Moyeswatch

6 Nov

Welcome to Moyeswatch.  Not quite as glamorous as Baywatch, but we’re certainly seeing more boobs at Old Trafford than we’re used to.

The similarities between this year’s Manchester United and Baywatch are quite apparent.  Unconvincing performances in red attire.  Weak narratives in central areas.  Naive decision-making that necessitates last minute rescues from perilous situations.  There’s even a busty character called Anderson. It’s a wonder David Hasslehof hasn’t been sighted at the Theatre of Dreams.

Where possible, Too Good always likes to bulwark opinion with statistics.  So we’ve dusted off Microsoft Excel and compiled a graph.  The aim of the graph is to give an idea of how well Manchester United performed under Alex Ferguson:

United during Fergie's reign

United during Fergie’s reign

As you can see, the science shows just how consistently impressive United were under their former helmsman.  But what’s happened since Moyesy took over? What’s that done to the graph?  Well, let’s have a look…

Moyes-watch

United under David Moyes

Statistics can be used to prove and disprove all manner of things, but I think careful analysis of the second graph tells its own interesting story. “Vulnerable”.  These are not the words of an amateur pen waggler such as myself.  Far from it.  These are the proclamations of Mark Hughes.  A man so adept at football management that he was, by his own admission, too good to manage Fulham.

There’s a certain irony in Hughes’s caustic words having probably been learnt from the man Moyes is trying to replace.  The remarks confirm one thing for sure – it’s not business as usual this year at Old Trafford.  So much so that Match of the Day recently asked their interactive audience the question “will Man U finish in the top 4?”  One can only imagine the length of boycott that Ferguson would have imposed if such a question were asked of one of his teams.

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The signs were there on the opening day.  As odd as it sounds, the 4-1 score line didn’t tell the story of a Swansea team who comprehensively outplayed United for the first 45 minutes.  It was only the singular brilliance of Robin van Persie that turned the tide in United’s direction.  Since then, areas traditionally of strength for United have repeatedly had their soft underbelly exposed.  Watching Alvaro Negredo treat Rio Ferdinand like a rag doll in the Manchester derby suggests that, at 35, the bell might be tolling for the Master of Merk.  Vidic, too, has looked flaky; finding himself at fault for a number of goals this season.  Most notably, the Serb provided an expertly placed assist for Craig Gardner to score in the Sunderland game.

Moyes’ tactics haven’t helped matters.  If there’s one thing the new man might want to prioritise on his learning curve, it’s that you don’t substitute Wayne Rooney and bring on Chris Smalling in order to close out a 1-0 win at Old Trafford against a recently promoted side.  Shutting up shop against Southampton in front of 75,000 fans?  You’re Manchester United and you’re at home, for Christ’s sake.  It’s embarrassing.  The change smacked of fear, disorganised the unit and invited pressure on.  Southampton duly equalised.

After the 2-1 defeat to West Brom at Old Trafford, Moyes observed that “We didn’t defend well today at all.  But, in saying that, we didn’t attack well either.”  This is a bit of a problem for a team not exactly known for its midfield.  And it is the midfield that, incredibly, Moyes has contrived to weaken.  A £27.5 million acquisition ought to have shored up the deficiencies in the centre of the park.  This hasn’t exactly proved to be the case.

The centre of the Manchester United midfield has been something of a metaphorical black hole for years.  However, the black hole has now actually taken residence in corporeal form, in the shape of Marouane Fellaini’s oversized barnet.  A large black dot drifts aimlessly around the pitch where Paul Scholes used to be. 

The gravitational element of such an interstellar abyss is also present.  Fellaini’s first touch represents the event horizon, beyond which the football is sucked in and unable to escape until all trace of momentum has been lost.  You have to hand it to Moyes for pulling off such a poignant meta-physical analogy.  Rather than simply solve the issue, he has gone out and bought a player that manifests the physical embodiment of United’s problem.  £27 million is probably cheap for such a thought-provoking piece of modern art.

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Ferguson was recently quoted as saying it would be “incredible” if Moyes wins anything this season.  While there’s two ways to understand Fergie’s comment, one presumes that the festive book-peddler’s comments are an attempt to take the pressure off the new boy, rather than simply taking the piss. 

Either way, I disagree.  With the additional sparkle of Adnan Januzaj, he’s got pretty much the exact same squad that scorched the Old Trafford turf last season.  A team that, lest we forget, won the league by eleven points.  Surely, if anything, this is his easiest year?  A free swing with Fergie’s winning bat before he has to construct a team of his own.

