David Moyes: Standing firm in the eye of the storm at Manchester United

Blog by: Pranav

David Moyes

The knife that loomed over the heads of millions in the world finally fell on the 8th of May, 2013. Sir Alex Ferguson announced his retirement from football, and the Red half of Manchester mourned.

Amid a frenzied debate over who the successor would be – the supremely decorated Jose Mourinho or an austere David Moyes – the Scot came out on top.

And from that very moment, the world waited to see if ‘The Chosen One’ would match the legend, Scot for Scot. But the story thus far has been anything but matching. Criticism followed for Moyes, in a measure beyond what would cross the threshold for any ordinary man. How much of it does Mr. Moyes, the manager who moved from Merseyside to Manchester, really warrant?

The pre-season was but any other average outing, except this time, it was a glimpse into the future. Adnan Januzaj, Jesse Lingard and Ferguson’s last signing, Wilfried Zaha stole the show, made heads turn and perhaps gave Moyes a pleasant outlook of his charges on the biggest stage.

The two month transfer window with all its glitterati and darkness alike commenced, and dragged on for an eternity of frustration. After all the window shopping in Barcelona, Bilbao, Madrid, Roma and Everton, David Moyes and Edward Woodward – the new CEO – came out with next to nothing by the time the season began.

All the backroom staff was swapped for men from Everton, and two potential signings of the summer were Everton players as well. The United fraternity naturally panicked, and unconcealed whispers of United being “turned into Everton” ensued.

Amid the incomings from the Merseyside club, another ex-Everton man’s whims to leave did not make matters simpler. Yet, Moyes was obstinate on his stand and Wayne Rooney trained on.

The season eventually began and after missing the Community Shield win, and after a ravishing cameo at Swansea City, Rooney was reinstated in the starting line-up to face his pursuers – Chelsea.

A good team performance in a dead rubber draw followed, and Moyes was “still finding his feet.” After losing to North-Western rivals Liverpool, the flak came at a faster pace. The need for more presence and creativity in the midfield became more pronounced.

Manchester City v Manchester United - Premier League

Marouane Fellaini

 

With Fellaini’s arrival on the deadline day, nerves calmed and yet, the excessive Toffee influx into the Club narrowed eyes and pundits made hay, questioning the suitability of Moyes’s work ethic for a club of Manchester United’s stature.

An easy win against Crystal Palace and surprisingly an easier win against the top German side Bayer Leverkusen followed. The Manchester derby was next and expectations soared as high as they plunged low, first 10 minutes into the game.

A 4-1 away drubbing later, the media’s new favourite punching bag was back. David Moyes’s tactical sense was questioned, his negativity and rigidity of formation on the pitch was decried. The lack of use of the creative Shinji Kagawa was mourned, and somewhere in the murky corners of the night, words like “sack” and “wrong choice” fell upon the ears.

All of this, merely 7 games into the season. And this, perhaps is why Ferguson wanted another gritty Scot to succeed him. To absorb a plethora of criticism that was inevitable after a regime of 26 years defined by sheer greatness.

To take the punches, keep a hard exterior, and go on doing his job, unfettered and not bothered. Dealing with the cynicism from your very own club and ridicule from everywhere around was always a part of the job description, and this is why David Moyes was summoned by Sir Alex and told, not asked to be the next MUFC manager.

For starters, Moyes started his job on the 1st of July, when the squad was away for the summer break. Bringing in his trusted aides from Everton was only logical, and it is but the norm for any manager who moves to a new club.

A football manager has his own philosophy, and any external influence is unwelcome and a hindrance in the smooth translation of his ideas on the pitch. Moyes’s “failure” in the transfer window had its own valid reasons.

Any foray into the transfer market and mindless buying without a thorough analysis of the existing squad would mean a loss in balance, and perhaps the damage of a few egos, especially in the new environment in arguably the world’s biggest club.

Yes, the midfield was primarily identified as lacking with Paul Scholes’s departure and Darren Fletcher’s uncertainty. However, the failures in landing Thiago Alcantara and Cesc Fabregas should not be attributed to Moyes alone. Edward Woodward too was a newly appointed CEO and with the new management in place, the whole structure at MUFC was relatively inexperienced in the transfer market.

Ed Woodward is the man who brought in the money all along, and spending and dealing with clubs rather than sponsor brands was most definitely a novel prospect.

David Moyes is used to shopping for a varied category of players at Everton, and taking it slow and steady at United was but logical. Marouane Fellaini was always going to come, release clause or not. But when Moyes says he wanted to bring Baines along in a double deal, he should be believed in, for it is true that he almost got another left back, Fabio Coentrao along after the Baines deal failed.

Marouane Fellaini has been touted to be a “wrong” signing for United. However, on the contrary, in the three games that United have played him alongside Carrick, he has performed very well, reinforcing the much talked about midfield of Manchester with some steel and size.

His performance against Manchester City was truly under par, but having been pitted against Yaya Toure – the ex-Barcelona and Manchester City star came out on top of the ex-Standard Liege and ex-Everton player.

However, even United’s current engine, Michael Carrick failed to pull any strings in the game. In good time, the versatile Fellaini will be cohesively integrated into the United side and may even play the role Roy Keane played so effectively a decade ago.

For now, with Carrick holding one of the central midfield spots, Fellaini, Cleverley, Anderson, Giggs, sometimes Jones and eventually Fletcher is a healthy enough competition for the other spot.

The benching of Shinji Kagawa has prompted a widespread online campaign to “free” Shinji. So far, the Japanese playmaker hasn’t featured much under Moyes, and the reason given by the manager is of the lack of his fitness, given his summer involvement in the Confederations Cup and frequent flying to and from Asia.

 

Manchester United v Liverpool - Capital One Cup Third Round

Shinji Kagawa

Although it seems a legitimate claim, another reason could be touted to be the occupied status of the Number 10 role. Wayne Rooney is the accomplished talisman, nailing down the position behind Robin van Persie. He is reinvented and invigorated now, leaving no room for a playmaker.

Besides, Shinji Kagawa lacks the defensive discipline to be played deep alongside Carrick, and is a wasted talent on the wing, unless he cuts in behind the striker into his familiar area.

However, in Moyes’s structured formation where players rarely leave their positions, he has to but play as a classic winger and provide the ageing Evra the necessary defensive cover. He is ineffective in the role, and as of now, finds himself without a place in the starting 11.

The numerous changes in the club’s structure notwithstanding, United drew the toughest of starts to the league campaign, dropping 8 points in the first 5 games is disastrous in many situations.

But considering they consisted of Swansea, Liverpool and Man City away ties and a Chelsea home tie, 7 points is a decent number.

David Moyes through the years, has been admired and lauded often by Sir Alex Ferguson, and the word of one of the greatest managers ever, holds great credibility and the supporters should ease their own nerves.

He seems to have a solid plan of action for the club, and however much the media portrays otherwise, Moyes knows what he is doing.

Expectations of extensive silverware right away from a manager who never won any, may be a little harsh, but Manchester United will not settle for anything less.

All Moyes is doing is biding his time, soaking in everything as it comes, waiting for the difficult current circumstances to pass, before he makes a statement of his own.

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