On cognitive dissonance, and David Moyes

January 10, 2014 Tags: Reads 18 comments
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“Every single one of us will stand by David Moyes,” sang Manchester United’s outstanding away support at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday night. It was a rare moment of levity in an otherwise dark night for the Scot. Another United defeat to go alongside those against Tottenham Hotspur and Swansea City already this month; another potential route to silverware hanging on the precipice. Few thought Moyes’ transition into Sir Alex Ferguson’s job would be easy. But this difficult, and this traumatic, that United should cave with so little conviction to the Premier League’s worst side?

But if the story of the night was United’s abject performance against Sunderland in the Capital One Cup, then the real narrative surrounds Moyes and his ongoing position with the club. A little over six months into the job and the former Everton manager looks weaker, less in charge by the day. Whisper it, do it quietly, but at almost any other major club the depths to which the side has fallen in such a brief period might have seen Moyes on the scrapheap of managerial failures. Sacked, defenestrated, and forgotten already.

That Moyes retains his job, and should do bar further catastrophic results until at least summer 2015, says much about the United hierarchy’s attempt to produce an environment of stability, albeit one in which Moyes was allowed to create significant volatility in the back-room.

Yet, there will be a role for United’s fan-base in Moyes’ eventual fate, or at least some control over the atmosphere in which the Scot works. If Tuesday is any evidence then Moyes can sleep easy, for now at least. More than 3,000 United fans out-sung five times the number in the home contingent during United’s the semi-final first leg – and did so proudly.

‘Twas ever so, with the nervousness that envelopes Old Trafford in recent times dissipating on the road, where United boasts a decent record this season – and where some of the Reds’ more attractive performances have come. Indeed, moral support for Moyes has rarely been in doubt despite many supporters’ uneasy feelings on the 50-year-old’s appointment last July.

And in that there is an essential truth in Moyes’ time at Old Trafford. While United supporters want every success for the club, and by default the new manager, many lack a deep belief that the Scot will eventually deliver it. Classic cognitive dissonance; an urge to support Moyes in everything he does at United, a deeper understanding that he may not have earned it. Or as the nobel prize winning author William Faulker might put it, the mind is happy at that which the conscience refuses to assimilate.

Rant’s straw poll, conducted on social media this week, brought an overwhelmingly positive response from fans asked if they continued to “support” Moyes in the United job. By contrast, the rejoinder was luke-warm when fans were polled on whether they believe Moyes is the “right man” to bring long-term success at Old Trafford. Unscientific of course, but then neither is the terrace truly holistic evidence either.

Much of the doubt in Moyes dates back to his appointment. Here is a man without a trophy secured in more than a decade as a top-flight manager, anointed to a job at one of the world’s leading clubs, seemingly ahead of better candidates. Two-time Champions League winner José Mourinho was available, while 16-times trophy winner Pep Guardiola moved on, and the ever popular Jurgen Klopp continues to win friends. Moyes may out-perform them all in time, but his CV lacks for the comparison.

Then, of course, there is Moyes’ performance in the job, which has brought little but critique – from the obliteration of United’s tried-and-trusted back-room, to an over-emphasis on a functional style that has won few admirers at Old Trafford or beyond. That says little for United’s results, which have brought five defeats at Old Trafford in all competitions and eight over-all. Whatever else is said of the Scot this season, the downturn in United’s results has been stark.

Moreover, the destruction in the club’s tradition of attacking, fluid football, although already well on route under Sir Alex Ferguson, has accelerated with Moyes’ appointment to the job. The Scot’s simplification of United’s tactics, which are now predicated almost solely on over-loading the flanks, and delivering the ball from wide areas, has been rapid and complete. It is little wonder that United’s new man has obsessively pursued Leighton Baines, the Premier League’s leading crosser by some distance last season.

Yet, the Reds’ approach has also been increasingly predictable, both to supporters now hungry for more than the turgid fare served up this season, and more pointedly to the opposition. Run Antonia Valencia into the channel and United’s principle attacking strategy is laregely neutered.

Still, support is a complex, if ephemeral concept. Whatever Moyes’ ample mistakes this season; however dumbstruck the manager now appears in the juggernaut’s headlights; whatever his qualities, or lack thereof, as a manager, he will enjoy ‘support’. It is a faith that plays out in myriad forms – from voices on the terraces, to railing against the dying light in social media.

And yet there is that straw poll again, the more than two thirds of United supporters who are yet to be convinced that Moyes will bring long-term success to the club, as Sir Alex managed so conspicuously over more than two decades in charge. It is a hint at what may have become an underlying truth; an increasing number of United fans strongly suspect that Ferguson chose the wrong man last summer.

