July 1, 2013. A man with greying auburn hair walks into an oversized office in South West Manchester. He’s dressed smartly. The one thing everybody notes about him is the courtesy with which he greets people. He surveys the scene: a large clock, a panoramic window looking out onto a dozen green fields, intersected by goalposts and white lines, scattered with scores of teenage footballers.
The man turns his attention towards his desk. It’s fairly ordinary. Just what he expected. He places the new laptop on the mahogany desk and waits for its reassuring whir. He switches off the spotlights that adorn the room’s ceiling. The weather is bright and sunny.
He takes off his navy suit jacket because it’s very warm. The man sits at his desk for another hour preparing for his first meeting with his new workmates. He is a football fanatic so he spends the next 58 minutes googling stats and matches of yesteryear.
“David,” a voice calls from the extraordinarily wide corridor outside the office.
The voice comes from Jimmy Lumsden and the man is David Moyes. He’s about to have his first meeting with his Manchester United’s players and – unbeknownst to him – he’s about to change the face of British football. But not for the better.
The talks Moyes held with Ed Woodward two weeks previously had been, in David’s opinion, productive. Money was available for him to spend, Ed said. But spend it wisely, Ed said. Actually the squad is pretty good already, Ed said. We’ve just won the Premier League, Ed said. David knew that last one.
And David already had a good idea of where he wanted to go with the squad. Some of them – Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Robin van Persie and Michael Carrick – would form the fulcrum of his team. They were experienced guys, but by no means over the hill.
Others – Tom Cleverley, Danny Welbeck, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones – were among the most exciting young talents in England. They would play a significant role in Moyes’ United. Given time, of course. David accepted he may need time.
David De Gea, Nani and Antonio Valencia were talented foreigners approaching their peak and David penned them in for regular starting roles too.
The only discourse David hadn’t mapped out in his mind was where to take the club’s star player and most iconic name, Wayne Rooney. The 27-year-old was talented, but had fallen out with the previous manager amid a contract dispute. Would Rooney play a part in the Moyes’ era? David knew Wayne from years back and he desperately wanted to keep the former Everton striker in his team. A month later Rooney would stay after accepting a lucrative new deal.
[blockquote who=”” cite=””]It sounds bizarre, but United might be in a better place now had Moyes been afforded that time to overhaul his squad and build for the next five years. Whose to say they wouldn’t achieve similar results? It wouldn’t exactly be difficult[/blockquote]
David wanted a few other players to supplement his squad. When he’d accepted the job in May, he had earmarked key positions – left back, central midfield – that would need bolstering. He knew Everton’s Leighton Baines very well and the talents of Barcelona’s Cesc Fabregas were not lost on him. Their signatures would be important messages to United’s rivals, but youth was equally vital in David’s long-term project.
“We can win the league again, I’m certain of it.”
It sounded like the perfect opening salvo when David repeated it en route to the training ground at Carrington.
It had been a nervy taxi ride two hours earlier, but already David was now more nervous. Would he nail this first team talk? He was looking at some of the most decorated players in British football history. Ryan Giggs – THE RYAN GIGGS – was among them. Phil Neville stood beside him, a fellow member of Moyes’ coaching team, a vital lieutenant.
Two months later, with the Rooney quandary resolved and Marouane Fellaini – another player Moyes knew well – acquired to boost midfield, Moyes was well set. His team won the Community Shield in its first game and beat Swansea City 4-1 in the second. Lift off.
Six months later, with Juan Mata signed in furious desperation, van Persie disgruntled and Vidic and Ferdinand despondent, David no longer knew where this team was going.
He accepted that he’d gotten it badly wrong when he first arrived. Status quo. Why did he desperately want to preserve the status quo of a creaking regime? His mind, sat back in that Carrington office overlooking rain-soaked pitches under black skies, did cartwheels.
Trust was where he made his first mistake. Trust in the previous regime and trust in the experienced campaigners he’d stood before on that hot July afternoon. Trust that he needed a little bit of money and a little bit of help from elsewhere.
Cleverley had done okay, he thought. But the United fans didn’t like the boy. Welbeck was making superb strides, but David had to drop him occasionally because Rooney and van Persie were, well, they were there. He wanted to drop the unhappy Ferdinand and Vidic, but Smalling and Jones weren’t good enough.
Another kid, Adnan Januzaj, had featured and featured prominently. But when it began to unravel in January, Moyes looked to Ed for money to solve the crisis and they bought one of English football’s greatest current talents in Mata.
It didn’t help. Just as it didn’t help his successor Louis van Gaal who, just like the Scotsman, wanted youth to shine and preferred to trust familiar faces like van Persie and the impressive Dutch utility man Daley Blind.
But, just like David, it quickly went wrong because
Rooney was just there
Jones was still terrible and
Ed saw how the team were toiling and offered Louis some money to solve the problem.
The money didn’t solve anything.
