By Rob Cowsill
It’s finally been confirmed, the worst kept secret the whole wide week has known; David Moyes will be leaving his post at Moe’s Tavern in The Simpsons to take the reins at Old Trafford. The current Everton boss will step into the enormous shoes vacated, not by Sideshow Bob, but by Sir Alex Ferguson, following his announcement on Wednesday morning that he will retire to the fine décor of the Manchester United board room.
But is David Moyes the right man for such an esteemed and pressured post?
Evertonians can vouch for the stability and economic understanding that Moyes has demonstrated during his 11 year tenure on Merseyside, and his departure from Goodison is likely to be met with the sort of anxiety their Manchester neighbours will be feeling about his arrival. Consistent top half finishes in the Premier League (averaging 8th), along with shrewd business off the pitch, the perfect blend for a team whose financial situation under Bill Kenwright has always been a delicate balancing act.
But the removal of the perennial relegation threat hasn’t been enough to satisfy all on the blue side of Stanley Park; the void of silverware brought about by profligate performances against the bigger clubs a constant bone of contention (in 43 away games against the traditional “big 4” Everton have won a grand total of zero). In addition, the Toffees rare excursions into Europe have ended more abruptly than an X-Factor winner’s career: –
– 2005/2006 Champions League Qualifying round
– 2005/2006 1st UEFA Cup qualifying round
– 2007/2008 UEFA Cup last 16
– 2008/2009 1st UEFA Cup round proper
– 2009/2010 1st UEFA Cup knock-out round
This lack of European success, and the deficiency of overall experience this has created, is something the Old Trafford faithful will scrutinise over the next few months; especially if Moyes’ occupancy has a spluttering start.
Sadly, and as controversial as this may sound, Sir Alex’s record is tinged slightly by European mishaps – having dominated domestically for 20 years, Manchester United have managed [just]2 Champions League successes under the Scot (the Cup Winners Cup triumph of 1991 pre dating their domestic superiority). On a standalone basis, 2 victories in the premier club competition is a sensational achievement for a club who had only 1 previous success in 1968; but when you consider that Chelsea and Liverpool also won a Champions League trophy during this period a question mark must exist… an issue exacerbated further when you consider the last 2 decades are considered dark days for Liverpool FC. United’s near misses still linger with the fans, as I am sure they do with the outgoing manager, think, Dortmund 1997, Monaco 1998, Leverkusen 2002, Porto 2004, Bayern 2010 and obviously the pair of Champions League Final failures at the hands of Barcelona. In addition, there was this season’s disappointing exit at the hands of Real Madrid; Sir Alex’s post match reaction the first clear indication that his days in charge of the reds may be numbered.
Having now reached their 20th English League Championship and “knocked Liverpool off their [domestic]perch”, the aforementioned results again turn a spotlight on the club’s natural progression; to overhaul their bitter north-west rival’s European record.
The appointment of a successor, “cut from the same cloth as Sir Alex [Ferguson] and Sir Matt [Busby]”, as Moyes is considered to be (presumably not just because he comes from Glasgow), is the continuation of a project that has seen extraordinary domestic achievement, a focus on youth development, and stringent financial budgeting; but with only a splattering of European glory. Is this enough for a club that openly presents itself as ‘The World’s Biggest Football Club’?
The focus may have shifted from national to European competition amongst many of United’s fans, as is has amongst players and much of the media as a whole (as is portrayed in Arsenal’s all out attack on 4th place every season), and the concern must be the perceived lack of dynamism in United’s selection. With this in mind, fans will be apprehensive that Moyes’ installation is too domestically focused in a game that is becoming increasingly globalised.
This issue is furthered by enquiries into whether brand Moyes is appealing enough to the calibre of player that United are, or ought to be, seeking to employ if they are to progress further in domestic cups and on the continent. On numerous occasions, especially in the pressure ties, the 1st XI have come up short (Chelsea, Madrid, City this term), and only elite players can rectify this insufficiency. Though the Premier League encapsulates much of the world, David Moyes is a relative unheard of in terms of European and global football, and this is sure to impact on recruitment.
Having scored a stunning hattrick-and-one against Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals, Lewandowski has been courted by many of Europe’s elite clubs; Bayern, Chelsea and naturally United. But with Guardiola installed and Mourinho likely to put pen-to-paper in a deal that will see him return to the club where “he is loved”, does Moyes have the clout to compete? My instinct is sadly ‘no’. Mourinho and Guardiola are hugely respected amongst playing professionals and the assumption is guaranteed success [albeit at any cost in Jose’s case]… Moyes is seen as a project (risk if you prefer) even by many who should be his most hardened backers.
Of those supporters, polls in the lead up to the announcement indicate the majority will be from within the club’s inner sanctum; Mourinho the apparent fans choice. This suggests Moyes will be allowed time by those internally, but the acid test will be the fans; the majority of which won’t remember seeing another face in the dugout. If on field affairs don’t run smoothly these issues could surface quickly and derail the new manager before he’s developed a taste for post match fine wines. Rumours of Phil Neville’s impeding appointment as assistant may help to alleviate fan pressure however.
It is worth concluding by pointing out the glaringly obvious – the appointment of David Moyes is not the rash, panic move of a desperate board, but the implementation of a long standing contingency plan. It is common knowledge that Sir Alex has a strong relationship with David Moyes which has seen the director in waiting, provide advice and counsel in the past. There may be numerous worries surrounding the appointment, a selection of which I have detailed, but the bond between Ferguson and Moyes could forge a formidable long-term partnership.
In addition, the presence of numerous former players throughout the club, and a settled backroom staff from grass-roots to boardroom level means that the infrastructure is in place for continued success. Expect a period of transition given the mass ‘changing of the guard’: Sir Alex’s managerial retirement, David Gill’s resignation as Chief Executive, Paul Scholes’ impending retirement, and the possible exit of Wayne Rooney – all factors any newbie, including Mourinho, would struggle to overcome. Patience may be required, but that may be Manchester United’s greatest attribute.
The King has gone, long live the king.
Thanks for taking the time to read/scroll to the foot of my article. If you’ve tolerated it, you may even wish to browse my football blog at http://bobbycowsill.blogspot.co.uk/