Could there really have been an expectancy that Manchester United would have allowed this to continue? Yes, speak of the club’s interest to go against the grain, to uphold the values of long-term building and stability. But those ideals only work when the right pieces are in place.
Forget what happened in Europe. Unusually, and bar that horrendous display in Athens, the Champions League has been kind to Moyes. He’d have loved to have had games as straightforward as the two wins against Bayer Leverkusen on a weekly basis. While not always convincing – the draw at Real Sociedad stands out – Moyes appeared oddly at home in European competition.
The argument for time is the only defence Moyes had. But this isn’t Alex Ferguson’s day, when there was room for manoeuvre and time was something clubs could afford to offer their managers.
Every manager who has stayed on long term – which in modern football can simply equate to as being over a year – at one of the Premier League’s big clubs found instant success, success that gave them time to work: Arsene Wenger, Rafa Benitez, Jose Mourinho, Gerard Houllier. And why not throw Carlo Ancelotti’s name onto that list too.
United couldn’t afford to give Moyes time, and Moyes did little to nothing to earn it himself. He never really understood what it meant to manage a big club, let alone United. The concept of good football seems alien to him, told by the infamous game of 81 crosses against Fulham, in which Moyes tried to dismiss the intelligence of those who questioned his methods. And then, of course, the loss at Everton, which became the decider. Moyes tried to insist United controlled the game at Goodison Park and played well. Only holding the upper hand in possession is another indicator of just how out of touch Moyes is.
Instead of inspiring moments of brilliance from players like Robin van Persie, who is more than capable, Moyes was struggling to break out of the underdog mentality he’d adopted while at Everton. Too afraid to win, instead hoping just not to lose.
Managers should be given time, they absolutely should. But only if they’re the right individual for the job, and at no point has Moyes looked the right man for the job.
You could sense that he had little idea of how to handle things from the off. Where’s the sense in moving on an entire backroom team when the club had just lost CEO David Gill, as well as Ferguson? In essence, Moyes took the soul of the club, the winning mentality, and simply because he wanted to be seen as his own man. A smart manager would have retained the services, even short term, of those who had been part of past successes, rather than worrying what others thought. Sure, the players stayed on, but it’s not the same.
On top of that, Moyes said all the wrong things, consistently, meaning things like, “we aspire to be like Manchester City,” wasn’t just a one-off mistake.
Moyes’ 10-month tenure at the club was riddled with mistakes and acts that should be viewed as failure. It was a failure and show of weakness for Manchester United to cave in to the demands of Wayne Rooney and offer him an extension on his contract. The debate on whether Rooney is worth the kind of money he’s on at the moment has been gone over time and again, but the real issue at hand is United’s fear of letting go of a player who so recently spoke of his desire to leave the club.
Another contractual mistake was the five-year deal offered to Nani at the start of the season. Moyes at the time would have looked on the matter as something of a triumph. In truth, it was a missed opportunity to move on a player who really hasn’t been performing. Tying up players like Nani to long-term deals is a mistake, especially when you later fail to keep Nemanja Vidic on for at least one more season.
On the transfer front, United should feel somewhat embarrassed about the story surrounding Marouane Fellaini’s arrival at United. An extension of that should go towards Moyes thinking the Belgian to be a good addition over someone like Thiago Alcantara. Reportedly, Moyes turned down the opportunity to move for the Spanish international because he knew very little about him. Another mark against Moyes’ credentials and ability at a big club.
United’s squad was in need of major surgery, but if team are to finish in seventh place, it won’t be an accurate showing of their ability and worth. Not title winners, certainly not title winners. But much better than seventh.
United’s position now is, however, an accurate showing of Moyes’ ability. It’s the area in the table he regularly finished with Everton, failing to break into the top four – or at least giving it a real go in the way Roberto Martinez is currently doing.
Manchester United simply couldn’t go on with a manger who had shown such little improvement over the course of his time at the club. A club like Manchester United should never have appointed a manager lacking any experience of handling one of Europe’s biggest clubs.