Brutal, disrespectful, and United’s only choice

April 22, 2014 Tags: Reads 28 comments
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So there it is – the moment so many Manchester United supporters seemingly craved, at least if social media is any barometer. After 10 months in charge at Old Trafford David Moyes has gone – to dancing on the streets of Twitter. It has been an anarchic period; a failure of manager, management and Sir Alex Ferguson’s succession plan. History’s finger will long point at Moyes for his ineptitude in a job that was always too much, although United supporters understand that blame is multi-faceted.

There was something opportune in the appallingly mishandled dismissal. This is a club that at one proclaims commercial acumen rivaled by none, but is chaotically mismanaged by Ed Woodward and his cohort of mad marketing men.

It was perhaps appropriately sleazy to leak Moyes’ sacking to the press some 24 hours ahead of the man being told by Woodward in person. That Moyes remained at Carrington some two hours after his dismissal – to wish his former players well – says much for his dignity if not for the former Evertonian’s suitability for the role.

Yet, Moyes has become a wrecking ball at Old Trafford – one that holds long-lasting consequences. From ripping up last summer’s transfer plans, to smashing players’ confidence and beyond, United will have to spend much and perhaps wait some time to recover from the Scot’s reign.

Destruction began early, with a pre-season programme that focused strongly on marketing and less on shaping the team against high quality opponents. The boot camp approach alienated players from the start. Moyes moaned about the fixture list, but the Scot’s dedication to long-running aerobic drills and little ball work left United undercooked on the ball and over-baked without it.

The manager’s deconstruction of Shinji Kagawa’s pre-season was symptomatic of a greater problem to come – a genuine lack of control. The Japanese player’s summer was split in two, disrupting what should have been a carefully managed programme for one of Moyes’ more creative outlets.

But it was in the market that Moyes was at his most indecisive, while demonstrating a perplexing naïvety. Cesc Fabregas, Ander Herrera, Gareth Bale, Leighton Baines, Sami Khedira and Daniele De Rossi were pursued by fax to little effect. Thiago Alcântara, lined-up for a £20 million transfer by Ferguson and David Gill, was inexplicably rejected. Perhaps Moyes genuinely believed other targets were available. They were not.

Marouane Fellaini’s eventual capture was a farce unworthy of far lesser clubs than United, but one that the new manager seemingly endorsed. United’s decision to pay £4 million over Fellaini’s buy-out clause was embarrassing; the player’s obvious lack of quality left a gaping hole in midfield. It is all very good installing a ‘high tech scouting system’ at Carrington, but if the outcome is a failure to deliver high-quality acquisitions then little improvement has occurred.

Moyes spent much of the summer courting players he would later alienate – Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidić and Ryan Giggs to name three. In pandering to Wayne Rooney the Scot created a rod for his own back and a long-term problem for the club. The sycophantic choice to place Rooney on a pedestal garnered early season energy from the striker, but it has largely been a campaign of perspiration when inspiration was desperately required. Too often has the forward been flattered by a manager desperate to please.

It is symptomatic of another Moyes trait – the failure to pick to form. There were, as just one example, times during United’s 3-0 victory at West Bromwich Albion in March that striker Robin van Persie appeared disinterested to the point of disrespect. It was the nadir of the Dutchman’s season, yet Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernández have spent most of the campaign on the sidelines. The latter may still chose to leave.

Indeed, Moyes’ use of United’s squad is a contradiction. In 51 games the Scot has rotated each time, yet as the season began Moyes over-used veteran Ferdinand to such an extent that the 34-year-old was burnt out by October. Moyes has little idea how to manage a large and diverse squad.

The summer also brought unnecessary and destructive turmoil in the back room – it undermined Moyes’ cause. There was much debate around the decision to sack Mike Phelan along with goalkeeping coach Eric Steele, while the Scot failed to retain Rene Meulensteen. The loss of knowledge, experience and link between management and players has proven devastating. He changed too much, not too little – a sign of weakness from the off.

On the pitch Moyes’ start could hardly have been more positive – a 4-1 victory at Michael Laudrup’s Swansea City. Yet, even in the moment of triumph there was a sense that van Persie had rescued a laboured United performance. Over the coming months the new man would prove himself far from the dynamic, proactive, coach that many supporters believe United missed out on when passing over José Mourinho and Pep Guardola.

If results have been poor then United’s lack of style has exacerbated supporters’ anger. The two-legged defense-minded strategy employed against Bayern Munich was no one-off – Moyes has sought a safety-first approach all season. United has scored just 56 goals in the Premier League to Liverpool’s 96.

