Goodbye to the Wrong One
When it comes to new jobs, early omens often tell us if we’re on the right track. As for the now former Manchester United manager David Moyes, it came only a few days into his reign, in my hometown of Sydney.
Three years earlier, Moyes took his Everton squad, including Sydney-born Tim Cahill, on a team-bonding trip to Bondi Beach. The low-key visit passed without incident and everyone enjoyed one of Australia's most famous tourist spots.
However, when Moyes took Manchester United’s players to Bondi Beach last July, it ended in an embarrassing security scare. The Red Devils were mobbed and hassled by supporters before finding refuge at a local rooftop bar. They had to hide there until bodyguards arrived to restore order.
Right from the outset, Moyes was out of his depth and underestimated the task ahead of him. He behaved as if Man United were almost the same as Everton. Of course, the clubs are worlds apart.
United’s awful results in their pre-season matches were a hint of things to come. They registered only two wins in seven matches and lost games to the Thai All-Star XI, Yokohama F. Marinos and Sevilla.
Earlier this week, I received an outraged email from a former manager of a top four English club. He was furious that Moyes hadn’t been given more time in the job, considering that Sir Alex Ferguson took several years to build a winning team.
As much as I respected this coach, who is also a former England international, I emailed back immediately with a rather blunt response. I told him that this is 2014, not 1986. Moyes inherited a squad that were champions and took them to seventh, despite the acquisition of two new players at a combined cost of £65 million.
Worst of all, the football that the Red Devils played deteriorated from attacking and adventurous to defensive and stodgy. The decline was alarming and took just a few weeks to smash their aura of invincibility at Old Trafford.
Perhaps his biggest mistake was allowing long-time assistants like Mike Phelan and Rene Meulensteen to leave while bringing in his own backroom staff. That took away the routine and consistency on which the 2013 team’s success had been built.
Of course, Sir Alex Ferguson got out at the right time with many of his senior players having seen better days. As good a coach that he is, it would have been difficult for him to have won the title again this season. Third or fourth might have been the best he would have achieved, given the improvements by Liverpool, Everton and Arsenal.
Sir Alex needs to take some of the blame for what has happened. The appointment of Moyes as his successor was a safe choice rather than an inspired one. He let his personal fondness for his fellow Glaswegian override his better judgment. Secretly, he probably wanted a low-key British manager instead of an egotistical foreigner like Jose Mourinho.
Also, the club erred in giving him a six-year contract and unfurling ‘The Chosen One’ banner at Old Trafford. What purpose did either of these gestures serve? Both make the club look silly now.
One wonders how much Ryan Giggs helped or hindered the transition at Old Trafford. It must have been tricky for Moyes to manage the Welsh veteran as a player while having him as a member of the coaching staff.
Even though Giggs worked side-by-side with Moyes on the training pitch, he was also reportedly his major critic in the dressing room. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to deduce that Giggsy probably fuelled negative player power against the gaffer.
Giggs will get his chance now as interim manager until the end of the season. We are bound to see an improvement in performances - they can’t get much worse – but in my view, the 40-year-old isn’t the right long-term solution.
As for Moyes, he will live to coach another day. He is a good manager and a good man. Sometimes though, the chemistry just isn’t right, no matter how hard we try. He may have been The Chosen One, but he was also The Wrong One.
Join Jason Dasey and his experts, including former Premier League stars Emile Heskey, Steve McMahon and Tony Cottee, on BPL Turning Points every Monday 9pm on Astro SuperSport/HD (810/831) in Malaysia.