We were in the middle of series of articles looking at United’s unbalanced squad, identifying weaknesses and the areas that need to be strengthened over the summer. We will return to those articles in due course as whoever comes in, a change of manager will not make those weaknesses automatically disappear. But we cannot allow the events of the last couple of days to pass without a diversion to consider David Moyes and his time as our manager.
The first thing to say is that David Moyes is a decent man. He may not, on reflection, have been the right man for the United hot seat but he has conducted himself with dignity throughout his time at the club. Celebrated by United and many fans as ‘the chosen one’ he was in many ways a man in Sir Alex’s own image. Moyes is a hard working Scot, organised, methodical and meticulous. However he appears to be more about perspiration than inspiration and ultimately his hard work has not been enough to inspire those around him or make up for a lack of clear strategy.
United were always going to need a strong character to follow Sir Alex and his two decades of success. Unfortunately Moyes is tactically conservative and we are left with the impression that he has gone without ever grasping the nettles that needed to be grasped. This caution was reflected in his tactical approach. He arrived with a reputation as a manager who adapts his tactics to counter the opposition, a constant criticism throughout the season. All too often his team didn’t set the agenda in games but surrendered the initiative, often inviting the opposition on. There have been stories that from early in the season he instructed United’s central midfield players to sit deep. If true, this tactic simply didn’t work, as United’s shape often became stretched, leaving a gap between the front four and the back six which opponents exploited. Time and again in matches the front four pressed and the back six sat deep, leaving a space into which everyone could flood on the break after having absorbed an early period of United pressure.
It also appears that Moyes has not been assertive enough in dealing with squad issues, whether in terms of addressing weaknesses in the squad or coping with unrest. In fairness to Moyes we would make two points. Firstly, he was severely hindered in attempts to strengthen last season by the change in CEO which, disastrously, was made at the same time as the change in manager. The club must take the blame for that mismanagement. Secondly, those players who have not bought into the Moyes project should take a long hard look at themselves. Whether or not Moyes was the right choice, they have an obligation to make the most of the situation and always give 100% for the supporters and the shirt. Whoever comes in as the new manager needs to address this issue on Day One.
Many people appear to have lost faith in Moyes recently, having initially given him the benefit of the doubt in the early part of the season. It can take any manager a period of time to establish himself and get his ideas across to a new set of players, but a seeming lack of progress, not necessarily in respect of results, but certainly in respect of the way United have played has seen faith in Moyes disintegrate in recent weeks. One constant criticism has been the lack of a plan B, both across the season but also in individual games. Moyes has tended to tinker to counter the opposition from match to match rather than be bold with tactical strategy, (again is this sign of his inherent caution). When things haven’t being going well in a match he has changed personnel, but rarely team shape. If it isn’t broken don’t fix it, but if it isn’t working surely there is a need to try something else. Sir Alex was not a tactical genius but he would make changes during games, often resulting in United’s trademark late comebacks.
This lack of progress across the season has been a cause of growing frustration. United’s season hasn’t exactly flat lined, although their League position has been fairly constant around 7th or 8th. Whenever United looked to be turning a corner or have enjoyed a run of decent results a hammer-blow result has seen a mini-peak become a trough, deflating confidence and optimism in an instant.
The form in January, recent results against Liverpool, City and Everton have each in turn seen huge swaths of support disappear. For manutdtactics.com the most significant events have been the signing and subsequent use of Juan Mata. Mata is a class act and so one was looking for David Moyes to find a way of using his skills to maximum affect. But the manager doesn’t seem to have had a plan for how best to use him, (and the same could be said of Kagawa’s undoubted abilities prior to Mata’s arrival). We have already talked about our unbalanced squad and our surfeit of Number 10’s in previous articles, but after Mata’s arrival David Moyes had to define a method of getting the most out of our wealth of attacking talent. How do you combine van Persie, Mata, Rooney, Januzaj and Kagawa? That might not be possible, but shunting Mata out to the right wing appears to show a lack of judgement. Only an injury to van Persie has created an opportunity for Mata to play centrally and this has seen the new man instantly have a greater impact as he has developed an understanding with Rooney and Kagawa. Of course this has seemingly all happened by accident rather than by design and that does not reflect well on the manager.
Despite this manutdtactics.com feel that Moyes, (or any manager), should have been given longer than one season, especially when he has been left with a patchy, unbalanced and in some areas ageing squad. Perhaps Moyes would have learnt lessons from his experiences this year which would see a stronger United emerge next season. Sadly the recent signs have suggested that this is as unlikely as likely, so perhaps it is a better option that United make a break now and start afresh.
We wish David Moyes well in the future; as we said at the outset he is a decent man and he should not be blamed for accepting the job. Blame can be attached to those who offered him the job. Everyone makes mistakes but responsibility for choosing the wrong man must sit with both Sir Alex for recommending him and the Glazer family for accepting that recommendation. There does not appear to have been a robust process last year in the selection of the new manager. As with a change of CEO in parallel to the change of manager that is mismanagement. We can only hope that this next decision has been planned, (rumours suggest that the decision was made in February), and that with the World Cup summer looming progress has been made towards an appropriate appointment.
The club cannot afford to make similar mistakes this summer; they cannot afford to get this decision wrong.