It’s not just about goals though. United’s style under Moyes has rarely brought supporters to their feet save for those few matches where the squad’s more creative players have been unleashed.

The approach has often been one-dimensional in an era of tactical innovation. In defeat at Stoke City earlier this year United launched 47 long balls forward into the swirling Potteries wind – just 13 found their target. Against Fulham at Old Trafford United delivered more than 80 crosses to laughably little effect.

Indeed, there is a sense in which the better football this season has been discovered by accident. In victory at Newcastle United Adnan Januzaj, Juan Mata and Kagawa combined to provide a flexible, vibrant attacking performance rarely seen under Moyes. It was a fluke that the trio was deployed in tandem at all. Januzaj was overlooked for Ashley Young at the start, while Kagawa and Mata enjoyed more central roles only because Rooney and van Persie sat out the game. There was a similar pattern at Crystal Palace and West Ham United.

Moyes’ negativity has become the punchline to a very poor joke. The manager’s bizarre decision to substitute Rooney for Chris Smalling on 88 minutes as United led Southampton at Old Trafford last October seems a good précis for a season of caution.

Meanwhile, off the pitch there have been too many mixed messages – misplaced positivity one moment, the words of a man out of his depth the next. Moyes blamed referees, the FA, injuries, poor luck, and Sir Alex. Anybody, it seems, bar the man in charge.

The peripatetic use of the word “try” became a social media meme, while the Scot’s declaration that Manchester City are “at the sort of level we are aspiring to” brought anger that will take some time to quell. They’re probably still laughing at the Etihad.

“I don’t know what we have to do to win,” Moyes confessed after United’s loss at Stoke City in February. United supporters concurred and so, in the end, did the players evidenced by a rash of dressing room leaks that would never have occurred under Ferguson.

The political factions emerged with alacrity. In one camp the ‘Everton mob’ of Steve Round, Jimmy Lumsden, Chris Woods, Phil Neville and Fellaini. In the other a large group of disaffected players, player-coaches, and former greats.

Round and Lumsden have gone with the manager; Woods may follow in the summer. The stench may take longer to dissipate and United’s highly-paid stars have much to answer for.

In the end results signalled the end – perhaps after United’s loss to Olympiakos in February. Six defeats in as many games against City, Liverpool and Everton and just one win against the Premier League’s top six is a record that would have brought dismissal for greater men than Moyes.

Yet, it is a period that leaves the club in a desperate limbo, with few coaches of elite quality available and another – Louis van Gaal – tied up until after the World Cup.

The coming window is perhaps the most crucial in United’s recent past, with half-a-dozen players leaving and potentially as many arriving again. After last summer’s incompetence it is one in which Woodward must excel, but just perhaps without a manager in tow.

Should the club fail to capture its main targets the mediocre pattern set this season may be ingrained for longer than anybody wants, whomever is brought in to replace Moyes.

The new man will get money, although probably not the £150 million plus briefed from the shadowier corners of United’s communications department. After all, failure to invest over the past eight seasons left Moyes with a squad far removed from Ferguson’s best.

What the new man won’t get is time. Not any more. United has become a club like any other – Moyes’ chaotic reign left no other choice.


PCPinkerton - April 22, 2014 Reply

Nobody said life is fair! Did you see the story about Moyes and the self help book flying home from Greece? Parody upon parody.

LESLEY FORSHAW - April 24, 2014 Reply

I said it at the beginning of the season and will say it again now…it takes a different skill set to manage a group of Divas than to manage a team of men who have potential and can be made into a team of good footballers. Everton have never bought big names…but bought footballers in for minimal money, improved them & sold for a profit….that’s a talent but not one that can be used with footballers with attitude! It was never going to work

Sam - April 23, 2014 Reply

If the Daily Mail’s latest article about players disobedience is correct, it’s quite astonishing and says a lot. I feel sickened by the reports of United players behaviour and the manor of Moyes’ sacking. Moyes didn’t fit United by a long shot, and sacking him was deserved. However, some of those players should be ashamed of themselves. This season hasn’t made anyone look good, but I feel a greater level of respect for Moyes in all his frustrating failings than a lot of the players at the moment. That’s not to say I don’t portion the majority of blame with Moyes. He made numerous mistakes, but it doesn’t sound like the players welcomed him with an open mind, or gave him their respect, or commitment. Would it have made a difference if they did? Who knows, all I know is, it’s going to take a while before I’ll be proud of Manchester United as a group of people again.

