#MoyesOut – but where now?

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By Matthew Jones

WELL, the #MoyesOut hash tags can now be changed to #MoyesGone ones.

Mission accomplished United. Except, it isn’t really is it. If you’re happy about David Moyes’ sacking, you really shouldn’t be. The last 10 months has been the lowest period at Old Trafford in almost three decades and there are several people who should be as embarrassed for engineering it as the supporters have been at watching our alarmingly rapid demise.

Of course, Moyes himself is part of that blame game, but he’s largely been made a scapegoat for what has descended into farce.

I feel sorry for Moyes, above anything else. You can argue that he didn’t have enough time, you can argue that he had too much, you can argue that he never was the man who should have had that time in the first place.

Moyes, his players, Ed Woodward, Sir Alex Ferguson, David Gill, and ultimately the Glazers – none of them come out of this smelling like roses.

We can debate about what went wrong and who made the biggest gaffs, and I’ll discuss that further, but ultimately, we need a resolution. We need to move forward. We need to recover the ground we’ve lost this season. And quickly. So, where do we go from here?

Do we go long term for the short term with Louis van Gaal? What I mean by this is that while he’s an obvious choice – being an experienced and highly successful manager, who is also available after the World Cup – he’s 62 and probably isn’t going to be here for the long term.

Do we concentrate on the short term for the long term? By this I mean allow Ryan Giggs and the class of ’92 to do their thing for the remainder of the season, return the feel good factor to Old Trafford and allow us to enter the summer with a spring in our step? Of course, Giggs could be the future. I think, one way or another, he will be, whatever happens. Whether it’s in a coaching or managerial capacity under the new man or, as many are predicting, including me, it’s as a future United manager in his own right.

For sentimental reasons, Reds would love him to be given the job full time now. But, if Moyes wasn’t the right man to take over for the reasons that he’d never managed a big club before, handled a big transfer budget, managed extensively in European games or won any trophies, then neither is Giggs the right man now.

On the other hand, you could argue that in one performance against Norwich (let’s not get too carried away by that), Giggs brought back the cavalier, exciting, fluid, attacking, Mancunian swagger that was desperately lacking under Moyes’ dour and dithering direction. What he lacks in managerial experience, he makes up for in passion for and knowledge of the club. He knows what the ‘United way’ is. He was nurtured and tutored by Sir Alex. He knows what the fans crave and how the team should play.

Many believe he has a bright future ahead of him off the field, and Pep Guardiola isn’t a bad example to hold him up next to, of players and club legends enjoying success when swapping their boots for a suit.

Still, bringing myself back down to earth, I do think, this time, we need to go with the tried and tested method.

Actually, my preference would be to appoint Jurgen Klopp. The new Mourinho. Experienced but young. He’s the very opposite to Moyes. Charming and suave, openly passionate, fiery yet absorbing. A true character. He may not have managed a really ‘big’ club or dealt extensively with Scrooge McDuck style riches, but he is and would have been a far wiser appointment than Moyes. He’s won trophies, and he’s won those trophies by going toe to toe with German giants Bayern Munich. He won back to back German titles in 2011 and 2012 and his yellow and black stars also wiped the floor with their more illustrious Bavarian opponents in the DFB Pokal (German Cup) final of 2012, sauntering to a stylish 5-2 win. This was all achieved while playing high energy, thrilling, attacking football. He’s also enjoyed success in Europe. Under him, Dortmund were agonisingly close to winning the Champions League last season.

Klopp’s name was among the frontrunners in the immediate aftermath of Moyes’ sacking but he’s dropped off the pace this week, largely because he ruled himself out of the running for the United job and declared himself happy at Dortmund.

Of course, all that could change once this year’s DFB Pokal final against Bayern on May 17 is out of the way, although I’ve read widely about Klopp’s loyalty and his desire to see out his contract at the Westfalenstadion, an extension to which he signed last October which runs until 2018.

Klopp, like Giggs, could represent the future for United.

As I’ve said, if frontrunner Van Gaal does get the job, I can’t see him being anything more than flavour of the week. He fits a need. A commanding figure who, unlike Moyes, will not dither in the spotlight and confuse his players. Someone who’ll come in and sort out the shambles that has been this season.

After the sharp fall we’ve suffered this season, it’s difficult to argue that Van Gaal is not the sort of figure we need. We don’t need a manager to steady the ship and oversee a transitional period, we need someone who can come in and perform major surgery and get us back up and running next season.