Of course, Moyes and van Gaal would never turn down the chance to sign Mata, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falco. They had to revive a fading force, shorn of its Ferdinand-Vidic-Evra-Giggs spine. And of course, why would they jettison Rooney, the last remaining relic of that successful core?
Moyes’ meeting with his players that day was not what changed United for the worse, but the earlier meetings he’d had with Woodward certainly were. Ed lied that Moyes would be given time. He lied to van Gaal that he’d be allowed to blood youngsters. Ed wanted instant success to gratify the millions of fans who expected just that. And he had the money to do it – in his mind at least – quickly.
It sounds bizarre to say, given recent events at Sunderland, but United might be in a better place now had Moyes been afforded that time to overhaul his squad and build for the next five years. The club might be in a better place if it had never signed Di Maria, Falcao, Memphis Depay, Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, let alone the now outcast Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Could Januzaj, Smalling, Welbeck and De Gea have formed the nucleus of a burgeoning young team, assisted by Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford and Timothy Fosu-Mensah? That’s not to mention others: Nick Powell, Michael Keane and James Wilson, each of whom were never allowed to prosper in the first place. And more: Axel Tuanzebe and Callum Gribbin, whose potential still suggests a big future at Old Trafford.
The Reds would undoubtedly take to the field without the burden currently infecting the expensively assembled side of 2016. And whose to say they wouldn’t achieve similar results? After finishing seventh, fourth and fifth since that fabled summer, and with heavy defeats to Liverpool, Manchester City (several times) and Chelsea in recent years, it wouldn’t exactly be difficult.
27 thoughts on “What if? Moyes’ project had continued…”
We’d be in league 1 haha
nice post. You do have to wonder because he did so well at Everton but he never really took ownership of Utd
Relegated for sure
I’ve always wondered “what if” about Moyes and what could have happened if given the time and control he needed
Moyes was let down by some players but he was still an unmitigated disaster. And to even suggest that Nick Powell and James Wilson had what it takes to be useful first team players runs the risk of undermining the whole article. But the argument that van Gaal was barely any better is fair. Assuming Mourinho won’t sort things out isn’t.
the job was far too big for Moyes. He had no leadership even in his press conference answers.
Given the chaos of three different management regimes in the post-SAF period, it’s fairly likely that TheMoyessiah couldn’t have done worse than what we’re enduring nowadays. This assessment is based on the theory that even a blind squirrel finds a nut.
I just hate to write this but, more seriously, tonight’s display from ManShitty showed – yet again – what’s been missing at UTD – a coherent re-building strategy as opposed to just throwing money at “names”.
Watching that attack featuring Aguero, Sterling (!), Silva, Gundogan, and De Bruyne with Fernandinho providing an anchor made the dross that UTD serve-up seem so pathetic. Those five guys were running into space and playing with the kind of reckless abandon that we have always thought as TheUnitedWay – as opposed to the slow, tortuous build-up that successive managers have imposed upon the skilled players that wear the red shirt.
A few days ago I wrote that, given the drudgery of UTD’s play, maybe it makes sense to play “the kids” – Rashford, Martial, Fosu-Mensah, Pogba, Tuanzebe, Lingard, Bailly, Shaw, Joe Reilly while paving the way into the first-team for the likes of RoShaun Williams, Callum Gribbins and Angel Gomes. Of course, no one knows if these “kids” are the same quality as guys like Gundogan and De Bruyne but they’re not much younger than those two and about the same age as Raheem Sterling.
Maybe it’s a counsel of desperation but watching AshleyBloodyYoung, TheWayneBoy, MrBlowJob, and Antonio Valencia get routinely called into the first-team squad is just depressing. Moreover, it’s not clear that a team with those four – and maybe even Zlatan – is a way forward.
Much more distressingly, it’s not clear that a team with those five can turn around the dire results of the past month.
Of course, my suggestion is a counsel-of-desperation but I’d like to think that UTD can – again – win something with “kids”. They sure-as-hell won’t win anything with Young/Rooney, Valencia/Zlatan/Fellaini.
This is a really fascinating post. A big “what if…” indeed
When the first thing you do when you arrive is sledgehammer a successful, knowledgeable background team aan replace those champions with Phil Neville and Chris woods…. You don’t stand a chance…
That was HIS 1st mistake of many, the club was too big for him and instead of harnessing that existing experience he broke the machine instead of blending it together.
He is one of the main reasons United find themselves struggling still, one of the most negative managers around… How can he say Utd should try and emulate City.. Really!!.
Wheres the fight David!.. The worst mistake for over a quarter of a century!.
You mancs should thank your lucky stars your not sunderland fans get over it, nothing lasts forever ask the scouser’s
Any manager who would approve paying 27m for Fellaini has no business being in football never mind inside O.T.! Just take a look at Sunderland.
Very very good read. Puts our current situation into perspective. We NEED to take it by the season, not each game.