Dave 'Bassett' Moyes Fan clubDeluded Dave Moyes Fan Club - April 23, 2014 Reply

So let me get this right, are you saying it was the players fault. Moyes role as manager was to take on the Champions and tweak a few things.I would put it to you that he went beyond his remit.He dismantled a successful formula,by first dismantling the backroom staff,he cancelled transfers(set up by SAF),undermined players, by his actions.Promoted only Januzai from the ranks,crippled players with his dated training.Bought the worst player ever to put on the jersey at far more than he was worth,then his tactics,his preparations,his positional selection,his substitutions,and you blame the players.What nonsense!. As a fan of 57 years, this man has caused me more anxiety than Frank O’Farrell,Tommy Doc,Dave Sexton and Big Ron combined.The players were bereft as Moyes was and still is.Moyes was POISON to the club from start to finish……

Sam - April 23, 2014 Reply

Well in my comment I stated, I thought the large portion of the blame was with Moyes, so it was his fault above all. You’re correct in saying Moyes didn’t earn respect, but I think if you’re paid to play football, as a professional there are things you should and shouldn’t do. As much as Moyes alienated the players, it’s not a justified excuse for some of the stuff that’s gone on. Leaking the team sheet for example, or Rio Ferdinand posting tweets having digs at Moyes. Irrelevant of Moyes it reflects badly on the club, and piles unnecessary pressure on it. Maybe I was over the top saying I respect Moyes more than the players. Don’t get me wrong Moyes had me fuming at almost all his decisions, but my sympathy for him is born out of respect for fellow people and how they ought to be treated.

The Ginger Warrior - April 24, 2014 Reply

So if you work under a new boss that doesn’t know what he’s/she’s doing and your an experienced winner are you going to do what your told all the time? Or are you going to be disobedient? My point is in any walk of life you are expected to be professional but most professionals don’t suffer fools gladly!

Raphael C - April 23, 2014 Reply

Respect is earned, not simply given.

You would not give 100% either for a boss that you neither believed in or respected, and certainly not when said boss has declared you aging, and in need of 5 or 6 new players.

So let’s not point the fingers at players when they’re literally only being human, as opposed to being ‘treacherous conniving bastards’.

Moyes appointment was ill-advised, his public condemnation of his own players were ill advised, and it is no coincidence that Wayne Rooney’s performance has dipped lately once Moyes went on record to say that ‘he couldn’t kick a ball straight’ but could not be left out — thereby implied to be the major reason we lost against Munich. If I were Rooney, I wouldn’t stand for it either, 300K contract or not.

mongoletsi - April 23, 2014 Reply

Let’s not credit the Daily Fail with honesty or accuracy…

GM - April 26, 2014 Reply

I find it difficult to understand why Fellaini was such a disaster after he was so widely respected for the perfomances he put in at Everton. If the rumours are true that Moyes and his team were referred to as ‘Evertonians’ rather than their proper names, maybe he was given the same treatment as Moyes by the old guard – I don’t think Moyes was ever given a chance from day 1 – the only way he could’ve changed it was to get rid if the old guard, but he wasn’t brought in soon enough, nor did he have the right people to do the negociations. Don’t think any manager could’ve succeeded under the circumstances.

Rick Ali - April 23, 2014 Reply

I don’t get this ‘disrespectful’ angle. When is a sacking ever anything but? Moyes got paid a lot of money to do a job, didn’t do it, and got sacked. The club doesn’t have to lay rose petals out for him walking out of old trafford.

Ed - April 23, 2014 Reply

Rick – sure, but why brief the press 24 hours before sacking the chap in person. Unnecessary, unprofessional and not becoming of a club such as United.

Rick Ali - April 23, 2014 Reply

If the club did brief the press, what was the reason behind it? If they already made the decision to sack him, what did they gain by releasing the news 24 hours earlier?

I don’t think we need to be overly sympathetic regarding Moyes. Personally, it’s not nice losing your job, but professionally it comes with the territory and managers get paid a lot of money doing what they do.

All I’m saying is sacking Moyes is a positive step for the club, and I’m glad it happened. I’m looking to the future rather than worrying about Moyes. Anyway, he’ll get another well paid job doing what he loves at a club more suited to his level.

MS Assefa - April 23, 2014 Reply

Sorry for sounding harsh but I actually think that the “humiliation suffered” by Moyes is the least he deserved compared to complete idiocy he has shown and the damage he has done.

The fact he got the job he didnt earn and the comfortable ride he got all season long by the British media (who wanted someone form this shores at the helm of a big club like ours) is never mentioned. So I say he had this coming and it has even been less severe than he deserved

BTW am I the only one pissed with Gary Neville’s “protect my little brother at all cost” stunt in the media. Shame!!!! He always was a cunt and now some are telling him he is a good analyst he has become a stinking cunt.

