trying hard not to be a chimp but it is getting harder by the day! Great article summing up the present situation and mood.

The Rookie - February 11, 2014 Reply

Anger is right.

It’s a disgrace the way we are playing this year, and a huge waste of talent. I imagine a halfway decent manager could take our bench/loaned/sold players, something like Lindegaard; Rafael, Jones Vidic, Fabio; Anderson, Carrick; Nani, Kagawa, Zaha; Chicharito 5-2-3-1 and play a lot better against Fulham then we did last Sunday. Januzaj TheWayneBoy Mata and van persie and we can’t take down Fulham at home?

The way we kept sending useless crosses in at Stoke in the wind was ridiculous.

I dreamed last night that we sacked Moyes.

The_Philosopher - February 13, 2014 Reply

What a beautiful dream.

I’m so sorry you had to wake up from it. . .

Tollnes - February 11, 2014 Reply

Saw some rumors about Moyes receving 40+£ if sacked this season? Surely Glazers wont use that kind of money.

Looking forward to endless crosses tomorrow as well, but since we are meeting a far better team, we might settle for 8-9 succesfull crosses? Probably end up with zero goals, but thats probably the weathers, the referees, or the players mental softness fault.

Ed - February 11, 2014 Reply

Tollnes – as I understand it there are severance clauses in his contract that limit the compensation. He still won’t get sacked this season though.

mongoletsi - February 11, 2014 Reply

// Yet, in Mata, Adnan Januzaj, Shinji Kagawa, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie United boasts some of the most talented and flexible attacking options in European football. //

Repeated for truth.

Kagawa and Mata are both creative and clever, just what we need. I mention both in the same sentence because I firmly believe Kagawa is a genuine talent.

Januzaj and Rooney seem capable of playing everywhere along the front.

Let’s just fucking go for it, pardon my Scottish.

Two of the above. Just do it.

Defense-minded mid of Carrick, Jones, Fit Fletcher / one of Cleverly or Fellaini if needed. Actually, tell Rooney to go in there if comes down to Cleverly or Fellaini. They’re not up to it and he’s clearly up for the fight even if Moyes has bottled it.

We can’t get any worse. We cannot possibly claim 4th if we go on like this. 5th is even questionable.

Moyes needs to grow some and show some actual courage rather than this “grit” we’re told he has. Balls. Grow ’em. Use ’em.

Got that Moyes? Balls: Grow ’em. Use ’em.

twat - February 12, 2014 Reply

No point just listing players; Moyes played basically everyone you mention -bar Kagawa- against Fulham. Moyes is quite good at picking teams, it’s just the tactics, coaching and confidence that are totally fucked.

mongoletsi - February 11, 2014 Reply

And on a further Kagawa note, I’ll just leave this here…


Jean Paul - February 11, 2014 Reply

I was sticking to the coach but now I just think he is not up to the job, I mean United doesn’t have a wide first class roster but one thing is true, and is that there’s enough quality to get to a better position than they are right now, so the inner angry chimp you mentioned wasn’t right at the beginning but after the last Fulham game I’m pretty sure the chimp is getting close to be goddamn right.

Stevie - February 12, 2014 Reply

Well spoken, But to win you also have to defend and that has been sorely lacking, especially for both goals against Fulham, while Fulham managed to the best of their ability

My personal view is to many back room changes, new broom was never going to work….

kunal - February 12, 2014 Reply

We need to play 4-3-2-1 .. Xmas tree formation to effectively use all attacking options …

Wing back can provide necessary width.

David Lynn - February 12, 2014 Reply

Found the whole thing hilarious until I read ‘Darlington Rovers’ and then realised he knows nothing about football outside of the Man United bubble

Subterranean Steve - February 12, 2014 Reply

Excellent editorial.
In Van Persie, Mata, Rooney, Kagawa (and a developing Januzaj) we have some of the most talented attacking midfielders/strikers on the damn planet. But they have to be played in their correct positions and with the right tactics.

Wake up Moyes and end the nightmare!

Ashish - February 12, 2014 Reply

Hi Ed,

Someday, it will occur to the minds of those who control British football that crossing is a poor method of scoring goals.

Because as far as I could see, Fulham dealt with the crosses quite effortlessly.

United need some variation in their attacking play. And unfortunately, we aren’t seeing it.

Best Regards,

James Ryddel - February 12, 2014 Reply

A point of order: I was taken to task by Evertonians when I suggested that they lumped it down the park…

JA - February 12, 2014 Reply

According to the Guardian, the ever charming Glazers have threatened the OT stewards with a pay cut if United dont make the CL next season.

James Ryddel - February 12, 2014 Reply

couldn’t agree with you more though, the question is does Moyes actually believe his own bullshit, ref lumping it?

