Moyes: the retrospective

December 23, 2016 Tags: Reads 24 comments
featured image

It was the moment so many Manchester United supporters craved. Late April 2014, after 10 months in charge, David Moyes finally gone to dancing, if not on the streets of Salford, then a surfeit of social media. Moyes’ dismissal ended an anarchic period at Old Trafford; the brutal deconstruction of an experienced manager. History will long remember Moyes for his ineptitude in a job that was always too much, and the club for a shocking lack of a post-Ferguson succession planning. With the Scot’s Sunderland at Old Trafford this Christmas, memories flood back of time many want to forget…

There was something apt in Moyes’ appallingly mishandled dismissal, which came after just 51 games in charge. Ed Woodward’s decision was leaked to the press some 24 hours ahead of the man being told in person. It said much about a club that proclaims commercial acumen rivaled by none, but has a times been chaotically mismanaged by a cohort of mad marketing men. Moyes retains credit for remaining at Carrington, wishing players and staff well, some two hours after his brutal dismissal.

Yet, Moyes was a wrecking ball at Old Trafford, one that in retrospect caused long-lasting damage. From ripping up well laid transfer plans, to smashing players’ confidence, and unravelling the coaching and scouting network, United has been forced to rebuild from the ground up over the past two and a half years.

"History will long remember David Moyes for his ineptitude in a job that was always too much. With his Sunderland team at Old Trafford this Christmas, memories flood back of time many want to forget."

Moyes’ destruction began early in the Scot’s short-lived spell in Manchester with a pre-season programme that focused strongly on marketing and less on shaping the team against high quality opponents. Not all his fault of course, although on the training field Moyes’ boot camp approach alienated players from the start. He moaned about the summer’s 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.

It was in the market that Moyes was at his most indecisive, demonstrating a perplexing naïvety. Cesc Fabregas, Ander Herrera, Gareth Bale, Leighton Baines, Sami Khedira and Daniele De Rossi were pursued 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 in which the new manager fully complicit. United’s decision to pay £4 million over Fellaini’s buy-out clause was embarrassing and the direct result of Moyes’ dithering. It was all very good installing a “high tech scouting system” at Carrington, but the failure to deliver high-quality acquisitions made clear little improvement had occurred.

David Moyes

Moyes spent much of summer 2013 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. One that is costing more than £300,000 a week for a reserve. The inevitability that Moyes’ push for Rooney’s new contract would become a failure is not amusing.

Moyes’ choice to place Rooney on a pedestal garnered a season of perspiration from the striker when inspiration was desperately required. Too often flattered by a manager desperate to please, Rooney’s treatment was symptomatic of Moyes failure to pick on form. There were, for example, times during United’s victory at West Bromwich Albion in March 2014 that 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 spent the campaign on the sidelines.

Indeed, Moyes’ use of his squad was always a contradiction. In 51 games the Scot 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 had not a clue how to manage a large and diverse squad.

Summer 2013 also brought unnecessary and destructive turmoil in the back room, fatally undermining 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 proved devastating. Moyes changed too much, not too little. It was a sign of weakness from the off.

As if to underline the chaos that reigned under the Scot, the team’s start could hardly have been more positive. The Reds began the 2013/14 campaign with a 4-1 victory at Michael Laudrup’s Swansea City. Over the following months the new man would prove himself far from the dynamic, proactive, coach that United missed out on when passing on José Mourinho and Pep Guardiola.

David Moyes

The results were poor under Moyes, but United’s lack of style exacerbated supporters’ anger. The defense-minded strategy employed against Bayern Munich in a crushing Champions League quarter-final defeat no one-off – Moyes sought a safety-first approach throughout his time at United. To underline the point, United scored just 56 goals in the Premier League to Liverpool’s 96.

The approach was always one-dimensional in an era of tactical innovation. In defeat at Stoke City, for example, United launched 47 long balls into the swirling Potteries wind, with just 13 finding their target. Against Fulham Moyes’ team infamously delivered more than 81 crosses to laughably little effect.

More damning still, any football exceeding the lowest quality was discovered by accident. In victory at Newcastle United Adnan Januzaj, Juan Mata and Shinji Kagawa combined to provide a rare vibrant attacking performance. 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 as United manager became 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 in October 2013 remains a good précis for a season of caution. Off the pitch there were 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 himself.

