Despite three of the Premier League’s top four clubs changing their management this summer, the vast majority of media attention has been dedicated towards David Moyes.
In many ways, it’s easy to understand why. Jose Mourinho’s strengths and weaknesses are well known, as are his credentials with European powerhouses, whilst Manuel Pellegrini’s rather laid-back and boring manner has given the media hacks and online bloggers little to talk about. David Moyes on the other hand, remains an unknown quantity at the helm of a big club, and furthermore, the Scot undoubtedly trumps his Chelsea and Manchester City counterparts with the weight of expectation upon his shoulders.
The successor to Sir Alex Ferguson certainly has big shoes to fill and a monolithic shadow to step out of, but he also has a legacy of success spanning over two decades that he must maintain, while his British nationality means that every Premier League manager and chairman will be keeping a close eye on Moyes, as his triumphs and defeat will dictate as to whether or not domestic head coaches will be given positions of such power and importance in the future.
It’s a lot of pressure, more than at Stamford Bridge, where Mourinho at a minimum will be expected to push the club in the right direction more than dominate the top flight in his first season back in West London, and more than at the Etihad, where Pellegrini will be given at least a year to prove himself, as long as he picks up at least one piece of silverware, with auxiliary competitions trophies accepted, along the way. Meanwhile, in the red half of Manchester, you can imagine supporters won’t be too happy should the Red Devils surrender the Premier League title too easily to their domestic rivals as a reaction to the change in management.
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What David Moyes will undoubtedly be most concerned about, is that United’s title-defence campaign could well be over before it even starts, with a hectic first few months to the season in terms of fixtures. In the initial five weeks of the Scot’s inaugural campaign, he will come up against Swansea, Chelsea, Liverpool, Crystal Palace and Manchester City, while in November, the Red Devils face Arsenal and Tottenham in the space of three weeks.
It will be first time the Manchester United boss enters these fixtures not only with a cast of Premier League champions, but also as the favourite, with former club Everton always the typecast underdog. We are yet to see whether Moyes can better his divisional rivals tactically and psychologically, or if he can master the incredibly different challenge of being the favourite against teams that will be as desperate to win as he is.
I’m not suggesting the 50 year old will wilt under the pressure and be unable to deliver as United gaffer, but there is unquestionable scope for his first season to become a write-off after his first fifteen games, should he concede valuable points to the Premier League’s top five, and further potential for David Moyes to be judged far too soon into his Old Trafford career.
But the Scot is undoubtedly a manager worth waiting for, and there is just cause for United fans to remain ever-patient with Moyes, by looking beyond the current season.
First of all, although Sir Alex Ferguson has dipped in and out of retirement once before, it remains unlikely he will re-emerge into the world of management at this point in his career. He’s left on a high, with his reputation solidified as one of the greatest head coaches the English game has ever seen, and at the age of 71, dodgy hip to boot, it seems the timing is right to call it a day.
Looking back is no longer an option for the Old Trafford faithful, and the closest thing you’ll find in modern terms to the ageing Scot is David Moyes. Their shared Scottish nationality may be a superficial similarity, but it emphasises how their personal demeanour, attitudes, approach to man-management, style and tactics are almost carbon copies of each other. If Fergie dished out the hair-dryer treatment when required, Moyes’ bulbous eyes will provide a piercing and terrifying stare to the same effect, whilst in terms of tactic and philosophy, I recently wrote an article regarding how statistically at least, the systems used at United and Everton last season are nearly identical, despite the common misconception of the Toffees as a long-ball side.
Similarly, as previously stated, David Moyes represents the most talented British manager of his generation. The likes of Harry Redknapp, Steve McLaren and Roy Hodgson never made it to the big time, but the United manager has worked tirelessly and tenaciously to earn his chance at a top club. His silverware repertoire may be incredibly bare, with just a Second Division title with Preston North End in terms of actual trophies, but three LMA Manager of the Year awards, for a boss at a club of Everton’s stature, speaks for itself.
Over the course of a decade, Moyes has taken the Toffees from the brink of relegation to becoming one of the most consistent clubs in the English top flight, with the Goodison outfit finishing 7th place or higher, once qualifying for the Champions League, for seven of the ten seasons the Scot has been in charge, whilst the club managed the same final league standing just twice in the decade prior to Moyes’ appointment. Most impressively, it’s all been done on a shoe-string; the club’s record transfer fee is just £15million for Marouane Fellaini, whilst other key purchases have often involved nominal sums.
But if Moyes’ reputation is already well known enough to disallow him being cut some slack, there are plenty of other reasons why the Red Devils faithful must look beyond the current season.
Sir Alex leaves the squad in good knick, but there are still a number of pressing issues that his successor must inherit, with no simple solution on the horizon. We already know a bid for Leighton Baines has been tabled, but Moyes will also have to instigate at least two big transactions in the transfer market this summer. Ferguson’s inability to replace Paul Scholes has prolonged the ginger maestro’s career, however, the current United boss will not have the same luxury, and needs to find a passing midfielder who can sit alongside Michael Carrick in an intrinsic partnership. He will have to invest in a young talent, however, potential stars always take time to develop.
Similarly, should Wayne Rooney make his widely expected departure from Old Trafford this summer, David Moyes will have to return to the drawing board. Like-for-like replacements for the England international are few and far between, and even if the former Toffees boss passes the mantle onto Shinji Kagawa at the tip of midfield to avoid taking too big a gamble in the transfer market, the Red Devils will have to modify the way they play, as the dual role Rooney undertakes in screening for Michael Carrick whilst also supporting Robin Van Persie, is very much the heartbeat of the first team.
There are also questions over the longevity of all of Man United’s current berth of widemen, who have been lukewarm at best this season, whilst at some point Moyes will have to decide whether Phil Jones, Chris Smalling or Johnny Evans are the future of the club at the heart of defence. These are all issues the United boss must address amid his first season, and it will be a difficult task making the right call in all departments.
Furthermore, what is often forgotten amid the ‘hire and fire’ culture of Premier League management now days, is that like players, coaches must undergo a path of individual development. Brendan Rodgers has grown immensely in stature at Liverpool in comparison to a year ago, and although he’s clearly made mistakes in the media and tactical faux pas, the Northern Irishman is all the better for it, pushing the Reds slowly and surely in the right direction.
There will be similarities with Moyes’ tenure. The Premier League’s schedulers have dealt the Scot an unfortunate hand with his opening set of fixtures, and overall, you would not expect the United boss to come through the first five weeks of the season smelling of roses – mistakes, due to inexperience at the highest level, will undoubtedly be made.
But mistakes either make the man or break the man, depending on how you learn from them, and so far in the Red Devils gaffer’s career, he’s yet to show any sign that he’s moving backwards or stagnated. It bodes well for Moyes’ potential to grow, now that the constraints of finance and limited player quality have been removed, but his first campaign will contain it’s fair share of errors.
Yet, it is worth reminding that it took Sir Alex Ferguson three years to win his first trophy at Old Trafford, and six years to win his first league title. His successor undoubtedly deserves the same treatment, after earning his stripes at a club which would equate to a managerial boot-camp, showing clear potential throughout, whilst also maintaining a delicate balancing act between limited finance and resources, the need to bring in young talent and steady progress.
Moyes will excel at Old Trafford, but it may take some time for the Scot to find his feet. My only fear is that the United faithful have become fat on glory, and they will not grant their new manager with the patience and respect he fully deserves.
Will Manchester United fans judge David Moyes too soon?
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