Hallvard - February 12, 2014 Reply

Well according to MEN he does exactly what earned SAF the title last year. In form of crossed balls that is

julian cam - February 12, 2014 Reply

if the opponent arsenal man utd lost to fire David MoyesRT

red1961 - February 12, 2014 Reply


I have news read the above and weep, we have just gone lower


After Sundays fiasco anybody having any doubts about this useless 2@ going into the ground most certainly had their doubts confirmed when they left.

He then states that the players are ‘mentally weak’ at his press conference. These are players who have won more than he could ever dream about. Fantastic man management Wee Davie!!

I am at a complete loss as to why he was picked. It is a mystery that is up there with the Loch Ness Monster . the Marie Celeste and the Yeti.

People joke that Ferguson picked him because of his nationality, if that was the criteria he should have picked the Krankies and hired Rab C.Nesbitt and his crew as the coaching staff instead of the gargoyle model Neville and fellow numpties.
How can United be coached by somebody who has never coached even a pub team and has the great misfortune to look as though he was dragged from the womb too early.

Its a shambles and it could all have been easily avoided ,,that is what makes me so angry.
Simple solution was, pick a manager with a proven track record and a big personality. Two attributes Moyes wouldn’t know even if they crapped on him.
Back him with sufficient funds to allow him to go on a dross – cleansing mission

Why didn’t this happen, this is the question that every fan should be asking.
Only two people can answer this-The Parasites and Ferguson.
I certainly wouldn’t believe the answer they would give anyway. Looking at the track record of these 2 parties it is pretty obvious money is involved. How can a multibillion dollar organisation be expected to thrive when the most important man at the coalface is so completely inept and out of his depth it is beyond belief

There must be a skeleton in there somewhere

I have a feeling that in the last few days things are changing. RM comments about Moyes tactics are very telling. I have never heard a manager come straight out and more or less say’ the opposition manager is a tactical muppet’ This was followed by his unknown CB likening Moyes tactical skills to that of a conference manager. A CB that was made by Moyes, to look like Franco Baresi. Couple this with Ferdinand’s and Zaha’s postings and a pattern is beginning to form

Could you imagine this in Ferguson’s reign

He will be gone in weeks ,not months.

Two false beliefs Ferguson had were
1. If you have not played football at a professional level then you know nothing about the game.
This is total and utter bollocks. Go to any ground in the world and ask the fans who the dross is in their team is. 95%+ would tell you the same players e.g Smalling, Evans,Young, Cleverley, Giggs,Valencia etc.
You could also ask them what bad tactics are being used by the manager and 95%+ would be in agreement e.g. In our case could we have a second one to compare before we give you an answer.

2.If a player comes on the market who is top class we would buy him, even if he wasn’t needed. His argument was ‘we would fit him in somewhere.

Absolute bollocks. e.g Veron,Forlan and Kagawa
1.This is why Ferguson thought he could get away with hiring Moyes -he thinks fans are beneath him and wouldn’t question him
2. This is the reasoning behind the dross we have at the moment. No MF or defence but plenty of so called wingers and 10s

Keep the faith things I feel are about to change

Varun - February 12, 2014 Reply

I sat in the hospital with my 2 day old son in a man utd sleep suit, watching the match and having to keep looking at my boy to

Varun - February 12, 2014 Reply

make sure that I remained calm and happy. Cause the shit I was watching on tv was painful and outright idiotic.

deadbeatmoyles - February 12, 2014 Reply

How about lowering the price of fucking tickets for the next season instead of taking money away from honest hard working people huh?

motherfuckers just don`t see it – how can a sane person still support those fucking glazer cunts

Ferie is a disgrace now, how can he not react now, how can you become a legend and not do anything about it.

fuck me, Charlton is a disgrace as well – just sitting the looking nice like a fucking muppet

usa ii still fucking uk in the arse, with a log, everyday.

glazers took Your [I am Polish] money, “bought” Your club, still kept taking Your club`s money, ran Your club in the ground, and now they will punish You for their incompetence and lack of effort

FUCKING HELL, are You proud now?

Davcal - February 12, 2014 Reply

A visual representation of this post.

moyesgetthefuckout - February 12, 2014 Reply

then is a time for match going supporters to take action and demand his sacking, but of course next time un ited will be playing these people will be singing “in moyes we trust, ” or simmilar bullshit.

Andy O'Meara - February 12, 2014 Reply

Did a chimp write this article? Biggest load of nonsense i’ve ever read.

It was ALWAYS going to be a monumental job for whoever took over after Fergie. End of.

Most of the other people who have posted have made other points i was going to mention.