It is a paradox played out in microcosm too, where United fans will cheer on the Reds to the fullest in the second leg against Sunderland in a little under two week’s time, but face the very real prospect of a chastening experience against in-form Manchester City at Wembley.

Yet, there is another, more essential truth. Moyes’ success or failure is the club’s achievement or decline; the fans’ joy or a moratorium on a quarter century of almost unqualified gloating. Whatever the secret doubts held about the new manager’s qualities, and in whatever form they are articulated, nobody wishes them true. It is a process of rationalisation if ever there was.

18 comments

David Young - January 10, 2014 Reply

just not good enough

William - January 10, 2014 Reply

Great article, Ed. Rings so true, and so strange. Reality, eh?!

ChrisW - January 10, 2014 Reply

We all want Moyes to succeed. It’s just that fewer and fewer of us think he will.

derickbanks - January 10, 2014 Reply

Moyes’ cv alone can not attract big players to the club. moyes will never i repeat moyes will never bring success to utd.. give him 100 yrs, he will never bring success at utd. simply because he is nor a winner.

derickbanks - January 10, 2014 Reply

Moyes’ cv alone can not attract big players to the club. moyes will never i repeat moyes will never bring success to utd.. give him 100 yrs, he will never bring success at utd. simply because he is not a winner.

Farhan Ahmed - January 10, 2014 Reply

Another great piece. Rant was made for seasons like these…

ND - January 10, 2014 Reply

Moyes is not able to give the team a clear playing philosophy in attacking and defending. It’s only because we have good individuals, that we can win matches at all. (Now they are injured so we can’t) Look at Bayern, Barca, Dortmund they have clear moves and every player knows exactly what’s to do in every situation. If Moyes is unable to give the team a playing philosophy to the end of the season, he has to go.

maburach - January 10, 2014 Reply

Top quality article. Absolutely captured the Moyes dilemma.

MS Assefa - January 10, 2014 Reply

However eloquent your article was you have missed the glaring point in my opinion. What is the responsibility of the fans? That is the question.
Should we be beating our chests furiously like mad men and ‘supporting’ a clearly poor manager and the despotic descision that got him here. Or should we take responsibility for the future fate of the club and stand up against our rapid deterioration.
This passivity is what got the glazers into the board room. My favorite SAF quote about the fans is not his last speech but when he spoke in 2002 about fans owning a stake in United and said ‘ …..some of them even want a say in the club. Now that would be blasphemy to SAF. We should stay in our place and do as we are told.
But are we not going to feel responsible a few months from now when it becomes obvious we will have no rectifying big summer signings as no top player has ever heard of Moyes let alone going to sign for him. When our tactics are still crosses crosses crosses…. and more crosses. When we will obviously loose the quality left over in the squad.
Come on fellow reds we have to be active in the fate of the club. All United fans know deep down he is not fit for the job with his only credential being his passport.

Andrew - January 10, 2014 Reply

Great article, balanced. It’s pretty dire at the moment but people need to get behind and stick it out

Davcal - January 10, 2014 Reply

Ed,
You articulate the frustration, the dismay and the conflict perfectly.
There is a split among supporters, those that think if you dont support Moyes you are somehow less of a fan and some kind of glory hunter.
Nonsense.
We support United. Players come and go, Managers come and go. We will always be here.
I dont believe any of us think United are entitled to win anything.
For me United are one of the handful of clubs in the world that have an iconic status, not just in football.
Along with clubs like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, AC Milan, Juventus and Liverpool. Their very name conjures up images of legends and heros of heart break and unimaginable joy.
All have had falls from great heights too (with the possible exception of Madrid, but the Spainish government will make sure that never happens anyway 😉 )

Man City, Chelsea, PSG, Monaco and all those Russian sidesare the new world we live in and like it or not they are who we have to compete with.
Unfortunately for United there are not many player like RVP that will put the status of United above the money of City.
All of this is why we cannot afford for David Moyes to become our Greame Souness.
What ever it costs to get players into United now, how much more will it cost with a manager that doesnt seem up to the job and a team not in the Champions league.
If Liverpool are the yard stick for such a scenario, then we are in trouble.

I will support United through thick and thin. If we finish 10th, we all will still support United. But at what point does the club come down off its moral high horse and act to rectify the situation?

I keep asking, Did anyone ever watch Everton of the last 10 years and think “they play great football”
No, me either.

