It’s only natural, I suppose. It had been 26 years.
Everyone deserves a break. It’s important to rest. Although often viewed as a sign of weakness, it’s the smart that know when to rest. And when they come back, they’re all the stronger for it.
Perhaps this is the thinking behind Manchester United’s players deciding to have an ‘off year’. But that’s unlikely. What’s more probable is that they simply saw the opportunity to sit back, relax, and loosen that belt a few notches.
And who can blame them? They’d just been liberated from a regime of fear. 26 years of oppression. 26 very successful years, but 26 years tough, grueling years.
And none of them had even experienced the whole thing. Ryan Giggs survived 23 out of the 26, but only by assuming the incessant work ethic of the manager. He got on with the job, because the job was all there was.
But now the boss was gone. The king was dead. And it was time for the party.
They’d had their celebrations after winning. And they were good. But now they wanted a slice of pure, unadultered pleasure. What was the point in working for it? They’d already done enough to earn a break.
David Moyes is no Alex Ferguson; it think we’re all clear on that much. And it’s unfair on Moyes to expect him to be. But then Ferguson did try to find the man who best resembled himself, and in Moyes he saw the ferocity and work ethic required to carry on his good work.
But even the famous glare that Moyes honed over 11 years at Everton has not been enough to halt the natural reflex to rest. Instead, his stare is now haggard and hopeless, as he tries to comprehend how last years league winners can be this poor.
Rio Ferdinand has not performed to the required standards this season. What standard he’s still capable of is unclear, but one would imagine it’d be much higher if Ferguson was still in charge.
Michael Carrick and Nemanja Vidic have not been of the usual vintage either. While the former may be a bit of a ‘good time guy’, you would have expected the captain to dig in at least.
But rather the opposite has been the case, as Vidic has sought to extend his break overseas. Seeing the years of graft needed in Manchester to return to where they’d been for 26, it’s not surprising the Serb found the ‘fresh challenge’ of the Milanese summers all the more appealing.
It’s unfair to lay the blame at Moyes’ door for all of this. It’s not his fault he doesn’t have the requisite aura to command the respect of champions. Few do.
But we do have to question the man who chose the man. And it seems that Ferguson was too closely involved to anticipate this problem.
Ferguson had never got anything other than effort from this squad. They certainly didn’t win their last title through quality. Ferguson urged the fans in his departing speech to ‘support your manager’, but perhaps this sentiment would have been better aimed at his players
The Scot was too close to the situation, to intrinsically entwined, to see what was required. He saw a group of champions, and the man most like himself, and expected similar results to follow.
But sometimes when change is necessary, it’s better it be drastic than subtle. The United players were presented with what they saw as a lesser model of their old manager, and either through idleness or boredom, took it as a cue to switch off. If they’d been presented with a real alternative, a fresh approach, things might be very different right now.
As it is, it’s Moyes who’s been made to look like a chump from all of this. But it’s not the Scot’s fault. In Ferguson’s mind he was the right man for the job, but perhaps just too right to offer the change required.