There is something about enjoying football that makes me aware of some tribal behaviours when it comes to those ‘in the business’.
It’s clear that if you haven’t played, coached or managed at the professional level especially at the higher levels of the games, it somehow disqualifies you from having a telling and meaningful contribution to make. Yet, thankfully, whatever the tribe think, I’ll still have my view and be delighted to share it.
That’s mentioned because in the light of the recent dismissal of David Moyes there has been an almost universal approach from those in the game to close ranks and protect the departed. The party line appears to be that he wasn’t given enough time and its symptomatic of the times we live in that such a decision is taken.
One of those vocal in their disapproval has been Gary Neville who harks back to a United that stuck with Atkinson and Sexton as well as Ferguson in their tricky moments. Far be it from me to challenge the United legend, but it’s this slightly revisionist history that avoids that which presents itself when we think about the Moyes malaise.
First of all neither Sexton, Atkinson or Ferguson took over sides that were champions. Though United’s ambitions have tended to be lofty there’s nothing to suggest United ever thought they were the dominant force that demanded to be in the reckoning when the trophies were handed out. Sexton, Atkinson and Ferguson were given time, because they did enough to get by in that era.
David Moyes has lived a rather sheltered life since he was appointed the boss taking over from Ferguson. It was almost as though people were getting their excuses in early, painting the squad as one that was severely lacking anyway and suggesting Ferguson left a weakened aged squad put the pressure of responsibility on the retiring knight. The mess in the transfer activity was laid at the door of new VP Ed Woodward.
Some might even bring up the nationality issue where a number of pundits and journalists were eager to see the British guy do well for all the British coaches. There’s little doubt, to reverse some of the prevalent thinking, if Moyses was Moysinio with the results and performances he would have been out on his ear by Christmas. It can be imagined how certain sections of the press would have hounded him out for lacking that British grit and determination.
Strip away these excuses and deal with the things on which managers of big clubs are assessed on and Moyes fails all the criteria.
Has he motivated his players to play to their abilities? Has he shown tactical flexibility to deal with setbacks? Is he able to make the most of the playing staff he has at his disposal? Is he able to inspire confidence in himself and his methods? Are there signs that he has convinced or is beginning to convince players and fans that he has the plan to progress?
Saying no to these questions would be bad enough, but then to add the results he’s experienced in his time to that, and it should be clear to anyone that he has proven himself inadequate for United’s needs.
There are those who wish to refer to more complex issues such as
the nature of the ownership, the responsibilities the players must take, the transfer fiascos etc. These however do not negate the fact that the man responsible for the way the team plays is the manager. It’s almost as though he has no idea who he’s managing – and therein lies the issue.
I’d dispute the claims that he did a ‘good job’ at Everton, but space will not permit. What is clear is that his entire approach at United playing wise was very much still that of an average manager coming from an average club and thus with an average mind-set. It made me shudder to think how he could convince Champions League winners and Premier League Champions to play like his team at Everton who won … errrr … nothing.
It is possible to suggest he was inadequate as the Manchester United manager without making things personal. He evidently knows enough around an average Premier League club to keep their heads above water. It’s not an issue of whether he’s a pleasant gentleman. It is an issue of whether he’s an effective manager at the highest level. This experience strongly suggests he is not.
Moyes need not worry, he only needs to look at the current England manager to know that you can fail at a top club and still pick yourself and carry on with your career. Clubs like Aston Villa would do just fine getting a manager like him, if they’re prepared to play an austere type of football that was very much about safety first and attack if necessary.
In the meantime Manchester United are on the exciting quest of finding the real right man to take them forward. That story should prove to be fascinating for any football lover.
C. L. J. Dryden