Van Gaal is the leading candidate. The only other likely name that could possibly take over is Carlo Ancelotti. Fanciful too, you’d think, especially with how his Real Madrid team tore Guardiola’s Bayern apart this week to storm into the Champions League final. The talk is that Ancelotti will only become available if Real sack him. They do like to sack a manager do Los Blancos, but unless they get humiliated, as much as they embarrassed Bayern, in the Champions League final and in the home straight of the La Liga title race, the Italian won’t be returning to the UK.

Moyes may have got the sack, and he will and should ultimately take the majority of blame, but his failure is not solely down to him. There are plenty of others to point the finger at.

1) Moyes himself

So many times, Moyes gave us reason to doubt his credentials to manage at the very highest level. His press conferences were drab and uninspiring, and his hypnotically constant use of the word ‘try’ when he talked of his United team trying to win at home or trying to beat the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea made me want to die a little bit inside each time I heard it.

He seemed constantly defeatist, unable to escape the mindset of an Everton manager.

His belief that United needed to ‘aspire’ to the level of rivals City was infuriating. He never seemed at ease with being United boss. Whether it was dealing with press conference questions about Fergie being in the stands or his shoddy tactics, he never seemed to provide a satisfactory answer.

When Moyes was first appointed, many United fans might feared for our fierce traditions of bold, fast, attacking brand of football. They might have thought that Moyes would install a style of football that was more structured, uncompromising, unapologetic and astute. The fact is that we weren’t even capable of that under the Scot.

‘His team aren’t even organised, tenacious or stubborn; instead they’re just a bit crap’ wrote Mirror columnist Nooruddean Choudry. It’s hard to argue with that.

‘Moyes was never the right fit – an instinctively cautious and pragmatic boss appointed to a club famed for its intrinsic attacking swagger’ said the Mirror’s David McDonnell.

Dave Kidd spoke of an Everton side ‘Moyes had nous to assemble but never the nerve to unleash’ in relation to how his replacement Roberto Martinez had transformed the footballing philosophy at Goodison Park.

Kidd went on to describe Moyes as ‘a decent, hard-working man (who) deserved better. But perhaps he never deserved to be manager of Manchester United’ – spot on, I think.

In a statement released a few days after his dismissal, Moyes described how ‘proud’ he was of guiding United to the Champions League quarter-finals, which The Times’ James Ducker said ‘rather sums his reign up for me. In ten minutes, Giggs looked more like a United manager than Moyes did in 10 months’.

Choudry wrote of Moyes’ relationship with his players ‘If Fergie was the fierce, old-fashioned, strict headmaster, Moyes is the nervous supply teacher unruly pupils have no reason to respect or fear. The many articles that have followed Moyes’ sacking pointed to a belief that while he certainly lost the dressing room towards the end of his tenure, he probably never really had them onside in the first place.

2) The players

The players, for me, share the blame for an horrendous season equally with their manager. Moyes may have got his tactics wrong and destabilised the dressing room and training field with too much of an emphasis on fitness as opposed to staying true to United’s attacking traditions, but this is still the same squad that won the 2012/13 title at a leisurely stroll. In fact it’s a better squad, with Moyes adding Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata. Not winning the title could have easily occurred this season, especially with all the other top sides strengthening, but a seismic shift to seventh place and no Champions League football for the first time in 18 years – our the players are better than that.

To not see eye to eye with your manager is one thing, but reports I’ve read since Moyes’ sacking detailing incidents of player insubordination is alarming.

There are tales of Moyes being openly mocked from the sidelines during a European game, in which a player was said to have urged the referee to send his manager off, angers me, while he is said to have endured fractious relationships with several first teamers, notably Robin van Persie, Rio Ferdinand and even Giggs, who urged him to reconsider fining Danny Welbeck, Tom Cleverley and Ashley Young following a night out in the wake of our Champions League exit to Munich. Welbeck was said to have fallen out with Moyes to the degree that on the eve of his sacking, stories appeared in the media that the home town product wanted out of Old Trafford.

In spite of all this, some of the stories emanating in the aftermath of Moyes’ exit about player behaviour make me ashamed and embarrassed to be a United fan, and the players need to take a long hard look at themselves. Off the pitch, I don’t really know or care what the players do in their personal lives, and you never quite know what to believe in the media, but it’s safe to say that on the pitch, very few players can say they’ve acquitted themselves well this season. Perhaps just David de Gea. Maybe Wayne Rooney too, whose goals and performances have at least indicated that he has had the stomach to fight through this turbulent period.

3) Sir Alex Ferguson, David Gill and Ed Woodward

Many fans are loathe to criticise Sir Alex, who’s genius has been made even more abundantly obvious since he left. But, aside from the glory he brought to us, what does it say about the man’s ego that he left Moyes with such a threadbare squad. I don’t think the squad is as bad as some make out. We did win the title convincingly last season, but the Scot’s ignorance of the need to bolster midfield in his latter years cannot go unnoticed.

