I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s noticed a significant change in David Moyes’ demeanour since becoming Manchester United boss earlier in the summer.
The Scot has always been a stern and serious man, famed for his intimidating blue-eyed stare during his days with Everton, but for lack of a better word, since being appointed as the successor to Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford, David Moyes has become exceptionally moody, even by his own no-nonsense standards.
And nothing represents the new-look David ‘moody’ Moyes more than his recent clash with the Premier League fixture organisers. The Red Devils have been dealt an unfortunate hand in regards to scheduling, with heavy-weight clashes against Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City before the end of September, whilst taking on Tottenham and Arsenal in the matter of three weeks in November is no easy task either.
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It’s lead Moyes to claim that such a difficult start to his inaugural campaign at Old Trafford could only be a construct of design, telling reporters; “I find it hard to believe that’s the way the balls came out of the bag, that’s for sure. I think it’s the hardest start for 20 years that Manchester United have had. I hope it’s not because Manchester United won the league quite comfortably last year [that] the fixtures have been made much more difficult.”
Certainly damning allegations, and the Premier League felt inclined to respond: “We have absolutely assured him the process is random and above board. He has accepted those assurances.”
But what Moyes failed to mention is United’s exceptionally simple final run-in towards the end of the season, or the string of three-points-for-the-taking affairs at Christmas, two significant periods of the Premier League calendar which can make or break a title campaign. After facing Liverpool in March, the Red Devils come up against middle or lower table opposition until the end of the season, with matches against West Ham, Aston Villa, Newcastle, Hull, Everton, Norwich, Sunderland and Southampton, whilst during a traditionally hectic December, United will take on Everton, Villa, West Ham, Norwich and Hull once again.
And they aren’t the only club to be issued a taxing start to the footballing year. Sunderland entertain Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United in their next three consecutive home games, and Aston Villa have just faced Arsenal and Chelsea in the space of four days, before taking on Liverpool this Saturday.
So what is David Moyes actually moaning about? Why has he become so moody? Is he trying to do his best Sir Alex Ferguson impression by bullying Premier League officials at every opportunity? Or is the pressure of one of the toughest jobs in English football already taking its toll on the Scot?
Before United’s Community Cup final against Wigan, to say the 50 year old looked nervous would be an understatement. Leading out the Red Devils in his first competitive fixture at his new club, with his first piece of potential silverware on the line, coming up against much lesser opposition, Moyes’ face told a thousand words of the media furore that would ensue if he was unable to charge his side with enough motivation to make sure there were no embarrassments in his first Wembley outing. Roy Keane commented on ITV that it’s not about winning the Community Shield, rather making sure you’re in the final next year, but for Moyes it was a lose-lose situation where he could only spare blushes by meeting expectations.
And it’s not quite been the smooth transition thus far that many anticipated when Sir Alex Ferguson stepped down at the end of last season. The former United boss left a legacy of a lingering cloud over the future of Wayne Rooney, whilst Moyes’ summer has so far been riddled with disappointments. Rumours regarding the England international’s availability have not died away, and the Scot has been quizzed on the matter at every opportunity by the british media.
On the inward front too, Moyes has struggled. Despite the Premier League champions’ glittering reputation, pursuits of Thiago Alcantara, Luka Modric and Cesc Fabregas have all been met with the same response of ‘sorry, I’m not interested’. It’s left an impression that the former Everton gaffer’s lack of clout on the continent has severely weakened Manchester United’s capability to attract top-level talent, with the only players seemingly willing to jump ship to Old Trafford being Toffees men Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini, who would most likely have taken the opportunity to join whatever English Champions League outfit came calling first.
So perhaps that’s why Moyes is now taking a lesson out of the Ferguson managerial handbook by verbally beating-up the Premier League over his difficult start to the season. The retired Scot took every opportunity to put pressure on officials, the media, the FA, referees and pretty much anyone in Britain who had an ounce of clout or power in English football, as a means to assert his dominance and aggressive winning mentality more than anything else.
But for such a strategy, public perception is key. And whilst Sir Alex Ferguson presented himself as an uncompromising figure you wouldn’t dare to cross, and thus submissively and subconsciously work to his favour, moody Moyes is coming off more like a disgruntled 15 year old that could intimidate a shop-keeper into selling him alcohol.
Whether a symptom of the pressure of the United throne, or a deliberate attempt by David Moyes to begin asserting his assumed authority, the ‘moody’ persona doesn’t wash wish me. Although my generation have only ever seen a Red Devils manager aggressive, confrontational and accusative at every opportunity, it’s not a prerequisite of the job, and it’s a shame we’ve already seen Moyes’ personality transform into something new, after pledging he’d simply ‘be himself’ earlier in the summer.
Is David Moyes crumbling under the pressure already?