One step forward, two steps back. Just one of the kinder ways that you could describe the catastrophe of a season that United fans have endured ever since David Moyes took charge last summer. We’re not even a year into his tenure, and we have a whole host of reasons as to why he should go already.
No matter where you start looking at his record, this theme is recurring. Whether it be hunting the likes of Thiago and Fabregas, only to end up purchasing Marouane Fellaini for £5m more than his buyout clause. Or if you look at some decent results and performances that we have occasionally produced, only to churn out a completely abject performance just a few days later – the theme is recurring.
Back in May, Sir Alex Ferguson announced his retirement and a couple of days later his successor, David Moyes, was announced. Following Ferguson’s final home game, he uttered these words:
I’d also like to remind you that we’ve had bad times here. The club stood by me. All my staff stood by me. The players stood by me. So your job now is to stand by our new manager
From all of the managers in world football, Sir Alex chose him, and despite some reservations, fans were relatively positive and supportive of the clubs new leader. We had a tough start to the season, facing Liverpool, Chelsea and City within the first 5 games and sadly only picked up one point from those matches, but not to worry, better times would come once the manager had settled in, wouldn’t they?
Defeat to City was followed by a Capital One Cup victory against Liverpool, only then to go and lose to West Brom. In the following months, we conceded last minute equalisers to Southampton and Cardiff, as well as being beaten at home by Newcastle and David Moyes’ old side, Everton. But then, out of nowhere, United went on a six game winning streak. We had finally found our feet.
As we replaced the calendar and moved into 2014, all hell broke loose! 4 defeats from 7 in January (5 if you include the League Cup exit to Sunderland). Following that result against Sunderland, I wrote a piece for this blog asking the question ‘Where is it all going wrong’ – but in the main, fans still stood by the manager and wanted him to succeed.
Since then, two months have passed, and despite smashing the club record transfer fee to bring in Juan Mata, things continue to go from bad to worse.
The first real cracks in the support began to show following a woeful performance at home to bottom club Fulham where we once again managed to concede a late equaliser having already coming from behind. A poor away performance against Arsenal followed, and then the icing on February’s cake came during our Champions League fixture against Olympiacos. A truly heartless and clueless performance leaving us on the brink of European exile.
Despite victories against West Brom and West Ham, March has been a real tough month too. Just over a week ago we were battered at home to bitter rivals, Liverpool. The 3-0 scoreline isn’t the worst thing, it was the performance on the field. Despite the fans best attempts to inspire the players, it was to no avail. The players were dreadful!
We did manage to overturn our 2-0 deficit in the Champions League, with a Robin van Persie inspired victory against Olympiacos. However, despite our progress to the quarter finals, the team seemed to sit back and invite pressure for the final 35 minutes as we looked to hold on to our aggregate lead. We held on, JUST!
That leads us to yesterday. Another massive game, another local derby, and another embarrassing 3-0 defeat, this time against title chasing Manchester City. It was a dreadful performance and there was a distinct lack of direction and ambition from either the players or the management. We gave Manchester City far too much time and space, with no closing down or pressure on the ball. £27.5m man Marouane Fellaini had another shocker and should have been sent off for an elbow, but it was all the more baffling to see him, and Tom Cleverley deployed in more wide positions for periods of the game.
The damning stats:
10 league defeats so far this season – the highest amount in the Premier League era.
6 league defeats at home, more than the 3 previous seasons combined
6 points against the 6 teams above us, scoring just 6 goals, conceding 19
27 points worse off than this time last season.
18 points behind leaders Chelsea, 15 behind City who have 2 games in hand!
18 league goals scored at Old Trafford.
So what is the problem?
It is well documented that Sir Alex Ferguson was a phenomenal manager who managed to get the best out of his players. His very presence on the touchline would inspire us to victory no matter how unlikely. Some of the players he left behind were simply not good enough. Players such as Alexander Buttner, Tom Cleverley and Ashley Young to name just three would not be players who you would describe as ‘United quality’ players.
However, that being said, those players won the league last season by 11 points, as well as finishing second to City the season before after picking up 89 points. So the quality must have been there.
But this season, the same players, as well as the additions of Wilfred Zaha, Marouane Fellaini and latterly, Juan Mata, have failed massively! But why?
Of course, the players have to take responsibility for their performances, but the manner of the performances and the lack of passion I witness every week from the stands is alarming, and for this I have to lay the majority of the blame at the doorstep of David Moyes and his coaching staff.
Why is Moyes getting the blame?
Some managers are excellent at certain jobs whilst being less successful in others. Would you want Mick McCarthy as United manager? Not a chance. Would you want him to help you out of the championship? Of course you would. Ok now that’s a bit of a silly comparison but a more realistic comparison would be England manager Roy Hodgson.
In recent years, he worked wonders with Fulham, getting them all the way to the Europa League final. He subsequently took over at Liverpool, but his reign didn’t last long as his bland brand of football left the fans furious. Pressure on the club built and Hodgson left the club by ‘Mutual consent’. He then moved on to West Brom where once again he did well before finally becoming England manager in 2012. The key point is, some managers are more suited to lesser profile teams.
