Six months with David Moyes and Manchester United has transformed from Premier League champions to something akin to a relegation contender. After all the amateur decision-making that has surrounded the club these past few months, it’s a wonder how the Reds are not long out of the Champions League as well. Maybe the age of miracles really isn’t over?
Moyes has made mistakes from the off. He came in to the position as United manager and sacked world-class coaches in René Meulensteen and Eric Steele in too much of a hurry. Preposterously, he went on to claim that he was “still getting to know” his players. Really? It might have been a good idea to keep some of the coaches that had trained these players for years.
Fast forward a few months and Moyes publicly claims that he needs more coaching manpower and wants to hire yet another former Everton coach in John Murtough, the Premier League’s Head of Elite Performance. One wonders what, exactly, was the point of giving Meulensteen, Steele, and even Mike Phelan the boot in the first place. Given Sir Alex Ferguson’s superhuman work ethic, it wouldn’t have been strange for Moyes to increase the number of backroom staff last summer, rather than shed experience.
During Ferguson’s recent lecture “Repeating Success”, held in Oslo a few weeks back, United’s former manager said that letting his staff take care of the day-to-day coaching was one of the best decisions he’d ever made. Ferguson explained that it was former assistant Archie Knox’ idea from their days at Aberdeen, freeing Sir Alex to concentrate on pretty much everything else.
In that context it is baffling that Moyes felt the need to stroll in to the Carrington – sorry, the “Aon Training Complex” – to take charge of every single training session from the off. Where does that leave Steve Round and what, exactly, does he do?
After all, the manager’s role at United is so big, so complex, and the workload so huge that it is simply common sense to rely on an extensive, and world-class, backroom staff, and Moyes had the opportunity to keep some pretty good coaches around. Instead, he felt the need to show United’s multi-millionaire stars, whom between them have won countless trophies, ‘how it really should be done’. No wonder Moyes has struggled to gain the players’ respect.
It is not as if Moyes’ training sessions have led to blistering football in any case. Quite the opposite. If Moyes had led an attacking revolution, it would be harder for supporters to criticise. As it is, with a top four finish seemingly unrealistic, it is oh so easy. In fact training, Moyes-style, has led only to slow, boring football, with two-time Premier League top-scorer Robin van Persie sat on the sidelines injured. Nice work, David.
It gets even worse when it comes to acquisitions. United’s bizarre and embarrassing approach to the summer transfer window has been fully analysed. Yet, after failing to acquire any top talent, it still boggles the mind why Moyes believed that United’s squad would benefit from the acquisition of Marouane Fellaini.
In fact Fellaini has been so bad that further analysis about the ‘wigman’ is unnecessary; you’ve seen him play. Fellaini was decent enough in the average punter’s Fantasy League team last season, but few actually wanted him in a United shirt. Yet, even with that observation in mind it would be natural to expect United’s coaching team to define Fellaini’s role with the side. The very same coaching team that know him from Everton.
It’s an obvious question, but how does Moyes expect Fellaini to contribute this season? As a midfield shield; holding up the ball; scoring goals, and using his height from set-pieces? He is doing none, and certainly not all of them! And, as an aside, Fellaini should have been sent off in United’s recent loss against Everton – not for the first time either. United’s disciplinary record is excellent, let’s keep it that way, eh?
Then there is the public pursuit of left-back Leighton Baines, when United already possesses one of the world’s finest in the position, the club vice-captain, Patrice Evra. Evra is almost never injured and his heart bleeds United, and he remains extremely important in the dressing room. Unsettling the man made little sense, especially when United have decent cover in Alexander “street footballer” Büttner, Fabio Da Silva and the fine youngster Guillermo Varela.
Off the pitch Moyes inspires no confidence either. The 50-year-old has name dropped Everton and what “we did there” in almost every press conference. But, David, sixth place isn’t honourable and at United it isn’t good enough either. United shalt always compete for honours – it is what fans have come to expect with Sir Alex at the helm.
After all, United’s worst position since the inauguration of the Premiership is third place, and that was widely criticised as a poor season. How about not finishing in the top four? For United’s ‘spoilt’ fans – sorry, “customers” – that is akin to living in either Sodomma or Gomorra. Take your pick.
This is, after all, the reigning Champions, not a club struggling for survival as United found itself in 1986 when Sir Alex took charge. Not only did United win the league by 11 points last season, but the side was unlucky not to reach the semi-finals of the Champions League.
It begs the question – exactly who does Moyes think he is coming to United and changing everything? This is a top club, and Moyes inherited top coaches and top playing talent served on a silver platter.
Whatever happened to Moyes’ promise to ‘continue the United way’? There’s nothing United-esque about the side these days. Two home defeats on the trot is almost unheard of! Yet, Moyes felt the need to reinvent the wheel. Some nerve after 11 seasons at Everton and not a single trophy secured.
It is a situation reminiscent of Roy Hodgson’s time at Liverpool – a decent manager that no one ever warmed to, who failed to gain his players’ respect. Wrong man, at the wrong time.