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  • Two Red Perspectives. Moyes In and Moyes Ou...

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    These articles first appeared in the fanzine Red News 210


    MOYES OU... or how his patterns tell us what comes next


    Sooner or later it will happen, but the sooner it does, the more chance we have of this decline not becoming a rot. You know it will happen, I know it will happen, and those who blindly say ‘keep the faith’ when realising most faiths are built on false foundations deep down know it too.


    David Moyes will be sacked by Manchester United Football Club because however decent a man, principled and good intentioned, he’s not capable enough for a club, job and task of this size.
    Of course ‘he’s taken over from the greatest ever, it was always going to be hard’, but we all appreciated that, so which is why most of us set the rather lowly condition of a top four place and maybe a Cup run. Suddenly the Champions of 11 clear points, and yes, that was rather distorting the truth of the squad and thanks to Fergie’s will in his final season, were set a target that was well below par.


    It was easily attainable. He said he wouldn’t change much, but he did. If we move on from not keeping any of the main coaching staff for some continuity, what dispelling of his ‘Dithering Dave’ nickname came from persisting with Anderson, then realising even he couldn’t turn crap into gold, ditching it, as he did with playing Rio every game, and then not at all, all sorts of minor errors that lead to bigger problems and suggest this is a man quite out of his depth. In the modern game, how that can suddenly be compared to Fergie’s start almost a lifetime ago in a different era, with different demands is beyond me. 2013 was not 1986.


    He’s too defence minded. He always has been. So why did anybody suddenly think a man in his 50s would suddenly change his whole mentality? If he couldn’t at Everton where despite rather patronising ‘he did a good job’ put downs, he never actually showed any great degrees of rapid improvement, let alone suggest he had the qualifications for taking over a team with ambitions for domestic and European titles. It is not so important by itself that we have a United way and he must show this, but that his outlook is way off from it; where a draw (Cardiff away, his post match comments) is not one to take before the game, where you don’t take off a forward to defend a lead and see it cost us like against Southampton, where 11 men defending a corner isn’t just United, but anyone big as it is tactically stifling as it means we are countering our own attacking impetus by clearing it, and then inevitably having to defend the second phase of a corner because all our men are back and opponents then have the ball.


    Why do people think this mindset will change? What Damascus moment will come from a manager who has shown nothing that would have got him an interview with any other top four side, in any top European league, and won’t certainly again when it does go wrong here and the project is ditched.
    United will give him time, and many their patience, it is acceptable if not totally right that that is the United way, but it doesn’t mean it will work. United’s history is littered by men given too long, and none of them curtailed earlier than was expected at the time ever proved United wrong elsewhere. Football isn’t just about confidence, sadly lacking as the players as much as some fans don’t seem to believe he is up to it, it is about patterns and nothing in both his managerial history or what he’s done at United have shown a manager who will succeed at United. And successs for us isn’t a trophy here or there anymore, once you reach the top, you don’t diminish your control; anything less than titles and the odd European success is nothing short of a failure. Why have we had to reboot?


    That so many United fans say they feel ’sorry’ for him is unsettling. It’s both a very pitiful and telling emotion to ‘feel’ for a United manager; who should empower you, not have you feeling like he’s a pet, and whilst of course we have had unlucky moments - and that crosses into a rather sympathetic continuation of this, that he is one of those unlucky managers - you also know deep down that you miss out on luck in a specific game or moment (think Nani’s sending off vs Real) but over half a season, this isn’t a casino; it’s based on form, results. The fact that we and he are bemoaning bad luck suggests we’ve passed the point of justified excuses and entered the faster and more dangerous lane of ‘clutching at straws’. Too often we have seen him hide behind excuses. Of course he was dealt an uneven hand at the start, only the foolish would deny the squad was on an inevitable course towards decline, but nothing has given me the hope in his past, or present, that he is built for the task of this project. And that squad in decline was not in a terminal condition.


