As the international break descends upon us all as implacable as an invite to attend a reunion dinner with people we would rather not see, let alone share a meal with, we can sit back and make a first, still very premature, judgment on David Moyes’ first months in charge of Manchester United.
The last couple of months have not been easy for the former Everton manager. His appointment in May was scoffed at, while the world spent the three months between his appointment and his first day at the club illustrating why he was such an inadequate choice, rather than concentrating on the reasons that had made him Sir Alex’s and the club’s first choice in the first place.
The summer fiasco heaped further pressure on the United manager, while three defeats in the first six league games of the season, including a 4-1 shellacking at the hands of Manchester City, were hardly what the doctor ordered, cue inevitable comparisons with Frank O’Farrell and Wilf McGuinness.
The millions of experts who populate social media networks these days returned their verdict on Moyes and, in most cases, it was damning one. The former Everton manager, they say, is simply not good enough to be in charge of Manchester United, nor he is an apt replacement for the greatest manager of all time and United are destined to disappear into the doldrums of mid-table mediocrity.
Granted, Moyes’ United have hardly been a joy to watch but the latest campaigns with Fergie at the helm seldom produced the free flowing football Sir Alex’s previous teams had accustomed us to.
This was partly because football has evolved since the 1990s and Fergie, master of his trade as he was, felt the need to adequate his team to the current trend and, crucially, because to play exciting football a team needs the sort of personnel United do not have at their disposal – in fact they haven’t had it for about four years.
David Moyes, like his predecessor, has recognised the need to be pragmatic, an attitude his detractors claim is too defensive and dull for a club like United, whose ethos has always hinged on the team’s attacking credo on the pitch.
However, give the current team to any manager in the world and exciting football will remain a mirage for the large majority of matches, for the likes of Antonio Valencia, Tom Cleverley and Nani, good players as they might be, are not the sort of world class players United were used to be able to count upon.
Indeed the need for reinforcements was so swiftly identified by Moyes when he took charge that they way in which the clowns occupying higher places in the club’s hierarchy let him down beggars belief, as the United manager ended up with Marouane Fellaini, a player by many considered the final straw in Moyes’ “Evertonisation” of United, conveniently overlooking the fact that the former Everton manager had rather different targets at the beginning of the summer.
Ironically, Moyes’ biggest critics are those who strongly refused the notion that the United squad might indeed need strengthening, on the basis that this very core of players had won the league last season, ignoring that Sir Alex Ferguson papered over the cracks over the last couple of seasons, his determination and desire to win squeezing every drop of quality out of his players.
Over the last couple of years United, in other words, overachieved. The midfield that had become critically ill after Roy Keane’s departure in 2005, saw its conditions getting progressively worse and it is now on its death bed with Anderson and Ashley Young still inexplicably at the club, while an ageing defence is simply struggling to perform as it would have done four-five years ago.
Anderson’s ineptitude and Nemanja Vidic’s creaking knees aren’t Moyes fault, nor is Antonio Valencia’s inability to beat a man and Ashley Young’s penchant for tumbling to the ground at each and every opportunity.
Moyes has also come under fire for sticking with the same XI by the same detractors who criticised Sir Alex’s “tombola-inspired” selections, while Moyes’ decision to reshuffle his team was interpreted as a sign of being clueless – again a critic never aimed at Fergie, not even when he opted for a midfield duo consisting of Rafael and Ji-Sung Park.
In the eyes of many, fans and media alike, David Moyes can’t do anything right.
Nevermind that he has handled the Wayne Rooney issus admirably and that he has given Adnan Januzaj, one of the most exciting players United have seen in recent years, a chance or that his team have produced two extremely professional performances in Europe and currently sit top of what is a very tricky group.
Moyes is not Fergie, he never was and probably never will be, he’s his own man and, as such, he should be given a chance to prove the doubters wrong.
Judging by the away end’s response on Saturday, he’s not on borrowed time.
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Tags: Opinion Piece