Not Totally To Blame

April 24, 2014 at 3:37 pm Leave a comment

When you are down in sport sometimes it feels as if you cannot go any lower, only to discover that there is still a darker depth you failed to see. David Moyes is no doubt feeling that way as every day after his sacking at Manchester United he suffers more ridicule and more betrayal.

When he took over he knew the task he faced. When he took over he no doubt knew that Manchester United’s share price had to perform at a certain level just as  the team on the park had to.

Sir Alex Ferguson was a unique manager just as Brian Clough was during his time at the top. Both were managers of the like we will never see again. The reason being the game has changed. Clough would have been 79 last month had he still been alive. Ferguson will be 73 this year. These two men played in a very different era and moved into management at a time when the Manager ran the football club. Both, because of their success, got away with things that manager’s today would find themselves up in front of Human Resources for industrial bullying. It is funny though, how both managed to get the best out of players, many playing their best football under each man. Both also even if disliked, commanded respect.

The truth is David Moyes was never going to be allowed to act or run the club the way Sir Alex Ferguson did; he probably would not have wanted to, and would not know how. Moyes is 22 years younger than the man he replaced, when he started out on his playing career with Celtic in 1980 Sir Alex had been a manager for six years.  Sir Alex had been a manager for 40 years when he stepped aside last year after 26 years at Manchester United. David Moyes had 18 years experience by comparison; only twelve of those in top flight football. Sir Alex moved to Manchester United after 12 years as a manager. He was fortunate that after one season at St Mirren he found the club promoted to the restructured Scottish First Division. Promotion the following season took them to the Premier League, soon after he moved to Aberdeen and led them to the Scottish title and smashed the stranglehold of Rangers and Celtic; something few managers have managed since. All at a time when Clough was winning with unfashionable Nottingham Forest across the border. All unlikely to ever happen again.

There will never be another Ferguson, and there will never be a manager allowed to run a club the way he was allowed to. As one British tabloid wrote “It was draconian management but it worked.”

As more and more stories of discontent start to come out of Old Trafford, something that was unheard of in the past half a century, it appears to highlight once again that when players are earning a great deal more than the coach, you are heading into dangerous territory. One thing that is clear is that with the ‘Ferguson pressure’ off the players relaxed. Respect has to be earned of that there can be no doubt, but the players need to ask themselves would they have behaved the same way under Sir Alex? If the answer is “no” then they have let the club and the fans down, as well as the manager.

This is not to say that Moyes is without fault, but some of the stories the press have dredged up seem nothing more than mud raking.

It has been reported that when Shinji Kagawa arrived so late for the flight to Munich this month he was fast-tracked through departures by United’s security staff, apparently “he did so with a fixed smile on his face hinting that he really did not care.” How do we know that to be the case? Could it simply have been a smile of embarrassment?

Then there is the tale of the game against Olympiakos in Athens. Moyes was arguing with the fourth official when a cry of ‘Send him off,’ came from among the substitutes. ‘We would be better off without him.’ Disgraceful behaviour in any so called “team.” Was the player punished? Will we ever know? Does that player deserve to wear the famed colours of Manchester United again? Such conduct drags down the name and the standards set by this great club.

We now hear that on the flight home after that game Moyes was seen reading a management self-help guide called “Good to Great.” Needless to say it prompted sniggers from the players, and many say that that was the moment all respect evaporated.  The players reaction is predictable, but what is wrong with someone wanting to improve themselves, or looking for ways to do things better? Would the reaction have been the same if he had been reading Jonathan Wilson’s excellent “Inverting the Pyramid,” a book that looks at the evolution of football tactics and formations from the games early days to the modern 4-5-1 formation? Would that have shown he did not know anything about football tactics?

The fact is many coaches call in experts in key areas to improve their own knowledge and also to gain a different perspective of things. Most of the top coaches are always reading various books to try and improve the way they do things. Sadly Moyes maybe chose the wrong environment in which to do so.

There is no doubt Moyes knows himself that he got some things wrong. No doubt second time around he would do things a little differently. The sad thing is after 26 years of Ferguson many people were set in their ways, they did not want to change, and he maybe pushed too hard to stamp his own mark and met with opposition. He was undoubtedly naive, and at times too trusting in whom he spoke to.

One thing that never happened at Old Trafford in the past was leaks to the media. This season they have been rife. That cannot be solely Moyes’ fault and the club needs to address this and move on the player or players concerned to send a clear message before the new manager takes over.

By all accounts Moyes hated the ‘Chosen One’ banner draped in his honour at the Stretford End, and who can blame him. He felt that it implied the job had been gifted rather than earned, and maybe that was his downfall. He was so desperate to prove that he had earned the right to be at Old Trafford he abandoned the simple things that had made him one of the most sought after young managers in Britain. Let us not forget that Moyes was just the fourth manager in 2012  after Alex Ferguson, Arsène Wenger and Harry Redknapp, to record 150 wins in the Premier League.

Brian Clough failed horribly at Leeds United when they were the toast of English Football. HIs tenure was shorter than Moyes’ and far more acrimonious. He bounced back at Nottingham Forest and will never be forgotten. Let us hope that David Moyes too can bounce back too and that he can bring similar success to a club who decides to look past the last eleven months.

(for the record the writer does not support Manchester United!)

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