“Your job now, is to stand by our new manager!” were the famous words Sir Alex Ferguson said to David Moyes’ bodyguard before the pre-season tour. But as it turned out people interpreted it rather differently. Idiots! After four months and four hundred changes of mind about the new manager’s ability that quote is turning out to be everyone’s punchline. No exceptions. You can’t blame them really. When a great man is so impactful, people won’t hesitate to quote him, particularly when a few retweets are in it.
One Liverpool fan even tweeted Bill Shankly’s line “Ay, here we are with problems at the top of the league” four games into the season. Of the two one shouldn’t be used the way it is. We’ll figure out why the other is being used 10 games into the new season.
There have been many talking points since Moyes was announced as Manchester United’s new manager – staff changes, Ashley Young, young players getting closer to the first team, transfers, the defeat at Anfield, the defeat at the Etihad, the defeat at Old Trafford, Freenji Kagawa, Wayne Rooney, Rooney’s drink, Rooney’s shoulder, shin, forehead, headband and yes, goals.
Judgments have been passed on every small decision Moyes makes, which inflates them into big decisions – big decisions which are arriving at a very fast rate.
Albert Einstein taught that time goes SLOWER due to high velocity (of events), but people can remember all 26 years of Sir Alex’s time within no more than 2.13 seconds. Events from memory have high velocity and they don’t slow down time. Checkmate Einstein.
When you replay Sir Alex’s time the regular bad patches are forgotten. Ferguson’s team wasn’t flawless and in his last four years, having won two titles, this United wasn’t his best either. There were imperfections in the squad which were deemed insignificant only because of Sir Alex’s genius. They persist, and David Moyes has tackled those imperfections as his first job in charge at Old Trafford. Like Barack Obama and Guantanamo Bay prison.
United have made efforts to acquire quality central midfielders. Moyes has tried to improve Rooney’s relations within the club. The team has tried to defend from the top – versus Swansea, Leverkusen, Liverpool at home – pressing high, four men funneling the ball towards one wing and squeezing it out. But let’s face it, Moyes hasn’t yet been successful. There’s no hiding behind quotes. There is no ‘Change’. #ObamaOut. Moyes? Time will tell.
One thing Moyes hasn’t done is get points on the table.
United’s centre-backs worked very well last season, and with Carrick they formed an effective triumvirate, holding hands, covering each other’s flaws. At the other end was Robin Van Persie, covering everyone’s flaws.
This season a shaky defence means Carrick must play very deep and Rooney’s form means he has to play inside the box. This leaves the wide players with very few passing options in midfield, which results in meaningless floaty crosses. The limitations of some are exposed and David Moyes hasn’t been able to work past them.
With a squad as big and as diverse as United, Moyes will take time to get to know his players. Perhaps he should have kept some of the old staff. Right now, the coaching staff is learning from the players and it should be the other way around. If René Meulensteen was around, Moyes’ inability to rotate the squad effectively could not have been lumped on the old “he needs time to know his players” line, which the manager has used as an escape route a few times already. Or that he has “been told” when talking about younger players.
In fact, he has used a few escape routes. During the transfer season Moyes used the “Edward Wodward is handling transfers, not me, don’t look here” hand raiser. Then there was the laughable “I am not sure that’s how the balls came out for the fixtures” sympathy gainer. And the “we don’t have the required five or six world class players” slap your foreheader.
It is acceptable that Moyes does not trust the relatively inexperienced players like Chris Smalling, Jonny Evans, Shinji Kagawa, or Wilfried Zaha so early in his new job. So he decided to go with the players he has seen for years in the league, which is why his decision to play Ashley Young is even more difficult to comprehend. Nobody plays Young if they know how he plays. They drop Young if they know how he plays.
Moyes started with Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra in almost all the opening half-dozen games – and United looked solid enough with their experience. The flip side was that by the derby defeat United lacked the fitness – and the quality – to withstand City’s brutality.
We also now know for a fact that Fellaini is not as good a midfielder as Touré; unless we’re talking about Kolo Touré playing midfield.
It is hard to point to a more unpopular decision from Moyes so far than his decision to play Young ahead of Nani, Kagawa, Zaha, Ryan Giggs or Adnan Januzaj. Moyes hasn’t picked Kagawa because he doesn’t know him, which is acceptable, given that at times even Sir Alex didn’t know how to get the best out of the midfielder. Kagawa looks like a part of a jigsaw puzzle – it’s just that he’s a piece from some other set altogether.
Moyes has to be brave enough to give tactics greater weight than players. He can’t deploy three midfielders in the team simply because of their ability to track back and cover the defence’s slower players, a plan in which players like Kagawa don’t fit. The results of the plan, though, are still in front of us.
Januzaj finally got his first start for United at Sunderland and, like the old cliché, he did exactly what he would’ve dreamt the night before. It’s fair to say that United’s board – and the fans – are now spending their nights dreaming of Januzaj signing that new contract.
Where does that performance put Januzaj in the pecking order? His performance certainly made everyone aware of his talents, but is he ready to play every game? Will he be allowed to develop away from the spotlight or is he capable of handling the responsibility of playing every week? It is certainly going to be exciting to watch him progress, which he won’t do if he decides to play for England. Heh, look, banter!
What Moyes must have learnt from these 10 games is the importance of squad rotation. He went from one extreme to the other against West Bromwich Albion as he played a heavily rotated side. This produced an unusual situation where a number of players were rusty more than a month into the season. It is ok to question Moyes’ tactical decision, what he says in the media, his transfer business, but he still needs time to learn the art of juggling 25 players in his 11 hands.
Sir Alex was a master at keeping most of his players happy and in form. Something he did really well against Real Madrid last season where he got the tactics right by playing the right players. Yet, he got there after spending 26 years at the club. Moyes? It’s no comparison.
United may not have the sparkling players Chelsea, City or Tottenham Hotspur can boast, but this is a flexible squad and there is the feeling that United can play many styles of football. Supporters just hope that Moyes picks the more adventurous, exciting, attacking combinations.
And out of all that Moyes decided to play Marouanne Fellaini as the target man against City at 4-0 down. It was a similar policy at Shakhtar Donetsk. If the manager is going to sacrifice attacking football for results and deploy a 4-5-1 formation, then there’s no reason to be happy with draws. May the singing section have mercy.
Having managed the club for a nice round figure of 10 games – the Charity Shield game was a friendly – fans hope Moyes, and the tactical genius Phil Neville, know enough about the squad to let them play to their potential. Because, after all, that is a manager’s basic job.