Dave 'Bassett' Moyes Fan clubDeluded Dave Moyes Fan Club - April 23, 2014 Reply

Shows just how much awareness had about him!

Subterranean Steve - April 23, 2014 Reply

United is in a worse situation re the rebuilding and evolution of the team than it was a year ago. It’s been a distressingly wasteful season and whoever takes over has a bigger job to do than the one which Moyes inherited.

JD - April 23, 2014 Reply

Nice piece, ed. Grim reading. Makes one really question judgement behind the apptmt of Moyes. Not an adaptable leader, was he.

James Ryddel - April 23, 2014 Reply

When SAF addressed the OT crowd with his patronising “your job now is to support our new manager” message , perhaps he should have conveyed the same measage to his overpaid treacherous players?

mongoletsi - April 23, 2014 Reply

Pretty disrespectful to *totally* ignore the plans and vision of one of the legends of football management, no? Sure I applaud Moyes for wanting to make his own mark but the total disregard for SAF’s work isn’t confidence, it’s arrogance.

Moyes lost the respect of a lot of players because of this.

In 1997, Gordon Brown took over as Chancellor from Kenneth Clarke. You know what he did? He recognised that Clarke’s work coming out of the mid 90s recession was solid and his plan achievable with the resources at his disposal. So Brown continued with Clarke’s roadmap, albeit with his own tweaks. And what happened? Boom Time.

So yeah, I don’t blame the players if they got pissed off with not being listened to, and being told to play a system which they don’t buy in to. Simply because New Boss says so.

Denton Davey - April 24, 2014 Reply

For me, the worst aspect of the MoyesRegime was, first and foremost, brown-nosing TheWayneBoy. Rooney is a very, very good footballer, some of the time. What made his new contract so problematic to the current playing-staff is that caving-in to his demands has had a huge knock-on effect – we know that playing TheWayneBoy as #10 means marginalizing both Mata and KagawaBunga who are simply not wing-players yet if Rooney is given the #10 role then where can these two get playing time ? So, if Rooney is going to play all the time as a forward then it just has to be as #9 which means that one (or three) of DannyTheLad, RVP, and Chicharito will be pissed off because they would be marginalized. Moreover – as we saw in the dismal display @ Everton – TheWayneBoy plays for himself and is not disciplined positionally so that he was all-over-the-shop: everywhere but central and forward !

So, yeah, TheWayneBoy is a key part of the puzzle – both for good and ill. The way I see it, with the current surplus of attacking players and absolute dearth of midfield talent, Rooney has to evolve into TheScholesRole because he can do it and because if he does (“ComeToJesus”) then his playing-time has much less impact on the others by marginalizing either the support-attackers (Adnan/Kagawa/Mata) or the strikers (RVP, Chicharito/DannyTheLad). Indeed, I think that perhaps the best, most economical strategy would be to play TheWayneBoy/MrJones as the “2” in a 4-2-3-1. That would mean that without additions, this front six would be both strong and cheap (i.e., no expensive transfers) and that would mean that there would be big money to rebuild the defence with a LB and two quality, central defenders. Furthermore, depth might be a problem but if UTD don’t make the Europa League for next year then a smaller squad/less tinkering would be a very, very good thing. Depth could be provided by the young talent coming through the ranks – James Wilson, Will Keane, Jesse Lingard and Nick Powell. These guys might (or might not) be good enough to make the step-up but it was only by giving playing-time to AdnanJ that it was obvious that he is more useful than AshleyBloodyYoung/Valencia/Nani/ and, probably, Zaha. Sheeeee-it, maybe even Bebe might spring a big, big surprise and he couldn’t be worse than the four just mentioned !

Moyes is a safety-first, cautious guy and why SAF thought he would change-his-stripes when he got the deal-of-a-lifetime is quite beyond me. What AgentMoyes got very, very wrong was his refusal to countenance a gung-ho attacking-style which would make the best use of the players named above (and this was very much a continuation of SAF’s final years, too !). A very telling statistic is that in comparison to last year, UTD have scored something like a-goal-a-game less this time around. Some of that is no doubt due to the absence of RVP and his sensational scoring-form of the first two-thirds of last year – he went-off-the-boil in Feb/March and his lack-of-form was very, very costly in the two-legs against Madrid. But, mostly, the total confusion in UTD’s attacking play – touchline-hugging wingers ? or 4-2-3-1, using no wingers ?? or ??? – was made much, much worse by the constant tinkering so that no one developed any “understanding” with team-mates.

