With each win, David Moyes’ time as Manchester United manager extends a little further. In fact, with each good performance, Moyes earns the right to be in the United dugout next season.
The last couple of Premier League wins will do the world of good for Moyes and his team, but the real achievement was again, surprisingly, in Europe, with a 1-1 home draw against Bayern Munich.
Moyes gave a good account of his managerial worth last Tuesday night in the Champions League. He stuck to what he knew best – defence and good organisation – and could have come away with more than just a draw. It may not do a whole lot for the second leg in Munich, where Bayern are still considered favourites to progress to the semi-finals, but it will certainly gave Moyes much more comfort and confidence in his current position as United manager.
The win away to Newcastle could have gone another way. United were without Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie. Instead, in came two forgotten men: Javier Hernandez and, to a lesser extent due to his recent appearances, Shinji Kagawa. Both of their good performances were heightened by the presence of Juan Mata in a central role, the position he should have been playing since his arrival in Manchester during the January window.
Regardless of Mata’s two goals and one assist, the 4-0 win gave an insight into the freedom Moyes has been afforded to carry out his job. The result against Bayern really did force all those questions about his ability as a manager out of mind. Pleasantly for those involved with the club, talk of Moyes working on a game-to-game basis to save his job have been completely absent
There has of course been good fortune to some of these United performances. Van Persie, Rooney and Mata looked to be a convoluted trio who couldn’t produce. With one or even two out of the picture, United are given structure and direction. In essence, everyone knew what they were supposed to be doing.
If these performances are by design, then Moyes deserves quick praise, timely in its match of the criticism that greeted him following each of this season’s setbacks.
Kagawa, while not yet up to the standard of what he produced while playing for Dortmund, is unlikely to have found this renewed confidence by himself. Perhaps finally the manager sees some worth in him. His partnership with Mata on Saturday should have nudged the manager and the club in the direction of convincing the Japanese international to stay.
It’s still very much a case of game-by-game. But instead of working to save his job, Moyes is now working to reinforce the confidence that has materialised over the past few weeks. Bayern Munich may have underperformed, but credit to Manchester United for not giving them an easy time of it.
The players who started at St James’ Park could have felt sorry for themselves without their obvious leaders in Rooney and van Persie; players such as Hernandez could have accepted defeat in the battle for confidence. Again, credit should go to the manager for not allowing that to happen.
By the end of the season we’ll have a better understanding of what Moyes is capable of at United. But unlike much of the season prior to the past two weeks, we’re starting to see clear progress under the new manager. It’s not in great quantity, but it’s enough to keep talk of dismissals firmly locked away.