    This isn’t a ‘what would Fergie do?’ defence; he’s gone, we had a chance to reshape the whole club after his departure, because for all he did, we were also treading water at times, however enjoyable the successes were, we’d stopped playing good football some time back, and I accept the restrictions from owners are both offputting for those that may have come next, and also maybe why ‘the chosen one’ was chosen (and that flag may well be seen as the first curse of many that came Moyes’ way) but instead of looking at managers who might have accepted this huge challenge and looked big upon arrival, that Eric like moment of mind and matter, ever since he’s taken the job he’s looked too defensive in mind, attitude and communication. Saying we nearly “hung in” against Sunderland, and so many other examples, are embarrassing and these are against sides much lower than us in the table. Whilst we see ABU jokes about losing records so often this season, and however annoying the stats are about his record against top sides away from home, they are also again revealing of a pattern; why did we employ someone who simply has never shown he has it against those which would now be his rivals? Fergie had shown success before those early shit days at United, Moyes had no such draw to show. Players too who probably didn’t think he’d be a serious contender, who haven’t bought into his system or approach pretty much since day 1.


    We keep looking towards this summer as the answer, after an awful one last from all at the club, but what makes people so certain this will define him for the better, and why if finally we are to see those mythical war chests finally spent, do they believe he is the right man to spend it? I’m not one of those who was making it so simple as Mourinho over Moyes, though even if a short lived say three year experiment, it is not one that would have failed, but I do see many more capable, forthright, bold, young and hungry managers out there. I was surprised that Moyes was chosen simply because he seemed like another Fergie from 20 years ago, when the game has changed so much, and
    Fergie was simply Fergie; you do not replicate that DNA. And he got the job without even handing in his CV for an interview process with his peers. (well those candidates would all have had a better record). Just because Fergie was magisterial at many things, why think that would also include choosing his own successor, and why would a supposed strong Board of United’s global grand not want to include him in a list with others, to then decide? Rash. Rushed, when we were told there had been long term planning for precisely this moment. A moment spurned?


    He started this job by playing down our chances and putting our arrogant mindset into reverse by telling the Champions that they should fear those opening five fixtures and they have probably been looking at him oddly ever since. We still fail to see any definitive attitude and tactics half a season on, and can only point to what we know, his record at Everton which seems more fitting for… Everton than United really. He then signed Everton’s best player, who any Everton fan will tell you wasn’t actually their best player, for more than his buy out clause, as he too shrunk at the pressure of Utd so he who once bashed us about could only now bash his wrist.


    You’ll cast this view aside, and this is not so I can say ‘I told you so’ in 12 or 18 months time. But as another sub failed to pay off when Welbeck came on for Jones with Rooney pushed deep at Stoke - Stoke remember - as he prepared his final throw of the dice, he looked bereft of ideas as Phil Neville, Ryan Giggs and Steve Round surrounded him with advice (all that was missing was Jimmy Lumsden to make them look like the five stooges). He looked lacking. He is not in control. United have been spiralling further out of control rather than towards calm now he’s settling into a seat he himself said he was scared to even sit in on his first day, and at that moment he looked as though he’s already run out of ideas and needs help. His vision for the club, is one that seems rather blurred. How could he go into a room of Champions, with many already sadly complacent, yet who dragged themselves over finish lines, and then convince them they could work the miracles that Fergie could? Players talked of seeing Fergie and trying even harder, would Moyes have that affect? Clearly not, and if he wants players who will believe in his ambitions, then it’s a natural fear that they will come from a lesser pool of players than the cream used to playing for real winners. Mata was significant response to those concerns, but will that continue now we look likely to miss out on 4th?


    He failed his biggest tests at Everton - Cup runs, CL qualification, CL qualifier - and he’s failing his simple tests at United. Why do you think that pattern will change? Decent bloke. Just not the right bloke. He wasn’t last summer, he isn’t now, and he won’t be in a year’s time. Sad to say. His body language suggests a man shrinking. His pattern is not one that will miraculously change its course. To our ways. If all people have to cling to is a speech from Fergie on his last day as reason to keep on this crash course of ‘faith’, it’s sad indeed.


    Results may improve. To what? Fifth? Patterns, people. We’ll give him another year, perhaps because it’s right and it’s United, but I fear my told you so’s in 2015. And I dread how further we may have fallen and how harder the climb from that position back will be. And you will say now, how dare I be so unsupportive and just get behind him, and at games I do that, but after each (and those 8 league losses and counting) I wonder how a season that we were told was continuation was suddenly downgraded to merely transition but now resembles a disaster. And one which may be the start of its very own pattern for our club. Until ‘it’ happens.


    Fergie talked of being ready for the Manchester United job when he arrived from Aberdeen, that he was strong enough, capable enough: “Definitely. By that time with nine years’ experience at Aberdeen I had matured, I was successful, I was confident. We won a European final against Real Madrid and I thought we were a certainty. I was at the stage where I couldn’t see us losing a game.” Moyes is not that man. He never was and he never will be. I’ll be delighted if you all throw this back in my face eventually, but as I started this piece, sooner or latter ‘it’ will happen, and deep down we all know that. All we’re doing now is shuffling the cards before the inevitable hand that will be dealt.
    by Sam.