My friends who support Everton were certainly not disappointed when Moyes left their club after winning absolutely nothing. They told me he lacked tactical awareness and a winning mentality. They also recall so many occasions where Everton were in a winning position and Moyes tried to protect it, and subsequently threw away the points. At first, I thought they were just trying to worry me, but after 9 months of him in charge, I can see everything that they spoke about; Now happening at Manchester United.
Interestingly, Everton are now doing better under Roberto Martinez than they did under Moyes, playing a much more positive and dynamic style of football, and crucially, they are still in with a shot of reaching the Champions League.
It is the managers job to not only train the players throughout the week, but have the tactical awareness and flexibility to get a result from any situation. It is also the job of the manager to inspire the players and get them believing in the philosophy that you are trying to achieve. Mourinho for example, despite not being a traditionally attack minded manager, always gets the players playing for him, in the manner he wants, and generally, he is sucessful.
Watching the Manchester United team week in week out, it becomes more and more apparent that the players don’t believe in David Moyes and what he is trying to achieve. The players are low on confidence and if it hasn’t happened already, Moyes must surely be on the brink of losing the dressing room – he’s already lost a good chunk of the fans, with one pictured last night having a go at Moyes himself.
Why should United sack Moyes?
David Moyes is not a bad manager, but he’s not the kind of manager that a club of Machester United’s stature need.
If the team were genuinely being unlucky, as Moyes has often alluded to, but the football on display were good, then I would fully be behind the manager.
If the results were good but the football were poor, the I would also be fully behind the manager. Let’s not forget, some of the games we played under Ferguson weren’t the best, but we got through.
But the football isn’t good, the belief isn’t there, the results aren’t coming and on the whole it’s been a dreadful season. Moyes himself keeps churning out the same drivel in his press conferences, about how we will ‘try’ to do better, and ‘hope’ we will win. He even went as far as saying Liverpool were favourites last week before the defeat. That’s no way to inspire your team, and it certainly transpired that way. And now, following yesterdays defeat, we are aspiring to be like Manchester City. Wow! Just Wow!
Moyes brought Fellaini from Everton, and you have to wonder why. He’s had a couple of good games but on the whole, he’s been poor, especially yesterday. He strikes me as such a lazy player. Then we signed Mata, a superb player, but then we waste his abilities by playing him out wide. This all after its been glaringly obvious that we need a new midfielder or two, as well as a left back and probably a central defender.
Failure to reach next seasons Champions League, which looks all but certain, will be a huge blow to the club and the fans. Despite it being a blow, it doesn’t have to be a fatal one. We are the laughing stock of Europe at the moment, and I dread to think what will happen against Bayern Munich.
Replacing Moyes now would allow for a new manager to come in, get some belief back in the squad and have a good end to the season. This will show that despite our failings this season, it’s only temporary and we will be back. Ask yourself the question, if you were Toni Kroos, would you want to come to Manchester United only to play this brand of football under David Moyes?
Who would replace him?
In an ideal world, Pep Guardiola for me. But that’s not going to happen considering he’s only just taken over at Munich. So the best candidate for me would be Jurgen Klopp. He’s done a wonderful job at Dortmund, finding some excellent players, winning the league as well as reaching last seasons Champions League final. He does however have to contend with losing his best players every year, with the like of Kagawa, Gotze and Lewandowski all leaving. Ilkay Gundogan is another potential departure this year. Coming to a club like United, he could attract top players and give the squad the belief we so badly lack. He is a character.
However if Moyes were to go now, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to see an interim manager/management team take charge. The likes of Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville are currently in coaching roles with United and England respectively, and by all accounts, Giggs isn’t happy with the way things are going under Moyes. Former United midfielder Paul Scholes also declared his interest in becoming a manager at some point in his career, during a guest appearance on Sky Sports last night as a pundit.
What will happen?
Unfortunately – I think it will take pressure from the fans towards the club to have any chance of Moyes leaving any time soon. Uniteds fans have been praised for their support, but realistically, we support the TEAM. It’s not necesarily support for the manager. The ‘David Moyes Red & White Army’ and ‘Every single one of us, will stand by David Moyes’ songs have not been heard for some weeks now.
Sir Alex selected Moyes and said he wanted the fans to give him time, but the situation and performances have been far worse than anyone could have imagined. We all know Fergie is a stubborn bugger and he won’t want to be shown to have failed in his last big decision as Manchester United manager.
Upon Moyes’ arrival, a certain banner was placed at Old Trafford, depicting Moyes as ‘The Chosen One’. As good as it is to support your new manager on his arrival at the club, realistically the banner was a foolish idea and should never have been created. For as long as it remains in place, it gives the club the impression that the fans are behind Moyes, because it was put up by a supporters group. Some fans, myself included, believe it should be taken down, other fans are threatening to rip it down leading to it being guarded by stewards at last nights game.
With home games against Aston Villa and Bayern Munich in the next week, time will only tell if the match going fans will vent their anger, or if the anger will be confined to the online realms of social media.
For more thoughts and opinions from Ben, follow him on twitter: @benguest7