Now that the friendly season is all but over Manchester United goes into the 2013/14 campaign with more issues and questions than they have faced since the late 80’s when Sir Alex Ferguson was truly worried about getting the sack. It’s a time of turmoil, unrest and many a question are being asked about the club’s plans, ambitions and competency on and off the pitch.
Lets face it, the hiring of David Moyes has all of us embarking on a new voyage with our beloved Red Devils. Are we on the Queen Mary or is this going to be the Titanic?
Only time will tell but in the mean time, the club has not only got to conduct some brisk transfer business, they also need to formulate a game plan for future success. Such success is something we have been conditioned and spoilt rotten on for the past twenty-six years under Fergie and lets not forget the legacy left behind by one Sir Matt Busby. Yes there have been lean years in between but it is of paramount importance that the owners and the board of United do not forget who we are and what we have accomplished. With that said, I have researched and discovered a primer in which David Moyes can be successful under a cheap and uncompromising Glazer regime.
In simple terms, David Moyes needs to become a Scottish version of Juergen Klopp. In a relatively short time Juergen Klopp has risen from total obscurity to become one of the three most talked about and in demand managers in all of world football. Only Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola come with a greater pedigree and reputation. Ok, throw in Carlo Ancelotti and Arsene Wenger for good measure. Of course Fergie and Jupp Heynckes are retired so they don’t count but nevertheless, there is little doubt based on his accomplishments in the short time Klopp has managed (2008 -) the club has had a meteoric rise in not only German football but in European football culminating in two Bundesliga titles and a place in last year’s Champions League final.
So why am I drooling over Juergen Klopp? Simply put, the man took over Dortmund at a time when the club was in the midst of a recovery from such bad financial management that they came so very close from ceasing to exist. Manchester United may be under a mountain of debt but their pedigree and world-renowned brand keep it more than solvent and financially successful. That alone gives David Moyes a big advantage from where to start. Klopp had no money to really work his magic. What he counted on and the key skill set that David Moyes needs to count on is his ability to evaluate talent and buy the best players available at well below the market value.
Klopp has been a master at building a youth academy that is amongst the best in the world. This academy developed German internationals like Mario Gotze, Marcel Schmelzer and Kevin Grosskreutz. Add to that his astute purchase of world stars for next to nothing. In 2008 he brought with him little known Serbian Neven Subotic from his former club Mainz. Then he made the steal of the century buying Mats Hummels from rival Bayern and then followed up with Robert Lewandowski in 2011 for €4.5 million, perhaps the deal of the century. The list of other astute purchases made that were under many club’s radar included the likes of Sven Bender, Ilkay Gundogan, Lukas Piszczek and of course our very own Shinji Kagawa. These signings have in a relatively short time made Klopp a legend when it comes to shopping in the bargain bins for not just good players, but players who are or who are very close to becoming world-class under his excellent tutelage.
Klopp’s eye for talent has not gone unnoticed. Manchester United among other elite clubs has shown interest in many of these star players. United alone have at one time or another been linked with Gotze, Lewandowski, Gundogan and most recently Klopps greatest coup, Marco Reus. Reus like recent signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan actually cost Dortmund some significant coin, but they were both cheaper than many big signings we have made over the years. The difference is Klopp can scour parts of the world or clubs that are under the radar when it comes to appeal and media attention. Shahktar Donetsk and Borrusia Moenchengladbach are not exactly elite Spanish or Italian clubs and they are not teams from England or Brazil. United have it seems wasted an awful lot of time trying to buy elite players from clubs like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Dortmund themselves and of course various football factories in Brazil. These clubs either aren’t selling or asking an arm and a leg for overvalued and at times overrated stars that demand exorbitant salaries to boot.
Although United have made it seems some astute stealthy purchases themselves of late like Javier Hernandez, Jesse Lingard, Alex Buttner, Guillermo Varela, Wilfried Zaha, Adnan Januzaj, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Angelo Henriquez, none of these players of yet have elevated their games to the status of a Lewandowski, Hummels, Gundogan or Bender. That’s not to say that none will. Chicharito for one has shown moments of brilliance and if only he were played more would probably be among the EPL leaders in goals. Jones and Smalling have both been slowed in their progress by injuries but both show plenty of promise, as does young Buttner who we got for virtually nothing. Of course everyone has been raving this summer about Jesse Lingard’s wonder goals and the play of Wilfried Zaha and Adnan Janusaj. The future is looking bright amongst our young players but they all need time to develop and above all, time to play.
For years Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes held players like Tom Cleverley and the now departed Paul Pogba back. I like veteran players with experience but not when they are only days away from receiving old age pensions. These legends should have made way for the younger players a long time ago. They clearly held back these young players and Pogba for one became sick and tired of the old boys club and moved to Juventus where he has emerged not only as a star but the real missing link to our team, a great defensive midfielder. It is my hope that David Moyes learns from one of the few mistakes Fergie made during his tenure, which was to have the courage to go with youth sooner and take his lumps if need be for the overall health and future of the club. It seems to me that in the past four years Fergie was stuck on developing his own legend more and bagging titles #19 and #20 and be damned with developing and blooding the youth. After over two decades of success, I cannot really begrudge the man that. He earned the chance to build his legacy on the short term without risking it to rebuild United.