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    These articles first appeared in the fanzine Red News 210


    Support David Moyes


    For the past 23 years, under probably the greatest football manager in Britain’s long football history, Manchester United have enjoyed unqualified success – probably success that will never ever be repeated by a club again. It is remarkable when you look at the trophy haul during that period – 13 Premier League titles, 5 FA Cup wins, 4 League Cup wins, 2 European Champions League wins, 1 European Cup Winners’ Cup win, 1 European Super Cup and 2 World Club Championships… and you could also throw in 11 Charity Shield/Community Shield wins.


    It is a staggering achievement by one manager. So the question is, how do you follow a manager with a record like that? Who would feel that they are big enough to fill his shoes? Whoever it was, was always going to be in the firing line, and whoever it was, was going to need a hell of a lot of courage, a good temperament, a fair amount of good luck, but also a thick skin, because whoever you are, managing Manchester United, especially today, is a bigger job than at any other football club in the world; and that includes Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and even Juventus or either of the Milan clubs.


    Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure from Old Trafford surprised a lot of people – although there had been whisperings that it was going to happen over 12 months before. Personally, I am not convinced at all that he planned to go when he did. My own theory is that he had a long think about things once he knew that David Gill was retiring. He was losing his biggest ally, and that surely would have had an effect upon him? Just days before the formal announcement of his retirement on Tuesday 7 May, he made a statement in the United match programme against Chelsea, that retirement was the last thing on his mind, and that he would be at Old Trafford for a good few years to come. The programme notes were written in the week preceding the Chelsea game… they were so emphatic. So what happened in between the time in which they were written, and the following week, is known only to the Club and Sir Alex. Anything else is just conjecture.


    Immediately after the retirement announcement was made, David Moyes was rapidly named as Sir Alex’s replacement. It is said that he was Ferguson’s choice. It took some balls from the younger Scotsman to agree to take the job on. Lots of names had been bandied about – Mourihno, Guardiola, Ancelotti, Hiddink, and a good few others. But were any of them available? We’ll never know. But let’s not write Moyes down. Irrespective of him never having won anything at Everton, he’d done a remarkable job during his eleven years tenure at Goodison. With little resource, he made the club punch above their weight and gave it a good solid foundation. People at the moment are pointing out just how well Roberto Martinez is doing this season – but they are really no better off than they were last season and very much in the same position as they were under Moyes at this same stage.
    It does not matter who had taken over at Old Trafford, they would have faced a baptism of fire and would have found it very difficult to have hit the ground running. There was been problems brimming beneath the surface, problems that had been papered over for almost five years, especially since Roy Keane was fired. That Ferguson was able to achieve what he did with a squad that seemed to get weaker each year, was a testament to his character, determination, sheer doggedness, and his ability to get the last ounce from his team. But the cracks had been there, and many United fans had been aware of it for the duration of that period. So what was David Moyes left with and what challenges did he face?


    He was left with a team that had more than a few short comings – especially in midfield. He took over days before the club took off on a long and tiring tour to Australia and the Far East – there was no proper pre-season as such. He had international players returning who were not fit, and he had a demanding fixture list in the early part of the season. Plus he had a completely stupid CEO who opened his big mouth and really did cock up the summer transfer window/business, royally.
    Since then it has been a rough ride. He has taken a lot of stick about making too many changes behind the scenes. However it emerged that Muelensteen was offered the Assistant Manager’s job and chose to turn it down. In my eyes it would have never have worked anyway. Rene has an ego as wide as the Atlantic and it’s my guess that there would have been suspicion and conflict between the two men. There can only ever be one Boss and he has to trust the people around him. He kept on Warren Joyce as the Reserve team coach, a guy who has done magnificently over the years. He’s kept Paul McGuinness in charge of the Academy. Whoever had taken over would have made changes – and lots of them, and been laid open to criticism.