When Sir Alex departed, so did chief executive David Gill, who was replaced by Ed Woodward. In light of the shambolic summer transfer window, United should never have allowed the two to leave in unison. Moyes and Woodward were novices in their roles. True, Moyes had spent over a decade at Everton, and Woodward is considered a brilliant negotiator on the commercial side of the club, with whom he has been employed for many years, but both of them assuming new, demanding roles, at the same time, was, in hindsight, a recipe for disaster.

Gill remaining in place to at least guide Moyes through his first few months and through, financially, the busiest period of the year, would have stood Moyes in great stead. Instead, the summer was fraught with embarrassment, as United comically chased down targets that Moyes ultimately decided he didn’t fancy and we were left red faced by foolishly pursuing targets that were never going to be available.

In the end, Moyes went back to his former club with his tale firmly between his legs to pick up Fellaini for £4m more than he could have acquired him for had he triggered his release clause at the start of the summer. There were also encouraging late pursuits of Gareth Bale and Danielle de Rossi, except the club left it far too late to get them done, and even the arrival of Mata in the January transfer window was a win for Chelsea, ridding themselves of a player Mourinho clearly didn’t want, at a premium price. Even if the Spaniard is starting to show flickers of the quality he clearly possesses, and I think he will ultimately prove to be an excellent buy, a playmaker was hardly our most pressing need at that stage of the season.

The cherry on top of all this is the Glazers, who despite staying largely silent from across the pond, ultimately had the final say, sacking Moyes, but only announcing the news when it suited the New York Stock Exchange.

While we were winning things under Ferguson, they had little reason to stir, but now that they’ve sacked their first manager, I fear United becoming just another managerial merry-go-round.

I was a staunch supporter of Moyes all along. My patience waned over the course of the season, but I always sung his name at home games, and because I’m a glass half full kind of guy, I always hoped he could turn this season around and bring us success. I know football’s moved on light years from 1986, when Fergie was appointed and had four years before he won a trophy, so Moyes was never going to get that sort of time. But I bought into, perhaps too much, the romantic notion that United don’t sack managers and that my club is different to everyone else’s.

I think there is still an argument to be had that he wasn’t given enough time. Our fall this season though – out of the top four and Champions League places – and the fact that we were playing such uninspiring, loose, incoherent, downright pathetic football has been both shocking and humbling. At the end of it all, I really don’t think Moyes can have any complaints. The biggest factor for me is that if there is £150 million + to spend this summer, I really didn’t trust him to spend it.

It’s become glaringly clear since Moyes was sacked that he never was the right man for the job. Now we have to find someone who is

Your thoughts?

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4 Responses to “#MoyesOut – but where now?”

  1. Great read, Matt. I’m a huge fan of Klopp and agree he would be perfect which makes it all the more disappointing to know that he’s probably out of reach at this time.

    I too think that the club as a whole needs to shoulder the blame for a shambolic season. Whoever comes in, let’s hope they’re decisive in the way they’d like to move the club forwards. United have struggled for identity this season, we need someone to come in and really make their mark.

  2. Good stuff mate, exactly what I’ve felt about this season, those who know me would say that I’ve used the word “multifactorial” too many times to describe our downfall this season, but the reality it is multifactorial! Just like you’ve stated here.

  3. Great article. I would not blame SAF for what had happened for this year. And its not because I dare not to question him, its because he won with the squad. I think we have a good squad, not the best but good enough to challenge for the title. SAF was a genius when it came to motivating players and expecting the highest standard from the players. In the last 10 years for most of them, Chelsea had had the better squad but we had won more trophies.

    I would like Giggs to learn under Van Gaal. Giggs mostly knows about the 442 or 4411 since he learned from SAF and Moyes. And a bit of 433 from our year in 2009 and 2010 when we used that system. Under Vaan Gaal he will learn a bit more of the 433 system and how to play attractive attacking football with the system. So by the time he becomes manager he will implement his own system be it 433,442,4231.

    I read an article that Pep learned from Bielsa and perfected it with Barcelona. I think the problem with a lot of British managers is they don’t learn abroad from different foreign managers about different tactics and different formations.

    Lets hope for a great summer window and a great season for 2014/2015.

  4. Its amazing how the Norwich game was the highest attempts on goal for the season for us. What you quoted was spot on, Moyes couldn’t unleash the Everton team. I think Giggs unleashed United against Norwich, we could have lost the game with an unfortunate goal or went a goal down but we always looked like we could score at any time and that was lost during the Moyes era.

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