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The conspiracy theorists would be forgiven for wondering if Moyes was deliberately framed as a post-Ferguson fall guy.  The tethered goat to be gobbled up by the Tyrannosaurus Rex of expectation.  But this isn’t the case according to the diktat coming out of Old Trafford.  Moyes is here for the long-term.  Six years at the minimum, so buckle up.

Ed Woodward and the Glazer family may yet find themselves with an interesting dilemma to mull over.  What happens if United miss out on the Champions League, this year or next?  Having made bold statements about longevity and continuity, should they stick with Moyes, however bad its gets?  Or should they swallow their pride and look for another “long-term” solution?  

My advice is to rip the band-aid.  I have no reason to be knee-jerk about things – Moyes can spend the next decade ploughing United into mediocrity for all I care.  And I’m all for managerial stability, but not when the wrong man was picked from the off.  Moyes isn’t the man to continue the legacy.  A quarter of the season has now gone – could you imagine United lying in 8th position if Mourinho had taken charge?  It would never happen.  Not in a month of Super Sundays.

It’s going to end badly for Moyes.  Maybe not terribly.  But not very well either.  He just isn’t the best man for the job.  Rip the band-aid, gents.  Rip it off.

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6 Responses to “Moyeswatch”

  1. Alex Bircham November 7, 2013 at 1:02 am #

    First of all, great article.

    Don’t necessarily disagree with any of this, but one observation re the Mourinho comparison – Utd are currently 3 points behind Chelsea. I would argue Chelsea have a stronger squad and an easier start to the season fixture wise. I guess time will tell

  2. Sonny Pike November 7, 2013 at 1:27 am #

    Ha. I misread that as “Don’t necessarily *agree* with any of this”.

    I would argue United finished 14 points ahead of Chelsea last season, so Mourinho (and, for that matter, the rest of the Premier League) have made up considerable ground on United. Perhaps you can elaborate on your argument in a guest contribution to these pages like you’ve promised me!

  3. Anonymous November 7, 2013 at 2:52 am #

    Hughes,

    Excellent post mate. The Baywatch – Man U analogy will no doubt be even more compelling when the Peter Schmeichel home video comes to light.

    Trombone.

    • Sonny Pike November 8, 2013 at 6:19 pm #

      I would imagine the Peter Schmeichel sex tape is one of those things you can’t “unsee”.

      Does David May make a gratuitous appearance near the end?

  4. laurenceparkerbrownbf November 7, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

    Great article as ever.

    One of the reasons Sir Alex Ferguson will go down in British history* is his ability to capture the essence of an idea perfectly in a vivid and memorable form. Whilst the PG Wodehouse’s of the world opt for an eloquence based on an erudite command of language, Govan’s favourite son, though not as poetic, has his own unique ability to crystalise an idea.

    A recent Ferguson phrase has been to guard against nostalgia, “your mind can play tricks on you you know” a sensible way of reminding people that the past wasn’t always better, that Platini, Eusebio and Pushkas might be in part eulogised due to a communal selective memory. Perhaps that we also find it hard to place the present within the context of past events given a lack of perspective.

    I don’t think Sir Alex would object to this comment being applied to a range of situations, even those close to home. Managerial genius that he was it was not as if he won every game he ever presided over. In his time at Manchester United he saw his teams drubbed 4-1 at home by Liverpool, 5-0 away at Newcastle, 5-0 away to Chelsea and recently 6-1 at home to Manchester City. Were David Moyes to be on the end of some of these thumpings there would be one chain of thought that would say “Well it wouldn’t have been like that under Fergie”. The flaw of this logic is that demonstrably Sir Alex Ferguson was on the end of hidings, often to arch rivals too. Likewise he had to lift teams that had been on the end to some pretty humbling defeats in cup competitions to minnows such as York City, Southend and Leeds.

    Can David Moyes emulate Sir Alex? Of course not. There was only one Elvis, one Churchill and there will only be one Sir Alex Ferguson, “there is no question about that.” Can David Moyes prove to be an adequate replacement? Only time will tell and bravo the bloggers, journalists, and fans that enjoy debating the question by the way! Here is my rather tame fence sitting answer. David Moyes is being written off right now but he should take heart from the knowledge that if you take yourself down to the British Library and trawl through the October/November papers from the last twenty years you’d find plenty of articles criticising the inconsistent start to the season Manchester United had made.

    *Pretty sure Sir Alex Ferguson has transcended mere sporting history and will go down as an icon of modern Britain.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Moyeswatch 2 | Too Good for the English Game - January 17, 2014

    […] form at the time of Moyeswatch 1 was not a calamity by any stretch.  It was a mere aberration.  One of those mid-level disasters, […]

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