    The start hasn’t gone too well and nobody can dispute that. We would all have loved for it to have gone better. But some of the stuff flying about over the last few months has been ridiculous. When you are building a football club – and that’s what he is doing – it’s a process that is always ongoing. It’s a journey that never ever finishes. The everyday daily job is about winning, losing, learning and getting by. Manchester United are not paying Moyes to panic. Remember that United have had more than enough stuttering starts before. Don’t forget that between the end of the 2002/2003 season, and up until the end of the 2006-2007 season, United’s only trophy haul in that period was a solitary FA Cup win and against Millwall. But it’s my opinion that people were distracted by the Coolmore mafia and Glazer take-over in the latter years of that period, and it papered over any criticism of the team.


    It’s been bandied about not only by the media, but by a lot of our own fans that we should be buying this player, we should be buying that player. If we had believed the media, over the past seven months we would have signed around 30 different players! Team building is a patient thing and is always a work in progress. There are many constraints to it and it is as much about who you cannot sign as who you can. It’s okay identifying players, but the questions are; are they available and if so, how much will they improve what we have already? Will they, or do they want to come to Old Trafford? Is the fee agreeable? Will the owners release the necessary funds needed? It’s a huge conundrum, and one which ordinary fans in the street don’t fully understand.
    The ABU press and electronic media has been gorging on United’s disappointing start. They are willing United to fall from grace, and they will stoke the fires of misery as much as they can. We all know of and about the expectations at Old Trafford more than any journalist or commentator. This is where Moyes has to have a thick skin. The flak comes from all over. So both he and the players have to batten down the hatches.


    It’s always big news when United lose, so he should disregard the media. What’s the point in reading the crap that is written or listening to commentators, and player pundits who if they had any balls, would be managing a club instead of taking the easy money from so called punditry and having all the answers available from miles away sat in a comfortable media studio? There is no need for Moyes to torture himself. He has to be in control of that part and work things out for himself. It’s never nice to read and listen to criticism being fired at you from all angles but there is nothing that he can specifically do about that aspect of things.


    What he and his staff have to do is intensify their focus and concentration on the players, and get them to believe in themselves and to become more consistent in their performances. Silly lapses of concentration by individual players has cost the team dearly this year, and at Chelsea was a prime example.


    The game has changed so much since 1992 – it is a far different animal today than it was back in its inception year. The whole ball game has changed. Millions of pounds coming in especially from television, owners who want everything now, and the pressure on managers (not only at United) is colossal. Time and patience are things of the past and managers get very little time to build teams these days. The press and media use far more personal criticism today, and some of it is totally unpalatable, written by hacks who have never played the game or managed at any decent level, but who think that they have all the right answers.


    Managers have always come under fire, especially when their teams are losing. However because it is Manchester United, the pressure escalates tenfold. Let’s not forget, that managing United is an enormous job, and until you are on the ‘inside’ people don’t really see it. I am sure that Moyes’s eyes really did open wide when he quickly realised what he had taken on. In that respect he is still finding his feet, and let’s be fair to the man, that was never going to be easy. He has to be allowed the time to develop his own team. He’s only human like the rest of us, but everybody expects him to have the skin of a rhinoceros, but that will never be the case. Everybody responds to encouragement, and managers are no different. However, today football is a results driven industry and nobody is aware of that more than David Moyes. Managers do need results and if a game is lost, it’s a whole week’s work gone up the Swanee.


    So far it has been a disappointing season – nobody can deny that. But any club losing the services of two world class players like RVP and Rooney would feel it. But in the cold light of day, apart from the horrible debacle at City where hardly a player turned up, the bad results have come from silly, individual defensive errors, and also by not taking a good percentage of the scoring opportunities which have been created. The bad results have heaped a lot of pressure upon Moyes, Yes he has made mistakes – but even at the height of his career at United… did Fergie not? Some of the criticisms that Moyes has had has been more than a little unfair. Moyes has to ignore all the hullabaloo that’s going on just now. It will take him time to mould the team as he sees it. He can’t be judged on just half a season. His thinking, especially over the next few weeks is to focus on getting everybody back fit. He has to take the poison and venom for now – try and stabilize things a little more, and keep the team in the frame for that CL place.


    There is no magic wand to be waved, so he has to build the player’s confidence and try and get them to maintain a consistency in dominating teams and games, particularly at Old Trafford. The last thing he has to do is listen to all the rubbish that his being spouted about him, and then panic. As can be seen from the tremendous backing which he receives from the fans, especially at away games, we are all willing him to succeed. For our part we have got to keep the faith, let him get on with the job, trust and stand behind him, and give him the time and patience needed to get us back on track again.


    by Tom Clare, author of Forever a Babe, and the Men who were the Busby Babes, which can be ordered below


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