David Moyes

The peripatetic use of the word “try” became a social media meme, while the Scot’s declaration that Manchester City were “at the sort of level we are aspiring to” brought anger that burns to this day. United would “try and make it hard” for Newcastle. The joke was on Moyes when his team really didn’t.

“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 and the club’s executive management.

The political factions emerged with alacrity. Mainly because of Moyes’ weakness. 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 went with the manager, Woods soon followed. Not a tear was shed for any, but the stench took months to dissipate.

"The true need for rebuilding has come in the Scot’s wake, not before it. Not that supporters at Old Trafford will show Moyes anything other respect when he walks the line at Old Trafford on Boxing Day. It’s more than he deserves."

In the end results signalled the end for Moyes, as they did at Real Sociedad too. Dismissal is his probable outcome at Sunderland. For Moyes, the writing was on the wall as earlier as February 2014 after United’s shocking loss to Olympiakos. Six defeats in as many games against City, Liverpool and Everton, and just one win against the Premier League’s top six, underlined why Moyes’ dismissal came not a moment too soon. Not that the Scot has ever truly understood his failings.

“I don’t think whoever had taken over from Sir Alex would have had an easy ride,” said Moyes this week. “Whether it had been José then or Carlo Ancelotti or Jurgen Klopp or Pep Guardiola, I think it would have been a difficult job.

“I was definitely unfairly treated. Over the piece, other managers have come and gone and it’s been difficult for them as well. I think it would have taken whoever it was time to change the squad around. My time was too short.”

Yet, the true legacy of United’s disastrous experiment with Moyes’ is more than two years of flux and many millions spent in the market. Moyes is certain in his belief that “it would have taken whoever it was time to change the squad around” and that it was “going to be a little bit of a rebuilding job.” The true need for rebuilding has come in the Scot’s wake, not before it.

Not that supporters at Old Trafford will show Moyes anything other respect when he walks the line at Old Trafford on Boxing Day. It’s more than he deserves.


Symmie - December 23, 2016 Reply


NazManUnited - December 23, 2016 Reply

A damning indictment of this stupid idiot bastard; Moyes destroyed MUFC more deeply than I realised. Broke the family apart

Bryn mez - December 23, 2016 Reply

he was out of his depth.. simples 🤗

NazManUnited - December 23, 2016 Reply

Crazy MUFC fans are a Slave to loyalty. I clapped when he was sacked I wanted him sacked from the start.

Marco - December 24, 2016 Reply

I was given all kinds of crap for saying that he was a poor choice and that Fergie was guilty of nepotism. He was. He’s backtracked since but there’s no doubt in my mind that Moyes was Fergie’s choice and that the board went along with it. It has cost us all right.

Denton Davey - December 23, 2016 Reply

Moyes NEVER should have been “chosen”. That was SAF’s biggest gaffe – what was he thinking ? was he thinking at all ?

The foolishness of that “choice” was doubled-down because Jo$e was ready, willing, and able to take the job.

And, to make bad matters even worse, TheMoyessiah made TheWayneBoy team captain, raising his weekly-stipend to something like 300,000 which cemented Rooney in position (pun intended !).

Let’s hope that TheLads tonk ‘underland six-nil.

NazManUnited - December 23, 2016 Reply

Moyes Destroyed MUFC; LVG kept us in a Coma! Mourinho is Rehab, we’re slowly getting Better 😎

bobbynoble - December 24, 2016 Reply

Moyes didn’t quite destroy United but he certainly left us in need of life support. Amusing the idea of United in a coma under LVG and in rehab under Mourinho. Feel like I’ve been through all that myself. Did 2013-16 really happen?

Graham Weller - December 24, 2016 Reply

– knob

Brian - December 24, 2016 Reply

The most pertinent comment in this whole piece is ” THE CLUB IS CHAOTICALLY MIS-MANAGED BY A COHORT OF MAD MARKETING MEN” which still applies today. Moyes was a clown and a mistake but Wuturd is also a clown on the footballing side, lets hope Jose brings a certain amount of pragmatism and success back to the club.

Jack Adam Morris - December 24, 2016 Reply

Thank you for writing this. Some deluded fans still believe he was “wronged” or could have made it work eventually!