The job of rebuilding United has fallen upon David Moyes. Unlike Juergen Klopp, at least he is starting his reign as manger with a strong club and a defending champion. He has several stars and a lot of young players with great potential. Now he has to be bold and build the club with a similar plan to that of Klopp. The crazy transfer market that currently exists as well as our present ownership’s unwillingness to spend big dictates that Moyes has to reorganize and broaden his scouting network. Like Klopp he needs to look to Eastern Europe, Germany and Northern Europe more. Forget high priced unattainable talent from Spain and Brazil. The time is ripe for finesse and cunning zeal. The world game has many Chicharito’s out there that can be found at bargain basement prices. I have often said that as fans we all need to get used to having lowered expectations. Glazer’s are not playing ball with us. They have no intention of buying the Ronaldo’a and Falcao’s of the world. So we need to be smart and find the Plan B solution that works. Hiring scouts that really know talent, scouring the planet better and then buying and playing this talent before they go stale in the reserves or demand a transfer away from United.
United is in a rebuilding phase whether many of us are cognizant of the situation or not. Winning the 20th Premier League title seems to blind us of the fact our competitors have spent big to reach and pass us and at the same time we as a club are getting a bit old within our starting eleven. Add to that the imminent departure of Wayne Rooney and there is no doubt in my mind that we are in the midst of a rebuilding mode. Unlike Bayern, Barcelona and Madrid, we are in no financial position to simply reload, we must settle for the slower and cheaper rebuild process. Dortmund has shown how this can be done. Now they are so successful that for the next several seasons they no longer have to rebuild. Instead they have joined the elite by being able to reload themselves when needed. Unlike when we sold Ronaldo, when Dortmund lost Mario Gotze they used the money gained from the sale and a few bucks more and went on to make three incredibly strong signings to further strengthen their squad and make them better than ever. Along with Mkhitaryan they have purchased Socrates Papastathopoulos as extra cover for their elite but somewhat injury prone CD’s and then Klopp made what may end up being the purchase of the summer when he bought Gabon international Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from French side St. Etienne. Last year Aubameyang finished second to Zlatan Ibrahimovich in the Ligue 1 scoring despite costing less than a third the price PSG paid to get Ibra. If many of you are not aware yet, Dortmund played their first match of the season yesterday against Augsburg. In that game Aubameyong scored three goals on his debut and each one of them was pretty in nature. Who is this kid and why did United not notice him too? That’s the kind of astute purchasing that has made Klopp such an instant success with Dortmund and the primary target for managerial jobs around Europe now that Mourinho and Guardiola are settled in to new sides. Add to this Klopp’s ability to recognize talent and know exactly how to utilize them on the pitch properly (Shinji Kagawa at CAM..HINT HINT).
David Moyes must follow suit. I do not believe for a second that he has the tactical cunning or imagination that Klopp has but then again, I cannot say that is a fact just yet. What he does have is a lot of young talent and if he can go out there and rebuild his scouting network by spreading the net farther, I think we could buy a number of worthy players who could well become targets for Barcelona and Real Madrid in the future. Spending big is nice and it’s the easy way out. But perhaps what will ensure Moyes success and his long term future with United is if he follows the Dortmund model and not the Munich model that Fergie claims to have been using for his success. Fergie has come out and set he modeled United after Bayern in the way they do business. Perhaps that’s true up to a point but when it comes to buying talent, Bayern always poach the best German talent and their deep pockets always seem to be able to afford foreign players like Ribery, Robben, Martinez and Thiago to name a few. United cannot and will not play that game. Instead they need to know how to bargain hunt and come up with instant gems. The kind of player Klopp has bought for little money is instantly becoming successful at Dortmund. On the flip side, United seems to be buying a lot of their talent way to young and many of them either burn out or do not pan out in the reserves. Moyes needs to look for more players like Jones, Chicharito and Buttner who are in their early twenties and who can play right now. That is the Dortmund way and as for me, who am I to argue with Juergen Klopp’s model?
Of course how you use these players and the tactics you build your team around are all factors that come into play. David Moyes will get his chance to make his mark on this great club. But he needs to stop chasing forlorn hopes and needs to start concentrating on his young players and buying fine but lesser known players from clubs not on the “A” list. I believe that “Plan B” can succeed if it’s given time and some creative crafting. Will Moyes do this and can he do this? Well based on what he was able to accomplish at Everton with a transfer kitty consisting of a few shillings and a bonus book of coupons from Amazon.uk, I think, no I know he can. I badly want players like Ronaldo, Fabregas, Thiago and Falcao to make United their first choice club, but that isn’t in the cards for the near future anyway.
The Red Devils need to go in a different direction and it may be a direction we are unaccustomed to over the past twenty years at least. I may not be happy with it but if our manager can prove that he has more Fellaini’s, Baines’ and Jagielka’s in his search engine, then maybe, just maybe he is the right man at the right place at the right time. It’s not like the Glazer’s have given us many more options. Creating a vibrant young club could once again make United an attractive destination for world stars. Stars are instantly attracted to elite clubs where the thinking is young and where the tactics are progressive and inventive. That has made Dortmund under Juergen Klopp a superpower and hopefully United can once again regain their superpower status under David Moyes, if he is willing to be his own man and not allow the shadow and old school ways of Sir Alex Ferguson to cloud his thinking. He was on the right path at Everton and now he has more resources in scouting and money afforded him to allow him to take what he did at Everton to the next level. I wish him luck and pray he succeeds, for all our sakes.
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Tags: Opinion Piece