I am sorry but I completely disagree that we would somehow be ‘better’ with Moyes still in charge.
You could write a book on ‘How not to manage a big club’ based on Moyes’ tenure at United. Right from the beginning he did everything wrong. Just a few below to refresh the memories.
–> Taking up the job only in July instead of twiddling his thumbs and sitting on his couch.
–> Coming into the job doing no research on what needs to be done
–> Not identifying the right transfer targets and waiting until late July to ‘assess’ the squad. Surely as a PL manager he must have known the squad’s strengths and weakness well beforehand
–> Bringing his own backroom staff who had no experience of a job at a top club before coming to United and firing the experienced backroom staff like Rene and Phelan.
–> Playing a major role in renewing Rooney’s contract, because of which to this day we suffer.
–> Tactical ineptitude. ‘Get it wide and get it in son’ approach the pinnacle of which was the Fulham game, which will never ever be topped in terms of hilarity
–> His press conferences, starting from the first one till his last never gave the sense that he was confident of himself and his abilities. He was always overwhelmed and withered at the expectatitons of a big club.
These are just a few that came to my mind. I am sure fellow United fans could chip in a bit more.
Giving him a few more years wouldn’t have solved anything and in fact it could have made it worse where we would have been left with a squad full of average players (more players like Fellaini for example).
Moyes is a perennial loser. What if Mourinho is allowed time?
We’d be an improved Everton Mark 2; consistently achieving 4th on the last day of the season. Horrible thought!
This is the worst Halloween prank this year, you’ve traumatised me. Making remember Moyes!
we’d be in the championship
Moyes mistake was self inflicted. His decision to get rid of the wining formula back room staff n bringing in average replacements made his failure all but secure. LVG did better as he at least won a cup n a champion league spot in two years which IMO should have been enough to hive him an extra year. Jose should sort this out but we need the right players starting City front three is Augero Silva and De buryne. Ours is Ibrahimovic, Rashford and Mata. We lack one excellent player someone with the calibre of Silva or Ratickic who can do damage to defenses in a slplit second
What is the difference between Moyes and Morinho at.this stage of.their time at United. Moyes brought his own staff so.did Morinho. Morinho has spent over 150M yet we haven’t seen any progress.
On the day Moyes was appointed, I was slaughtered on another site for saying that, under normal circumstances, Moyes’s CV wouldn’t have got him through the door at United and that the whole thing stank of nepotism. Fergie got to appoint his mate, they stuck up a bloody stupid banner, and those who disagreed were abused by ‘top reds’ for being disloyal to Fergie who had told us to support the new man.
Remember when the subject of Fergie’s retirement came up a few years ago? Wasn’t it David ‘debt is the road to ruin’ Gill who told us that a plan was in place and that the new bloke would be someone used to winning trophies and competing in Europe? Instead, we got Moyes, Lumsden, Round, Neville, and Wood. There is no way, even if we’d have kept him on, would this particular project would ever have succeeded. Now we’re getting the revisionism.
Mourinho will turn things around but we should have got him in 2013.
More to the point what would have happened had we appointed Jose straight away. The second stint at Chelsea has sent him over the edge. The horse has bolted and with the quality in the PL this season we will be lucky to get 4th.
They say you can never go back and there’s your proof. But it’s early days yet. We are already playing far better football than we did under Van Gaal and we will improve and win games. Top four is easily achievable for this squad.
I think its fair to say that we only have to look at what he has done since he left.He was bang average with Everton and should never have even set foot inside Carrington,ask any insider at the training ground and they will confirm what an unmitigating disaster he was.But good luck to the lad.
He didn’t get United, Everton progressed immediately after his departure, as did United, to a lesser extent
Memo to MUFC Legal Dept
From: Mr Woodward
Date: 3 November 2016
Subject: A couple research asks
Could you be so kind as to accelerate your efforts on the following matters we have discussed:
1. We need to look at each and every clause of our agreement with Adidas. Assuming we are not in UCL next season, what are each and every argument we can make to avoid application of the rights fee reduction.
2. Re the side letter we have with DDG and his agent, remind me of the inverse scaler we agreed to that reduces his buyout clause the lower we finish in the League. Do we have an out if he starts dogging it?
Can you get me an answer by tea time tomorrow? I have my monthly call with Tampa at 6pmGMT.
There is no way Moyes would have rebuilt United on the foundation of the youth system. In 11 years at Everton Rooney was the only youngster he introduced and consistently selected. When it got sticky he benched Jauzaj, who was the best young hope at the time. He played Mata on the wing & mismanaged RVP’s fitness/injury issues, and that’s before I mention that he bought Fellaini & dithered so much he overpaid for him. Add the long ball football, and he spoke like United were a newly promoted side not defending champions, no Moyes is a decent dignified man but totally out of his depth.
Without a single doubt in my mind, we would have struggled to make the top half had that man been given more time.