Again, missing out on CL and Europa might be the way to concentrate playing time on a real first-eleven instead of having to chop-and-change so as to give all the squaddies playing-time (remember, Barcelona have mostly played the same eleven for the past five years – since 2009 – and it has only been this year that Messi broke down while Puyol’s fitness and Abidal’s health disintegrated last year but they are now 36 so you couldn’t expect either if them to continue forever) but Xavi/Iniesta/Busquets/Pique/Alves all played all the time.

Given luck with injuries – and some useful additions to the back-four – I can see that UTD could rebound right back into-the-mix for EPL champions next year. A new coach needs to be mindful of what he has – as well as what’s missing. BUT if you and I can see it then it can’t be rocket-science, eh ?

Sam - April 25, 2014 Reply

Hmmm.Love your in depth analysis.Would pick you over Moyes(mo-No!!!) as a coach anytime.Don’t even think Moyes thought this way ever.Have a feeling the wins under moyes were just coincidence.

terry - April 23, 2014 Reply

The most wonderful day of the season was the day we did the right thing and sacked that low life scumbag,no respect for that guy what’s so ever, the guy is a liar, a back stabbing and just scum.

Got what he deserved.

Ditched everything man united and did his best to make us Everton.

Sacked René, mike and Steele sohe could bring in three crap coaches in woods,round and lumsden.

Ditched our style of play for defensive Everton rubbish.

Betrayed our proud history of youth development when refused to givelingard a chance and then restricted adnan’s game time in recent weeks.

Tried to stab evra in the back for garbage like baines

Brought us rubbish like fellaini….. Thank god woody got us mata.

Stabbed shinji, chicharito,nani,Vida,Rio, giggs all in the back

Couldn’t beat anyone,just a flipping loser

Scumbastard got what he had coming….. Just a lying,backstabbing piece of trash

mongoletsi - April 23, 2014 Reply

Well said. The guy thrives on being the (perceived) underdog.

That’s not the Utd way.

Count Danté - April 26, 2014 Reply

I think you’re going a bit over the top there mate. Have you got anger-management issues?

Moyes was out of his depth, a rabbit in the headlights and didn’t have the people skills, charisma nor self-belief to deal with serial winning, ego-driven multimillionaire perfectionists. But I don’t think he was the low-life scum sucking, filth piece of scum trash melon farmer that you suggest.

Krish Pillay - April 23, 2014 Reply

Season of destruction succinctly encapsulated.

VASEY - April 23, 2014 Reply

Disagree that the new guy won’t get time – they will as no-one can be as bad as 7th. LVG gets us top 4 easily.

Stevie D - April 23, 2014 Reply

Terrific synopsis of Moyes’s reign of terror, Ed. Looking at his long list of mistakes, and the fact that he appears to have go nothing right, it begs the questions, how the hell was Moyes appointed in the first place? How did we get that so wrong?
I will hold my hands up and say I supported the appointment of Moyes. I felt he did a good job at Everton, he seemed like a man of good character, and I thought he would kick on at United. Egg on my face.
It’s fairly apparent that Moyes was Fergie’s choice, but even still, was there no due diligence done on the man? Were his archaic training methods, which seemed to cause problems from the get go, not investigated? After listening to his media performances this season, how did he impress at interview? Were his plans for the coaching staff not examined?
Was he appointed solely on Ferguson’s wish? For the board to just bow to Ferguson like that, in my opinion, is more damning on the board than on Ferguson. We all know what a dictator Fergie could be if indulged. So to delegate such an important decision to one man was absolutely ludicrous.
I now ponder, was it the fact that Moyes hails from Glasgow that got him the job?? That’s how daft his appointment now seems, with the benefit of hindsight of course!

Jessemac - April 23, 2014 Reply

Ferguson set up transfers for him? Like Garay and Thiago? That’s a load of bull based on speculation. Fergie ignored the CM for too long and thinking he would want Thiago to come solve it when he hasn’t taken a risk on talented foreign players for who haven’t really proven themselves doesn’t sound like fact. We’ve been satisfied with signing solid players who we know what they will offer but won’t improve much. Moyes too gets a share of the blame but its a collective one from The Glazers, Woodward, players, Moyes. The Zaha signing was perplexing to say the least. 15m was a ridiculous fee to pay and had he been a foreign player, Fergie would not have spent that much for him going by his track record the last few years. The lad has struggled to impress at Cardiff which says something.

JEB - April 24, 2014 Reply

He was Fergie’s choice and Charlton backed him up. Charlton disliked Mourinho and I’m not even sure Feegie likes him. You can’t take away from Mourinho the man’s pedigree and trophies though – Guardiolo also- this was dire succession planning from two football legends but in the end shocking business decision from the board- but SAF on the board isn’t he?

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