Nobody around Old Trafford is likely to have been under any illusions regarding the potential pitfalls of a first season without Sir Alex Ferguson. What may be of more concern is the lack of industry and fight that has for 20 years been the hallmark of every United side sent out to try to win the Premier League. It’s a results business, even more so at Manchester United, but at the very least a battling, ‘all hands on deck’ type of display is the minimum that is required when the backs are against the wall. This hasn’t happened under David Moyes yet this season and here we try to look at some reasons why.
Of course replacing arguably the greatest manager of all time is a near thankless task, but questions remain on just why the former Preston North End and Everton man got the call without any other candidates even apparently being considered. Surely it wasn’t just because he was Sir Alex’s friend and therefore recommendation? It’s clear that the decision by the Glazers and board would not have been taken lightly, but you have to ask what criteria were looked at in relation to the selection.
No Experience at a major club
Experience of managing world class, champions league winning players would surely have needed to be a pre-requisite for selection? Moyes has none.
Perhaps a manager who has experience of leading a side to a League title, an FA Cup win, or even a League Cup Trophy? Moyes has none (although he did win the 2nd Division once).
What Moyes does have is a history of being in the hot-seat at Everton for an extended period of time (11 years) and United are obviously keen to keep some stability and continuity at the club, a Mourinho type character would very likely only be at the club for a few years before moving on, regardless of success. But what may have been forgotten about, is that those 11 years were spent at a club whose expectations were a fraction of those at the Theatre of Dreams. It should also be considered that a 26 year reign is a one off achievement that is unlikely to ever be repeated.
Complete change of the coaching staff
The performances hold the key and if Moyes cannot galvanize his squad very quickly, you wonder how much time he will be given. The Glazers are untested when it comes to giving a manager time. They could never have sacked Sir Alex of course, so this is new territory for all concerned. The players must adapt to life with a new boss, a new backroom staff and all the new ideas that come with this. But this is where the first real questions must be asked. With all due respect to Everton who, let’s be honest, were a side that would see a top six finish as being a great success, when you bring in the manager, the coaching staff AND the star player from a mid-table side, into a Championship winning set-up, it’s difficult to see how that would ever be likely to improve things for them.
Surely keeping Mike Phelan or Rene Meulensteen would have proved to be a wise move? But instead, Moyes drafted in Phil Neville, a guy who has never coached before and, despite obviously being part of the many of the teams Sir Alex built for success, you must wonder how much players like Rooney and Carrick are really going to gain from Phil’s insight into the way the game should be played. It baffles the mind to be honest.
No Major Transfers
Moyes was not helped in the summer with United putting all of their eggs in the Fabregas basket, when that deal fell through they were out of time and found themselves resorting to a panic buying surge in which the only ‘success’ was Fellaini, who just doesn’t look like a Manchester United player at all at the moment. If they had made that one big name signing in order for Moyes to stamp his mark on the team then things may be different right now, instead, Moyes has a team (aside from Fellaini) that he has inherited entirely from his predecessor, who are completely used to one (winning) way of working and must now try to adapt to a completely new way. This can’t be easy for either party and you also must wonder just how much respect the players actually have for the new regime.
Ferdinand and Van Persie have both allegedly offered some dissenting views as to what they make of it all, and again, you must wonder whether they would have the same doubts if the manager had had some previous levels of success in terms of trophy winning. That said, the players are all experienced and must now unite for the good of the club and start trying to play for the manager and for the fans.
Poor Confidence has been an issue
The confidence at the moment looks shot to pieces and although they have found safe passage through to the last 16 of the Champions League, the Premier League form is nowhere near good enough. Even when they were on a 12 game unbeaten stretch, so many of those games were unimpressive performances where they succeeded only in snatching a draw from the jaws of victory through a lack of concentration or organization. These are unfamiliar traits and are things that need to be addressed.
Moyes will always stay true to his own beliefs, he has integrity and he has a belief that this will be a long-term position where he will be given time to make his mark and create his own team. This is a season of transition and although the appointment can obviously be drawn into question, the expectations for Moyes in his first year are far more manageable than they would have been for a Guardiola or Mourinho.
Manchester United’s Midfield is a mess
Moyes must identify the one area in which immediate improvements are necessary, this is the midfield. Cleverley has not fulfilled the early promise he showed at youth level and often struggles to find his own man from 10 yards. Ashley Young has never quite managed to fit in, Nani can be fantastic but is never given an extended run in the team and as such lacks consistency (people forget that just a few seasons ago he was the player of the season).
Valencia is still not playing with any real confidence, Anderson, like Nani, is never offered more than a fleeting role to play, which is a shame as he certainly has flare and drive (you just wonder what he displays behind closed doors to keep him on the sidelines). Fellaini we have covered, Fletcher is never likely to return as the player he once was, Giggs is 40 and Carrick is the only player that makes things happen, but at the moment he is injured and United look like a boxer on the ropes. Moyes MUST buy a midfielder in January.
Moyes can still save the season
The one saving grace to this start which has included a humiliating defeat against Man City, a toothless display at Anfield and some non-existent performances at Old Trafford, is that none of the other title challengers have really impressed.
Chelsea are inconsistent and less solid than in previous years, Man City are poor away from home, Tottenham struggle to create chances, Liverpool rely on Suarez too heavily and Arsenal haven’t yet faced any of the top sides (except their defeat to United), so while the league may seem like it’s all but gone from Old Trafford for this year, stranger things have happened.
It matters not anyway, as for the Old Trafford faithful recapturing the title under new management in its first year was never going to be likely. The fans have patience and understanding, the Glazers… We will see.