Everyone knows it was a massive job to take over from Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. It’s the sort of job that sounds great when you read the brochure, but the tasks awaiting and standards to maintain make it the most daunting of tasks.
In such a job, no-one will get it right all the time, and we all make mistakes. The problem for David Moyes is that in the hothouse atmosphere of the Manchester United goldfish bowl, everybody not only sees everything, but all things carry massive consequences.
So, without trying to make a bad situation worse, here are my thoughts on the ten biggest mistakes of David Moyes at Manchester United – and I’m not starting with taking the job!
1. Not being Sir Alex Ferguson and not saying “I’m not Sir Alex Ferguson!”
That may seem easy to say, and be a bit obvious but for any manager moving into that giant chair, the first task is surely to show that you’re not ‘the man who followed the man.’ Instead, you are ‘the man,’ United are a club built by Ferguson in his own image, and it’s served them exceptionally well, but those days are gone now.
A bit like dinosaurs and Henry VIII, it’s all in the past. Those days need to be consigned to history. If the future is what’s important, it’s folly to allow people to concentrate on the past.
2. Bringing the Everton backroom staff to the club
This is a bit of the same sort of thing as the above. If you were the Everton manager, and now you’re the Manchester United boss, don’t make it look like you need to wrap yourself in a comfort blanket of having tried and trusted lieutenants around you.
It makes you look like you’re trying to perpetuate the ‘Everton way’ when you should be forging the ’Manchester United’ way.
3. Signing Fellaini – and paying too much!
Buying the Belgian midfielder almost became a fait accompli before the ink was dry on Moyes’ contract to move to Old Trafford.
The questions were all about who he would take with him to Old Trafford. The answer always came back the same, Baines and Fellaini, but more of Baines below.
It surely didn’t take much consideration to observe that a player that suited Everton’s approach may not do the same at Manchester United. The evidence is that it plainly doesn’t. Oh, and if you’re going to buy the wrong player, at last don’t overpay because you missed the date on the buy-out clause!
4. Not signing Baines
Now, here’s the rub. If you’re only going to take one player with you from Everton, shouldn’t that have been Leighton Baines?
Now, here’s a guy that fits neatly in with the Manchester United way of playing. A solid defender with attacking inclination, and a wand of a left foot when it comes to dead ball situations. Evra is probably on the way out, insert Baines, job done!
5. Not recognising/addressing the decline of Ferdinand and Vidic
Decline seems such a harsh word to use for a pairing that has literally been at the heart of the club’s success over recent years.
Time and tide wait for no man however and age, together with accumulated injuries, simply adds up to a declining physical condition. Allowing both players to grow old without integrating either Smalling or Jones into the role – if they are the presumed heirs for the positions – has proven to be a serious error, as United’s defence has appeared porous at times.
6. Signing Mata but playing him out of position
Without doubt, Juan Mata is an exceptional footballer, and had it not been for the presence of Oscar at Stamford Bridge, it’s unlikely that Jose Mourinho would have countenanced his sale.
It seems however that Mata has ‘swapped the frying pan for the fire.’ The problem at Chelsea was that Mata wanted to play where Oscar played, and the problem at United is that he wants to play where Rooney plays!
If Moyes has anything like long term plans to deploy the Spaniard on the wide of midfield, he would probably have been better buying someone more comfortable playing there.
7. Having a bad first summer for transfers
Being the new guy in town, you want to make a good first impression on the fans. The sort of transfer activity that Moyes – and in fairness to him, Ed Woodward as well – indulged in was somewhat less than impressive.
Pursuing and failing to sign players is not the way it usually works at Old Trafford. Don’t talk about deals until they’re done. Get out, get it done, then talk to the press. The case of Cesc Fabregas highlighted that United aren’t the draw they used to be, and that never looks good moving forward.
8. Doing the laundry in public
No, I’m not talking about washing the shirts here. When things aren’t going well, you put a united (or should that be “United”) face on to the public and talk about the bad things in private.
Also talking of massive transfer budgets in the summer is only certain to ensure that inflated prices are quoted when enquiring about players.
9. Being poor when Liverpool are becoming exceptionally good
Of course it’s not Moyes’ fault that the Brendan Rodgers’ red revolution is kicking in just at the precise time, that United are having their worst period in the last twenty odd years. Nobody said it was going to be fair though!
10. Oh, yes. Robin van Persie!
The guy that scored the goals to win the title last year still has a decent scoring record, but there’s enough rumours going around to suggest that the relationship between manager and player is somewhat less than ideal.
Whether we’re talking of fitness issues, tactical deployment or training methods, there always seems to be an undercurrent of friction.
Of course, Moyes has got some things right. He has Rooney playing his best football for a couple of years for example; something that Ferguson had found behind him.
But all in all, how would you score Moyes’ report card?
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