by Thomas Patterson
Some people say you need to make your own luck and with respect to Manchester United that hasn’t been the case this season. It seems that United manager; David Moyes believes that his side were unlucky not to go home with the three points on a number of occasions this season. And had United won all the matches he preaches that they were ‘unlucky’, then united would be sitting ten points clear on top. So, how unlucky have Manchester United really been under a new regime?
Flash back to April 22nd 2013 Robin Van Persie scores his second Manchester United Hat-trick of the season and Manchester United defeat Aston Villa 3-0 at Old Trafford, to clinch the league title with five games to spare. Now, Fast forward to February 9th 2014 United sit in 7th place and have just succumb to a last minute equaliser at home to bottom of the table Fulham. A lot has changed for Manchester United in less then ten months, undoubtedly Sir Alex Ferguson calling time on his reign at United and former Everton boss David Moyes taking over as Manager being the biggest change. Of course it was never going to be easy to replace a man of Sir Alex’s stature and I can confidently say most true United fans wouldn’t expect Moyes to replicate the feats of Sir Alex, as his like will arguably never be seen again. However, there was a sense of expectation, an expectation that the show ill go on.
Ferguson built united into the powerhouse it is and in doing that ingrained a winning mentality into the club stretching from the players and backroom staff all the way to the fans. The significance of his departure was always going to felt no matter who took over. Results may not be as expected immediately and I believe Ferguson sensed this in his final speech when he asked the fans to “Stand by your new manager”. However, pressure is mounting on David Moyes only six months into his first season in charge of United. No doubt his immediate future is secure as Ferguson would of made clear to the club to give him time. A luxury not commonly offered by big clubs in the modern game.
The united squad on paper from the one that won the league in Ferguson’s final campaign to the one Moyes began the season with is almost unchanged baring the retirement of Paul Scholes and the signings of Wilfred Zaha and Marouane Fellaini and of course the emergence of Adnan Janazuj. Scholes, was used more off the bench in his final campaign when he wasn’t hampered by injuries rather then a key member of the starting side. The signing of Zaha seemed to be a promising one as the youngster was influential in Crystal Palace winning promotion to the Premier League the season before, however he was never going to break into the starting side immediately. Fellaini, was a rushed buy and cost united a silly amount of money when you compare it to the price united paid for Robin Van Persie the season before hand. There is no doubting Fellaini has quality and has proved that at Everton, but does he have the quality to star in the midfield for a club like Manchester United? I don’t think so. United would’ve been much better served going stronger for another Everton favourite of Moyes, Leighton Bains. He would’ve been a great asset to United’s aging backline and allowed Moyes to spend the money on a midfielder that would suit United a lot more effectively. Adnan Janazuj has been a shining light this season for United, the 18 year old who has featured for the past few seasons in United’s reserves, his rise has seen him become a favourite of David Moyes and his talent is undisputed and will grow to become an integral part of United’s starting side in years to come I have no doubt. The common trends with all these inclusions are that they are not world-class players. When you look at the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal they have strengthened their squad with world-class talents. Sure, it makes it difficult for the manager to pick his starting side, but the depth is crucial when you look at the amount of matches these teams play throughout the season.
The biggest mistake, in my opinion, that Moyes made when he joined United was not strengthening his squad significantly; but replacing the entire backroom staff with his own. I understand that any manager is allowed to pick and choose his coaching staff and I have no arguments against that. But I feel that Moyes underestimated the leap from Everton to one of the biggest clubs in the world in Manchester United, with no disrespect to Everton, but United is a different kettle of fish.
United had a highly respected trio working behind Sir Alex for a number of years in Mick Phelan, Eric Steele and Rene Meulensteen. Together, they have won almost everything the game can offer. There was no doubt that Moyes would decide who his right hand men would be and inevitably told the trio that their services would no longer be required. Positively, he replaced them with men he worked with and trusted at Everton in Steve Round, Jimmy Lumsden and Chris Woods while, promoting rookie coach and ex united and Everton player Phil Neville to the role of first team coach and Ryan Giggs as player/coach. There are no arguments in what Moyes has done with his coaching staff, as any new manager has the right to pick and choose his coaching staff. However, replacing a well trusted, successful and winning formula with one yet to win a thing, raises questions. He has disrupted a strong coaching community at the club, which had a solid connection and understanding of the players and how they worked and vice versa. They knew how to win and how to deal with the stresses of a club the size of Manchester United.
Moyes decision to disrupt such a successful group of coaches has been his biggest downfall since taking the reigns. Being successful with Everton and then trying to put the same methods to practice at Manchester United was never going to work. Everton are a proud club and have done well over the years to compete with the big guns of English football on limited budgets and resources. But, they simply do not compare with Manchester United in all facets on and off the pitch. His inability to attract top class players, until the recent signing of Juan Mata from Chelsea has come under spotlight and as has his coaching techniques, which were inevitable, had results not been favourable.
Moyes has had a tough start to life at Manchester United, and I imagine that had he had his time again, he might have approached the roll differently in regards to his coaching staff. Having that experience and winning mentality amongst your closest aides might’ve proven invaluable for his first season at least at United. It would’ve created a sense of familiarity amongst the club, familiarity being something they are so use to at Manchester United. Replacing the like of Sir Alex was never going to be an easy task no matter who you are and most united fans would’ve expected inconsistency as the squad and club deals with such a significant change. However, they would not of expected the lack of hunger and poor performances that have been frequent thus far. The recent signing of Juan Mata is a step in the right direction for Moyes and Manchester United as they approach a period of rebuilding. However, if United fail to qualify for the UCL, which is becoming an increasingly tougher task, then Moyes could find it difficult to attract and rebuild his team with world-class players and in tern find it difficult to keep his job. The next two months will be crucial for Moyes and United if they are to build any momentum for the run in. I wouldn’t write them off yet, if Mata, Rooney, Van Persie can begin to gel and we see more of Kagawa then results might start to pick up. If this EPL campaign has proven anything, it’s that nothing is a given. It’s going to be close at both ends of the table, but as for United they need to start picking up the 3 points if they are to have any chance at a top four finish. It’s certainly squeaky bum time for Manchester United, it will be interesting to see how they deal with the pressure.