JAY PATRICK - December 24, 2016 Reply

The Nearly Famous him respect ? no greet him with silence that’s sufficient.The article says it all.

david richards - December 24, 2016 Reply

In the blame game .not up to the job.set us back 5 years.never a winner

Pint vulger - December 24, 2016 Reply

Moyes saying he would have signed Kroos,Fabregas,Bale and Ronaldo !anf if he had he would still be at OT ,i coukd manage the team with those plus what he already had.
His and Fergies biggest mistake, not keeping the successful structure that was in place, all Fergie had to say was ‘ the jobs yours ,Know one else just you’ A no brainer.

Julian - December 24, 2016 Reply

Ok piece up to the inevitable Rooney bashing part. Moyes handling of Rooney was no different to LvGs nor Mourinho’s to start with. Don’t forget at the time also Mourinho was after Rooney to come to Chelsea. Your ongoing hatred of a United legend is really sooo boring!

Denton Davey - December 24, 2016 Reply

“Rooney bashing” is not very accurate or helpful in discussing Moyes’ decision to get behind the negotiations and push for TheWayneBoy to get a gigantic windfall.

For all sports managers – in whatever sport – determining when a player is on the downward side of his career is a key decision; getting that wrong burdens the club with not only a huge financial commitment but also an “immoveable object” whose presence meant that Kagawa and Chicharito were not given the playing time to grown into their roles. Welbeck also left in frustration although I don’t consider his departure to have been as significant as the other two. The old adage is that it’s better to move on a guy a year too soon than to keep hold of him a year too long – in TheWayneBoy’s case, Moyes was guilty of keeping him five years too long. Even now, it’s arguable that the elephant-in-the-room is taking playing time away from Mata, Mhkitaryan, Martial, Lingard, and Rashford who represent the future – not the past.

It’s fairly common knowledge – or, at least, common “understanding” that the writing-was-on-the-wall in the CL game with Real Madrid when DannyTheLad was preferred to partner RvP – that SAF had already decided to jettison Rooney even before he decided to leave the manager’s job. Unfortunately, he made a precipitous decision to retire and then “chose” his successor – in that scenario, Rooney was collateral baggage.

It is also inaccurate to suggest that “Moyes handling of Rooney to LvGs nor Mourinho’s to start with” because both LvG and Jo$e had to find a way to deal with the elephant-in-the-room. If Moyes hadn’t been so aggressive in getting Rooney’s signature on that contract then perhaps he might have gone softly into that good night to some other place where superannuated footballers get their last big pay-day.

subterranean steve - December 24, 2016 Reply

Well said, D D.

subterranean steve - December 24, 2016 Reply

A timely article, Ed. No doubt in the build up towards the game, revisionist Moyes will be attempting to rewrite history, deflecting responsibility away from himself and laying the blame upon others for the failure of his time in charge.

Siddharth M H - December 24, 2016 Reply

on point.

Willy Humberside - December 24, 2016 Reply

Brilliant. Please can someone stop him talking about how unfairly treated he was. I’m not supposed to feel this angry at Xmas!

Barry Shmeizer - December 24, 2016 Reply

Superb article. Many thanks.

Tim - December 24, 2016 Reply

Can we stop posting pictures of him next to the badge? I have a Pavlovian panic attack every time I see it.

Dazza2501 - December 27, 2016 Reply

Haven’t seen Moyes complaining too much about getting the bullet from Real Sociedad, or were they wrong too ? This article really sums up what a disaster Moyes was, and makes me wince at some of the things he did in his time as manager. From his treatment of Rooney, other senior pros, coaching staff, his transfer dealings, scouting and negative press conferences & tactics, there is little he did right. When Fergie retired, United needed a manager who had a CV that had trophies, but also suggested vision, confidence & authority moving forwards, Moyes had inherited the leaguehampions after all, & was given cash for Fellaini & Mata. Repercussions of Fergie’s retirement would have caused problems and maybe a fallow time even if a coach like Mourinho, Guardiola or Ancelotti had directly succeeded Ferguson. I find it astounding that a club that is often linked with some of the very best players in the game, went for an average manager to succeed Fergie. The sad thing being, the damage of Moyes reign is still being repaired.

Skw - December 28, 2016 Reply

Fuck him.

Leave a Reply Cancel