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David Moyes: The First Hundred Days At Manchester United

It’s a hundred days since David Moyes became manager of Manchester United, short enough to attempt an analysis of how thinks look so far, though nothing like long enough to condemn him in the manner some are already doing. It must have been obvious to almost any United fan that he would, like anyone else, need time to adapt to succeeding the great manager in British football history. I suspect, however, that most of us had no specific idea of what that really means, so long is it since we’ve had a new manager at the club, and consequently a significant gulf between what is expected and what’s acceptable at the moment is evident among United supporters.

Obviously we’re not where we want to be in the league.  A hard-fought victory at Sunderland on Saturday has only just edged us into the top half of the table. Thestart actually bears reasonable comparison with the majority of post-Busby managers: only Dave Sexton and Frank O’Farrell had a better start in their first seven league games and both, it barely needs saying, enjoyed less than spectacular tenures thereafter. The assessment that his first two months in charge are rather more successful than Fergie’s (who, like Ron Atkinson, won only two of his first seven games) must be off-set against the fact that Moyes has inherited a far better squad. However, managers in any field will tell you that in many ways it’s more difficult to take over a successful operation rather than one riddled with problems: with the latter you get the go-ahead to rip it all up and start again, while in the former case adopting such an approach can leave you prone immediately to dressing room, or even board room, revolts.

david-moyes-pointingIn this climate, it’s perhaps understandable that, for me, the bulk of Moyes’ difficulties on the pitch have come about largely due to an uncertainty of approach. His early selections appeared to suggest he might be prepared to toy with a variation on 4-4-2 which  makes sense given our many forward options and the poor performance of all of our wingers last season. That he’s largely returned to the tried and trusted format is, you sense, part of a desire on his part not too meddle with established United practices too quickly. By giving him a six year contract, and by going for him over someone like Mourinho, it would seem the United board are looking for gradual rather than immediate change anyway, so  I doubt the kind of crisis talks the press like to imagine being imminent are any more than the product of a desperate hack’s imagination. Given time, I’m confident he’ll make the necessary adjustment, and I’m also confident that the board intend to give him that time.

There are some areas where Moyes has performed well, specifically in Europe. The performance against Leverkusen was our best home European display for some time, while a point was won in Donetsk with the kind of pragmatic and organised approach that, if replicated in the knocout stages, will serve us well in European away ties. Moyes has show  similar pragmatism in managing to hold onto Rooney, eschewing the kind of ‘do it my way or there’s the door’ approach Fergie has a history of favouriing. Ensuring that the player remained with the club, felt a valued part of the squad and also knew and accepted who was boss was something I’ll admit I didn’t think was possible at one point. It would have been a major error of judgement had he allowed Rooney to move to Chelsea, as some so called ‘experts’ in the game were encouraging him to do. In the end, we now have a Wayne Rooney who won’t simply have to be left on the sidelines as punishment for his misdemeanors, but who will be fired up and have something to prove and, with such a mind-set, he’s already shown he can be a real asset to us this season.

david-moyes-celebration2Regarding his dealings with the media, Moyes has clearly made mistakes. There was a reason why Alex Ferguson always kept the press at arm’s length. In confirming our pursuit of Fabregas to the media, Moyes turned what might have been low-key speculation into a media soap opera and similarly so when presenting the papers with gilt-edged opportunities to misrepresent him over comments about Rooney and our alleged deficiencies when compared with the top European sides.  Openness with the press is a nice idea in theory, but if you’re United boss it’s the quickest way to pile pressure on yourself. Like a school bully they’ll only regard any attempt to make friends with them as a sign of weakness to be exploited at some later date.

On the subject of the transfer window, there was a chaos about proceedings that was most unlike United and, while Woodward has correctly borne much of the resulting criticism, Moyes ought to shoulder part of the blame. He clearly came to United with Fellaini and Baines on his mind and there was surely a role for Moyes here in ensuring players he knew well followed him to his new club, without having to drag the process out until deadline day. Did he practice diplomacy in deference to the sensibilities of his old employers? Perhaps, but a manager of Manchester United can’t do that. He won’t make friends  or keep them as manager of United, and it’s pointless him trying. Another lesson learned, hopefully.

david-moyes-trainingWhile some have pointed to Moyes’ ditching of the senior coaching set up as a troubling move, I’m seeing it as a necessary display of ruthlessness that has to be a facet in the make-up of any successful manager. Not only that, but in adding Giggsy and Phil Neville to his new team he has elevated players who can provide a sound understanding of the United way while still retaining the clear identity of Moyes appointments. The fact that McGuinness and Joyce remain in their academy roles also show that his awareness of how well these levels of the United set-up function in a largely autonomous manner.  In short, he’s selectively asserted his authority while removing only those parts of the set-up that, let’s face it, might not have worked without Fergie steering the ship anyway.