Moyes will turn things around, so i’ll look forward to reading your humble pie in future.

Ed - February 14, 2014 Reply

Andy – Why apply the insult? Doesn’t make your point any stronger. If Moyes’ succeeds I’ll be happy to “eat humble pie”. I’d love Moyes to succeed but he’s shown nothing to suggest he will so far. Nothing in six months at United, and not much in 10 years at Everton. Everton performed on par with their financial ranking (revenues/wage bill) for most seasons during Moyes’ time there.

Tom Parkinson - February 13, 2014 Reply

It felt like last night he played for a draw to save his own skin, as a defeat would’ve been even more damaging to him.

I have really stopped worrying about Moyes now long term. Things have now got so bad, that even the board, wanting to give him time or not, will have to get rid of him before the end of March.

My view is we have Palace, WBA and Olympiakos away, and we will probably not win any of those games. Only one I can see us winning is Olympiakos.

We then have City and Liverpool at home in March, with West Ham away sandwiched in the middle. On current form, we will lose both those home games, potentially quite heavily. If that happens, I see no way for the board not to crack. The crowd will have turned by then as well, and then it’s over for him.

It’s blatantly obvious he’s lost the players, which is the first step to him being pushed out the door. Look at who he has obviously lost in the dressing room – Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra, Rafael, Nani, Kagawa, Hernandez, Van Persie. What do we do, sell all of them? We won’t have any fucking players left.

We need a galvanizing spirit in there right now to turn this shit around. It’s either got to be Giggs on a temporary deal, with a few others around, to try and have that “one of the lads” effect Di Matteo had at Chelsea. Then we go for Klopp. Or get an experienced big name like Van Gaal or Hiddink, on an 18 months deal now, who commands respect from every player in the dressing room.

Blindly following this idiot is clearly not the way to go and doesn’t make you a “top red”. The players know it. The fans know it. The “top reds” who wanted it to work are starting to know it. Its fucking obvious. The man is a dinosaur, who has consistently done an average job at a mid table club.

Subterranean Steve - February 14, 2014 Reply

The chimp in me fears the Champs have been turned into Chumps.

Steggo - February 14, 2014 Reply

Perhaps the most damning condemnation of Moyes was when Baines was asked why he had signed a new Everton contract and he explained that Martinez had “freshened up the place”. Make of that what you will.

kunal - February 15, 2014 Reply

Rene come back to United..

Ray - February 17, 2014 Reply

Up until now I was in the camp of give Moyes time to put his mark on the team and then judge him. However, after the last few performances (including the Cardiff victory) I can’t see the sense in continuing this disastrous ‘experiement’ any longer for a number of reasons.

1) He is tactically ancient – I heard somewhere that in the build up the the Chelsea vs City league game Mourinhio had the team work on his tactics for beating City for 2 whole days. By the time the game came round they knew exactly how City would play and exactly what they needed to do to beat them. Even 10 seconds of analysis of how Cardiff, Stoke, Fulham and Arsenal would have told anyone that knew anything about football that the way we played was going to be a waste of time. As Paul and Ed discussed on the most recent podcast playing with width is a good weapon to have, but it is only 1 weapon and in the case of the first 3 of those 4 games a pretty useless one against a team set up to defend crosses. Moyes does not have the ability to change things and offer more variation going forward. And it has to be Moyes because the players we have certainly do.
2) Even if you buy the premise that United are going to throw money at the team this summer, Moyes is just going to spend it on players to fit the outdated/ easy to defend system he wants United to play. If you give him that money and then sack him post November, whoever comes in will be left with a load of players brought in to play a certain way. He should go before he can get his hands anywhere near the transfer kitty.
3) To prove his tactical f*ckwittery he buys one of the most talents attacking midfielders in the Premiership and then plays him on the right wing. Mata is a wonderful player but in a rigid 4-4-2 or variation there of he is completely wasted.
4) Not only does he not learn from his mistakes, but he doesn’t learn from his successes. By a margin the best performance of the season was away in Germany. A 5-0 and the team playing a fluid 4-2-3-1 system, how long we last playing like that? No time at all, it was straight back to his tried, trusted and failing favourite. If a coach/ manager is so blinkered that he cannot see what works when he’s on the touchline watching it then there is no hope.
5) His standing in the world game is not one that if we do drop out of the CL this season we can be sure to attract the players we need to get us back there. Players are not itching to come to United to play under David Moyes, the way there were under Fergie, or would have been with someone like Jose or Klopp. I’m not saying we should have gone for Jose but a team like United needs a manager with the reputation to attract and keep the best players. When things went wrong under Fergie you knew he always had the players respect (mostly) and they trusted him.

I’m now firmly in the Moyes out campaign and the sooner the better.

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