“The past is yours, but the future is mine,” sang Ian Brown in the Stone Roses’ “She Bangs the Drums”.
Six months after another Mancunian icon saw the most successful manager in its history depart, the past remains very much Sir Alex Ferguson’s, while David Moyes’ present is far from the fasts the club had become accustomed to under his predecessor and the future remains an unknown, arguably menacing, entity.
The dreaded post-Fergie era has begun in the worst possible way, the predicted transition quickly turning into a full scale recession, as United’s shambolic performances on the pitch have seen the title defence all but over after 15 games – those who think otherwise are no longer optimists, but delusional – while the team is, for the first time in a long time, negotiating the rough and unfamiliar seas of mid-table mediocrity.
Crisis – for that’s what United are going through at the moment, and that’s a mere observation, rather than an attempt to sensationalise the circumstances -and the way such situations are dealt with are telling factors about the nature of clubs, fans and players and nowhere has been this more evident than at United this season.
In the first six months of his United career David Moyes has split opinions like very few men have done at Old Trafford before him, certainly to an extent nobody had even come close to over the last two and a half decades or, more specifically, since Sir Alex Ferguson turned the tide around with his first FA Cup triumph in 1990.
The former Everton manager has his faults. While not as unadventurous as during his days on Merseyside, his approach remains hardly what United fans had known for the past 26 years nor, it has to be said, exudes the same swagger and arrogance of Jose Mourinho or the sophisticated philosophies of Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp.
Granted, Moyes hardly represented the most glamorous option to replace the greatest manager British football has ever seen and, yes, his tactics can be blamed as over-defensive and dull – accusations which would make a lot more sense had United been playing with attacking verve throughout the last couple of seasons, which they did not – and the decision to splash £27m on Marouane Fellaini and replace Sir Alex Ferguson’s coaching staff might be questionable.
Without wanting to venture into the divide that has emerged among Reds this season, David Moyes is the manager and, as such, he can be criticised and even deserves to be for his team’s failures.
That, however, is where a line should be drawn, for if there’s one thing Moyes can not be blamed for is for the club’s conduct which has been increasingly shambolic over the last couple of years resembling a train derailing off the tracks since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson and, even more crucially from a certain point of view, David Gill have now retired.
During the eight years in the hands of American owners there are those United fans who have either learnt to tolerate/accept the enemy within (conveniently using Sir Alex Ferguson’s public backing of the Glazers to somehow protect them from condemnation) and there are those who stubbornly and confidently continue to deride those who directly or indirectly riddled the club with catastrophic levels of debt.
That situation will remain until such time the Glazers no longer control the club. In either case, the bottom line was rather simple. United kept winning with systematic regularity thanks to a prodigiously talented squad between 2006 and 2009 plus Sir Alex Ferguson’s sheer determination and desire to win in 2011 and 2013 when Fergie’s man management skills papered over the huge cracks emerging through United sides for almost a decade.
Like a student who spends his student loan on holidays and drinks and forgets to pay his rent, United’s over-reliance on Fergie hit home with devastating effects in the first six months without Sir Alex, who performed the impossible by winning the league last season and who would have probably struggled to guide United to a title this campaign.
For years now, United have neither been able to compete financially with Europe’s big spenders – Chelsea, Manchester City, Bayern Munich and Spain’s top two – nor have they looked to bridge the financial gap by relying on a brilliant scouting system as the likes of Juventus, Dortmund and Atletico Madrid do.
Those blaming David Moyes for United’s failure to strengthen during the summer’s transfer window fail to realise that even under Fergie, arguably the greatest manager of his generation, United failed to attract the sort of big names – Robin Van Persie being the only notable exception – they successfully managed to lure to Old Trafford before the Glazers’ takeover.
Yes, Moyes could have perhaps spent the £27m he splashed on Fellaini more wisely this season, but shouldn’t the club have provided him with a shrewd, expert, ally to negotiate the transfer window with, rather than a man whose first action was to blatantly lie to everybody who has an ounce of football knowledge by claiming that United could have signed whoever they wanted?
Sure, as the Glazers’ apologists will be more than happy to point out, the size of the debts has decreased in the last couple of years and United have remained successful and generated profit. However, wouldn’t those profit have been put to better use in the transfer window, instead of being destined to service the interests and debts United still face? Or can we blame Moyes for that too?
Moyes’ arrival should have unified United fans, for the transition process could see the club miss out on a top-four spot and therefore on the Champions League revenues the Glazers have taken for granted over the last eight years thus, albeit not immediately, drastically reducing the profitability of their investment therefore increasing the prospect of theredeparture.
Will the owners pull the plug on Moyes if United’s decline becomes unsustainable for their financial plans or will they stick with him and for how long? Ironically, by backing the new manager with a six-year contract the Glazers could have shot themselves in the foot in comically stupid fashion, for the financial cost of paying off Moyes’ contract would dwarf part of the revenue generated by clinching the European spot that seems increasingly elusive each passing week.
Either the Glazers finally decide that it’s time to fork out cash in the next two transfer windows or even the staunchest of their advocates should accept what the rest of us has known for almost a decade now – their financial plans, however cunningly disguised, are going to be tragically detrimental for the future of Manchester United.
But, of course, those who want them out are simpletons and criticising Moyes for everything that’s wrong with the club remains the only possible choice.
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Tags: Opinion Piece