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David Moyes: Portrait of a Scapegoat



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When the news was confirmed early on Tuesday morning that Manchester United boss David Moyes had been sacked, it sadly came as no surprise as the writing had been on the wall for a while. The champions had 27 fewer points than they did after 35 games last season. However the fact that United actually pulled the trigger on the ‘chosen one’ was the surprising nonetheless.

Moyes United

After meeting Chief Executive Ed Woodward at the clubs training ground at Carrington, shortly after 8.30am on Monday morning Moyes’ 10 month tenure at Old Trafford came to a end. Having been hand-picked by Sir Alex Ferguson to be his successor the fellow Glaswegian was a popular choice at board-level initially. However as frustration grew at results the final straw was reportedly when the Scot fined the trio of Ashley Young, Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley having been seen out in Manchester a day after United had been defeated by Bayern Munich. Privately, the Glazers were furious had lost patience with Moyes.

Going back to last Summer when Moyes was appointed, he clearly had the backing of the United board, but rarely won over a fan base so accustomed to success. In truth, it was a thankless if not impossible task. There is no doubting that Moyes did not help himself with his inconsistent tactics with a different lineup in all of his 51 league and cup games. But arguably David Moyes was a beaten man before he began.

Hopes were high that Moyes, who turns 50 tomorrow could have brought his work ethic and his attacking brand of football to the champions. On paper it was a experiment, but one that could have brought a bright new dawn to Manchester but in the end in the ‘Chelsea era’ Moyes was not afforded the time to adapt.

Bringing Marouane Fellaini with him from Goodison Park but failing in his attempts to prize Leighton Baines away from Roberto Martinez. Fellaini’s pricetag meant much was expected of him but the reality is Fellaini was never much of a central midfielder and was only a real threat when deployed as a central attacker/shadow forward, as last seasons 11 goals and 7 assists atest. In 17 Premier League appearances this term however, the Belgian is yet to record a single assist. Fellaini’s failed transition is one of a number of examples where Moyes has fallen short.

In the post-mortem of Moyes’ sacking, the Scot was made to bear the brunt of fans frustration with performance after performance of no chemistry, or defensive of offensive nouse. But the fact is Fellaini is not the only individual to have let Moyes down. Ashley Young’s career has nose-dived due to his reputation for simulation; Nani has been again a source of great consternation on the right and Antonio Valencia – an adequate deputy has failed to replicate his scintillating form of the 2011/12 campaign where he amassed 4 goals a 14 assists.

Together with Young and Nani has been the inconsistency of Shinji Kagawa since his move from Borussia Dortmund. Fans have criticized Moyes for not playing then Japanese international more often from the start but again a run of form has failed to materialize, instead the attacking midfielder has only displayed glimpses of his true potential. Moyes was vindicated not playing him more often.

Manchester United’s lack of quality and ageing squad has really come into focus this season and unfortunately for the outgoing United boss that has been partly his downfall; Tom Cleverley has gone backwards with Phil Jones monopolizing both a central defensive and holding role, which leaves Michael Carrick who at 32 has had an injury troubled campaign, but whose best days are likely behind him.

United defensive problems have been unparalleled; Nemanja Vidic has lost his edge, Rio Ferdinand is in his veteran years and Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling have struggled for form. That said, they have had little protection from midfield which Moyes should have addressed.

David Moyes failed to escape the Shadow of his compatriot and predecessor Sir Alex Ferguson
David Moyes failed to escape the Shadow of his compatriot and predecessor Sir Alex Ferguson

Blame has been pointed squarely at Ferguson for not reinforcing a weak squad in his final season, but that is firmly in hindsight and frankly holds no credence. Yes, Ferguson may have jumped ship when he knew he had got everything out of depleted squad that was only boosted – albeit hugely – by Robin van Persie whose goals essentially won them the title at canter. But his decision was the right one. It was Moyes who had a chance to stamp his authority of his new team. To Make it his Manchester United and not Fergie’s. Sadly for Moyes, he did not and the shortcomings of his squad make his managerial performance even worse.

That’s not to say the former Preston and Partick player and manager should shoulder the blame completely. Replacing the must illustrious manager in top-flight history, nae European was a daunting task. Sir Alex was still in attendance at most United games, indeed his presence was hanging something like a Sword of Damocles over Moyes after leaving Everton who had recently scaled the heights with their displays and style. However the elephant in the room was that in his decade service to Everton Football Club, Moyes had failed to win a single trophy. As such his task was always going to a monumental one.

But when the final verdict comes through on his tenure as Manchester manager his baffling tactics will be the damning evidence.   It’s fair to say Moyes achieved success with the emergence of the prodigal Adnan Januzaj who still has a way to go but with his progression this season the Red Devils should look to build around him.  But then again Moyes’ use of Januzaj as a left winger was dumfounding.

Moyes’ signing of Juan Mata, overpriced or not could have been the Scot’s saviour; the idea of Kagawa, Rooney, Mata, Van Persie and Januzaj together was an exciting and daring one. Alas, even with the Dutchman’s long term absences, all four were rarely seen on the pitch simultaneously and that was hard for United’s fans and critics alike to fathom. Moyes was desperate to find a a winning combination, but ultimately the he could not motivate the players as his predecessor did. Nor did they seem like they would lay it all on the line for his team. It was a relationship that never co-existed.

Could David Moyes have succeeded if given more time? The jury is out on that. Even with the Toffees it took a while for Moyes to mold a side that worked. With United the task was far greater and would have effectively overhauling the squad of one of football’s biggest names. It was likely if not Moyes that another big name candidate may have struggled. Indeed Moyes was more a victim of circumstance despite his failings at Old Trafford. The hot seat at Manchester United was and forever will be a bedouin of furvent anticipation and high standards as the club attempt to replace the greatest leader in its’ history.

Here’s to the next individual who steps into the firing line…