The inevitably loud voice of some sections of the United ‘support’ calling for his head is something he’ll have been warned to expect, particularly as some were at it before a ball was even kicked in anger and many of those voices were equally keen to find fault with Sir Alex.  I still get comments, tweets and retorts on forums from people who can’t understand my faith in Moyes. There are two reasons. One, no one can possibly know at this stage whether or not he’ll be successful and the sensible thing for supporters to do is get off his back and let him get on with the business of trying.  The second is, regardless of some of the poor performances we’ve seen thus far, he comes across as a man who understands our club, it history and its culture and for me that was always the most important quality for a new boss. What Fergie showed us is that, if you’ve got that, the rest will come sooner or later.

How do you think David Moyes is getting on at Manchester United? Comment in the section below.

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4 replies on “David Moyes: The First Hundred Days At Manchester United”


Calling for the head of Moyes at this stage, is far too premature and probably comes loudest from the impatient ones who have only ever experienced United during the golden era under Fergie. Mind you, if these very same people had been around in the late 80’s they would have been calling for Fergie’s head then. If he had been sacked then, they would never have experienced the golden age.

I grew up watching a United side with the likes of Best, Law, Charlton, Crerand and Styles etc. playing great football under Sir Matt, only to see the team’s decline from 1969 onwards, culminating in relegation five years after being crowned European champions. That great side grew old and when Sir Matt retired, his successors found it all too hard to rebuild the team under the weight of expectations and the shadow of Sir Matt.

I then went from being a school kid to a man in his forties without seeing United lift the title. Would never have thought it possible.

It is fair to draw parallels between the retirements of Busby and Ferguson. The advantage Ferguson has had, when picking his successor, is that he has been able to learn from history. In 1969 United promoted Wilf McGuinness from within hoping for continuity, but it failed. They then brought in outsider Frank O’Farrell who found it hard to make the big call of dismantling an aging great side and getting rid of Law, Charlton and Crerand. At the same time Georgie Best was living to excess. Busby hovered in the background.

The current United side, which is Fergie’s team, is in decline. The weakening of the Vidic/Ferdinand centreback partnership and the lack of class in midfield has been apparent for a while, masked last season by Van Persie’s goals. Moyes has inherited this team and he will have to rebuild it. It will take time. I cannot see a seamless transition. Hard decisions will need to be made.
Young, Anderson, Valencia and Buttner are not good enough. Evra, Ferdinand,Giggs and Vidic must be in their last season.

For the first part of Moyes’ hundred days it was all a bit awkward. A long tour of Australia, South East Asia and a bit of Scandinavia done for commercial reasons wasn’t the best situation for a new manager. United toured with retired internationals and some kids. An unfit Van Persie and Kagawa were rushed in for promotional reasons. Moyes didn’t get back to Carrington to meet his entire squad until a couple of days before the Community Shield. Not the best of starts. This situation wasn’t helped by Moyes decision to replace all the first team coaches. This meant that he was taking longer to get to know his players in detail. I accept that for the long term he needs his own men in place on the training ground just as he needs his own men on the pitch. Short term I think it contributed to the lag in things getting up to full speed.

Moyes has been too open with media and that combined with the shambolic transfer window activity has brought extra pressure. 12-18 months ago Fergie said that he had the strongest squad ever, which would benefit from addition of the odd player. Now Moyes says United are short of half a dozen world class players. Even if he believes that, he should keep it to himself. He probably said it to dampen current expectation but it just adds to the pressure.

Managing United is a massive task and matching Sir Alex is an impossible one. At this point it is ridiculously early to judge Moyes. He needs time to grow into the position and to build a new side. He needs to offload several and buy well. I for one would like to see more youth being given a chance as has been given to Januzaj eg. Lingard, Keane(s) and Zaha.

Sir Alex Ferguson has kept out of the way so the media haven’t been able to undermine Moyes in that direction. I don’t know whether United will win the title this season but I am prepared to give Moyes more time and let him have the opportunity to be successful. I don’t expect it to be another 26 years between championship wins. Heaven forbid, couldn’t go through that again! Too old to, anyway.

C’mon you Reds!

I am very confident in Moyes. Something I have noticed is he seems to be trying out each player. He had Young in, then Buttner, then Jones and Smalling, Janujaz, Anderson. I think he is getting a feel for how each player performs in their role and if they are worth keeping or not. I think Young, Anderson, and Valencia will go, maybe even Buttner who would probably make a better winger. If we don’t win the league this year, I won’t be too upset as long as we compete. This is more or less a “settling in” year for Moyes. With the exception of the City game I think we have done alright so far. Could we be better, yes, will we be better, absolutely. Just look at what Moyes has done with Everton. Always top 10. Now he is at a team with more money and more talent. I think the first step to shut up most of the haters would be to win the league. I think winning the Champions League would silence all critics. I am really excited for the future of United.

Fergie got the results but things were cracking and he retired at the right time.Only a few seasons ago with Van der Sar,the ball was being booted out of defence all the time and passing was awfull.Recently,Fergie often said after losing a game:well we kept the ball well.but I think we could see the team was,nt good enough .even though they got better at passing .To give Moyes all the blame is a bit like what Obama has had to go through as new president.Moyes team selection has,nt given great results but he has proved that he can organise a good defence as against Donetsk.Time will be the essence with Moyes but as fans we can only hope he gets tactics sorted out going forward.

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