Denton Davey - January 10, 2014 Reply

Davcal @ 12:00: ” “Did anyone ever watch Everton of the last 10 years and think “they play great football”
No, me either.”

I beg to differ; I’ve watched a lot of Everton matches on the telly (in Toronto) and their matches were often very exciting.

HOWEVER, Everton’s first-team was always stacked with B-list players (Pienaar/Osman/Jagielka/Anichebe/Hibbert and so on). Those guys often punched-above-their-weight; they seemed to have great team spirit, too. BUT, they were always out-played (and “out-reffed”) in the Merseyside Derby although they’ve give UTD some very, very tough matches in the last few years. Indeed, it’s reasonable to suggest that the 4-4 in the spring of 2012 was decisive in changing UTD’s momentum which ultimately lost the title to Man$hitty on the last day of that season.

So, to me, it’s just a lazy cliche to talk about “great football” and slam Moyes for making-do with what the ownership @ Everton could afford.

There’s the rub – AgentMoyes is now in a different situation and his acclimatization has not been inspiring. If anything, I think this UTD team of 2013/4 is more boring/insipid than his ToffeeMen.

If you look at things from this perspective then the really dispiriting thing about the first six months of Moyes’ managerial career @ UTD has been how he has “turtled” and repeatedly given chances to the same non-performing players (Young/Cleverley/Valencia) who have shown absolutely no evidence that there’s anything more in their proverbial lockers. He’s marginalized Kagawa, playing him out-of-position; Chicharito has not been used enough and has had no decent “service” and the blame for that has to be divided equally between those three, regular non-performers and the manager. Nani and Anderson have either been injured or not selected so I don’t think it’s fair to lump them in with those three.

Additionally – and, to me, most surprisingly – TheLads have not scored enough goals which has meant that there have been too many games which were drawn/lost from a position-of-strength, domination of possession, and territorial advantage. These factors used to be translated into goals/wins but this season we’ve seen TheLads do the same things over-and-over-again without any evidence that those things will lead to improvements in performance/results. This has been the root of Moyes’ under-performance – he has been to willing to stick with players/systems that aren’t working.

JA - January 10, 2014 Reply

“Every single one of us will stand by David Moyes,” sang Manchester United’s outstanding away support at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday night.

The above reminds me of Ferguson’s response the the question of whether the signing of Seba Veron had been wise:
“Youse lot are all fucking idiots”

tendai - January 13, 2014 Reply

If i were Reus/ Herrera/Koke or any of the fine players linked with Utd I’m not sure I’d be too keen to join when it seems Moyes doesn’t know how to get the best out of Shinji. Would I come to a manager whose technical nous looks seemingly questionable? I doubt Moyes’ (together with his croonies from Everton) technical ability hence the insistence on wasteful crosses. Its no wonder players that thread through the middle (Shinji) don’t seem to nail a firm starting 11 spot in his selection. I am not happy with Moyes. He might win something somewhere down the line but his style of play just pisses me off. Give me Dortmund any day

minde - January 14, 2014 Reply

these “fans” its a fucking brainwashed idiots know fuck all about footbal theyll be better of just sucking fergies dick instead of going into stadiums , they are fucking disgrace:DDDD. moyes is such a loser…

David - January 15, 2014 Reply

I am amazed that so few are either not realising or choosing to ignore the real problems here. Quite simply the GLAZERS have totally failed in their suppport of Moyes and are continuing their lack of quality investment in our football team. Only Fergies genius allowed us to win the league last year but the warning signs have been there , and buiding up over a a period of 3/4 years. Very average mid field, aging defenders, look how we had to still rely on Giggs and brought Scholes out of retirement.

The beauty is the GLAZERS are now faced with having to spend serious money to support Moyes or seeing their investment continue to decline ( share price has dropped nearly 15% ) That is what will really hurt them and it could’nt happen to a bunch of bigger fucking bastards. What goes round comes round eh………….

SKW - January 15, 2014 Reply

I don’t know what “support” means.

That is, I want him to do well, I root for him and not against him, but “support” him? I don’t know. He is a terrible manager. Our tactics are dreadful, our team tepid and mediocre.

If this was the classic “rebuilding” year and we were blooding the youngsters, shifting players around, etc. I might be more inclined. But what Moyes is doing is from fear and survival. And at the same time he is making every player, save Welbeck, worse. Rooney and Van Persie and Kagawa will all leave. And we will buy Nobodies. Watch…

leeds fan - January 19, 2014 Reply

Only thing making Leeds fans smile is David Moves long slow destruction of Manchester United – loving it!

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