It’s finally happened. At last. Thank the heavens.
If you are a follower of football (or soccer, if you hail from the States), then the news of David Moyes’ firing by Manchester United was inescapable.
As a United fan, my feelings about Moyes’ appointment were met with severe scepticism from the moment it was announced following the news of Sir Alex Ferguson’s sudden retirement back in May of 2013. Most of my friends would even admit that ‘severe scepticism’ would be the understatement of the year, such was my vocal disgust towards the hiring of someone so inexperienced and one-dimensional for the position of arguably club football’s biggest job.
I couldn’t hide my glee when his sacking was confirmed earlier this week. It’s been coming since last July. The honest truth is that David Moyes should have never been employed as the head honcho of an elite footballing institution in the first place. His record at Everton over the past eleven years – and a solid, if unspectacular record it was – never displayed the credentials a manager must possess in order to be suitable for a job this massive.
Football likes to think of itself as big business, but it is a laughable notion at best. Certainly not compared to multimillion dollar corporations turning over billions and celebrating consumerism one gadget/pharmaceutical/label at a time. But if any club deems itself as big business, then it’s Manchester United. A global empire dedicated to selling tissue boxes with their crests on the front in South Korea as well as winning football matches needs a big man with a big personality and a big vision at the helm. Moyes – who to this day has never won a trophy as a manager (the Community Shield does not count) – was none of these things, from the moment he walked into Old Trafford looking like a pre-schooler on his first day of kindergarten.
His awe of the post that he acquired – but surely didn’t deserve (and he knew that, too) – was the beginning of a succession of public naivety that grew worse as the season went on. Fact is, with the exception of playing one of our most promising talents in Adnan Januzaj , Moyes did absolutely nothing right during his depressing, disastrous ten month tenure.
His first act as United manager was to oversee the dismissals of his inherited backroom staff – who have valuable experience in tasting continual success – and replaced them with men who quite frankly have none. The departures of three world-class coaches in Eric Steele (goalkeeping coach), Mike Phelan (Ferguson’s assistant for half a decade), and Rene Meulensteen (United first team coach) in favour of his lieutenants at Everton and Phil Neville (who had never been employed in that capacity) was a sign of things to come. Firing staff with trophy-laden pedigree whose knowhow would prove invaluable so that your inexperienced mates would come in was akin to tossing away your wardrobe of Armani suits and exchanging them for Walmart wholesale couture. It was a symbol of the myopic mind that Moyes was about to bring to the job.
Speaking of insularity, his tactics and training methods were ill-fitting for a club of United’s size and tradition. Ever since the halcyon days of Sir Matt Busby, Manchester United had always prided themselves on their brand of play: cut-throat, swashbuckling football, employing our players to attack in swathes until the final whistle irrespective of neither result nor opposition.
Our identity of daring football was ripped up by David Moyes in favour of long balls from the back, cautionary possession, and an insistence on countless crossing from the flanks. The players were static in their positions without offering support due to the rigidity of the team’s shape, which meant that our de facto route of attack was to relentlessly cross the ball and hope for the best. Unsurprisingly, those tactics would prove ineffectively embarrassing, where we’d not only get beaten by our direct rivals (one win in ten matches against Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester City, Tottenham), but also by teams we should be defeating without getting past second gear (Newcastle, Stoke, Swansea, Stoke, West Brom, and twice by Everton).
The unambitious approaches of play – the antithesis of Manchester United’s philosophical identity – were the direct consequence of the long, monotonous training sessions that were a million miles apart from what the players are used to. United’s practice routines were always skills-based, consisting of short, concise drills for footballers long accustomed to operating at a Champions League level. Instead, Moyes and his former Everton cohorts laid down a system that focused on running, positional training, more running, defensive unit drills, more running – a system that understandably rubbed the players the wrong way, which also led to Moyes being called labelled as a ‘dinosaur in denial’ in some circles.
His mistrust in creativity, along with his difficulty in properly utilising it, paved the way for the team’s downfall too. For the majority of the season, he constantly left out one of Europe’s most gifted playmakers in Shinki Kagawa and bafflingly started the likes of Tom Cleverley and Ashley Young in his place. Moyes did purchase Juan Mata, but it was like handing the latest iPhone model to your great-grandmother: giving away a shiny new object to someone who is unlikely to use it properly. As a good friend pointed out, the writing was on the wall when he started Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Mata in the same team for the first time away at Stoke. We lost 2-1 that day.
The Summer of Ridicule was another window that looked into the ineptitude of David Moyes. Making all the right noises from the get-go about who United needed in the squad, his much publicised chasing of Cesc Fabregas, Thiago Alcantara, and Ander Herrera all amounted to none of these players moving to Old Trafford, and our only signing came in the form of Marouane Fellaini on deadline day for £5 million more than his release clause offered before August 2013. The amateurish methods with which Moyes operated under set the tone well before his inaugural stint as United’s manager began, and we became a laughing stock prior to the Premier League’s kick-off.
Additionally, Moyes invited constant derision with his maladroit manner when in the public eye. His pre-and-post match interviews were cringe worthy to a United fan – Comedy Central to the neutral – and betrayed him as someone well out of his depth at a behemoth of a club, where your every move will be scrutinised. Professing that Liverpool would be favourites against us in a match at our home ground , to aspiring to become like Manchester City and even claiming that Sir Alex Ferguson wouldn’t do well with the team at his disposal (which he did last season – winning the league by eleven points) were chief among Moyes’ sound bites this campaign. They all point to a blubbering inferiority about his role as a manager of one of world football’s elite. We needed a big man with a big ego to succeed Ferguson, and we managed to hire the extreme opposite who maintained an air of defeatism about him.
In the grand scheme of things, David Moyes should never have been appointed in the first place. We can blame the board in allowing a proud, vain Ferguson to insist on one of own to succeed him (Glaswegian, socialist, God-fearing) despite his lack of necessary qualifications.
We can also blame the infuriatingly blind, red-tinted fans who stuck with Moyes, who may like to think of themselves as noble but never looked after the best interests of Manchester United and in the process, damaged this club for the sake of giving someone who is absolutely no good a chance. They dragged this out for many months longer than it should’ve been, and their illogical confusion between club loyalty and perseverance of mediocrity was an alarming one.
When all is said and done, David Moyes is destined to be in the footnotes of United’s history for many eons to come. There is simply no way that a side that just won the toughest league in Europe should experience such a rapid decline in quality, and that is primarily down to the modest, but uninspiring Scotsman. He was rightly sacked, and United’s priority is to recover and get back to where we belong: the upper echelons of England and Europe.