At this point in the Barclays Premier League season, most Manchester United supporters expect to be at, or near, the top of the league. After all, United finished first or second every year since the 2005-2006 season. But things changed, most notably the retirement of legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson, and the hiring of David Moyes. After some inconsistent performances, many supporters struggle managing their expectations, riding their emotions to the point of asking for Moyes to be fired one week and supporting him the next. It’s this emotional, up and down ride that has divided United’s supporters on how to treat their new manager.
Currently, United are 7th in the table and 14 points from the top, a far cry from what they’re used to. With 13 Premier League titles, 2 Champions League titles, and many others, Ferguson made United the English standard. But more importantly, Ferguson achieved that success through a philosophy that encouraged his players to always go for the win. In many matches, settling for a draw or avoiding a loss comes to mind. At United, those thoughts are blasphemous and Ferguson’s philosophy inspired his players to be confident and consistently be aggressive. This led to many late wins and instilled fear in opponents that United would always find a way to win.
With Moyes in charge, this hasn’t been the case, and United supporters are not seeing the same consistent aggressiveness displayed under Ferguson. This year’s United has played inconsistently, seems a bit tentative, and are being attacked rather than attacking. United’s inconsistent play has led to inconsistent results.
A big source of frustration is that with basically last year’s championship team, Moyes should be able to just pick up where Ferguson left off. But how often does that actually happen? Not often, or results would always be the same and dynasties would never die. The fact is that people must adapt when there’s such a big change in leadership. How Moyes relates to the players he’s been given is different than how Ferguson related to those players. Moyes needs time to learn to relate to his given players, bring in his own, and then establish his chosen style of play.
To escape these turbulent times, many have called for the firing of Moyes, Ferguson’s hand picked replacement. What is ironic is that those same supporters are now questioning the judgment of the man they trusted almost implicitly as their manager. Retirement didn’t lead to Ferguson losing his understanding of football, and more importantly, understanding what it takes to be a successful manager at United. It’s possible they have become so comfortable with their club’s success that they’ve forgotten what it takes to earn that success in the first place.
Those doubting supporters also compare the records of Ferguson and Moyes as proof that he is not United material. One thing that is often brought up is that Moyes never won the league. But managing at Everton and United are far different matters. Everton never had the same caliber teams as United, so Moyes had to maximize the talent he had, often through a more measured style of play. He was extremely successful, turning Everton into a consistent threat for a top four spot. At United, he needs time to understand how to accomplish his new goal of winning titles.
More rational United supporters understand an adjustment period is natural, as even the great Sir Alex Ferguson needed time to adjust. Appointed manager on November 6, 1986, he didn’t win his first trophy until the 1989-1990 season and didn’t win the league until the 1992-1993 season. That’s 3 years until a trophy and 6 years until a league title. What appears clear is that if you want the type of success achieved under Ferguson, it takes time. It took time to buy his players, instill his philosophy, and establish a consistent winning culture.
So far this season, United has shown both an aggressive style of play and a more tentative approach. If United want more consistent results, Moyes needs time to establish a consistent style of play. Asking for Moyes to lead at a championship level in a little over 3 months, when it took Ferguson 3 years, is an unreasonable request. Don’t forget, the players need time to adjust too. Luckily, United’s performance against Aston Villa this past weekend provides proof that Moyes just might be on his way to establishing how he wants his new team to consistently play.
It’s natural to overreact to inconsistent performances when you’re used to consistently challenging for the league title. But the more rational supporters know, you need to stay calm, and just look at the history of the club and your retired leader. First, manage expectations by understanding that managing United is very different than managing almost any other club. Second, Ferguson was given time to adjust, so give Moyes time also. Third, by supporting Moyes, you create the platform for him to establish consistency and find his own success at United.
In short, United supporters can choose to continue to ask for Moyes to be sacked or follow Ferguson’s last decree and support Moyes the way they supported him. If they manage their expectations, be patient, and choose the path of full support, they allow Moyes to establish his own dynasty at United. And after all, isn’t the joy of supporting United about being part of a dynasty?