The 7 Mistakes Manchester United Made In The Sir Alex Ferguson-David Moyes Transition

Many Manchester United supporters are panicking at the string of poor results that the club are experiencing under manager David Moyes. In my opinion, it’s unfair to pile all of the pressure and criticism on the back of the new manager. The footballers have got to take much of the blame, but ultimately Moyes is the one who has to face the critics.

Manchester United’s string of poor results are the result of short-term and long-term problems. Short-term, United have been putting too much emphasis on single footballers to make a difference, namely Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie. When Rooney isn’t playing, or is having a rare below-average performance, the entire Manchester United side looks like a different team. Van Persie has a different impact on the team when he plays. His clinical goal-scoring ability makes a profound difference on United when he isn’t injured.

When neither of these players are playing or are in form, the remainder of the team are unable to raise the bar.

Long-term, Manchester United’s issues are more numerous. Namely, here are the 10 mistakes that Manchester United have made in the Sir Alex Ferguson to David Moyes transition:

1. Ferguson papered over the cracks of a weakened side. Despite winning the 2012/13 Premier League title, Sir Alex Ferguson has papered over the cracks of a team for the past 2-3 years. Instead of pushing the Glazer family to bring in better talent from the continent, Ferguson has used all of his connections and man-management to get the most out of his squad without spending large sums of money in the transfer market. Lets us not forget that Ferguson brought players back from retirement or were on their last legs to fill holes in this side. Paul Scholes and Henrik Larsson are just two examples.

The reality is that Ferguson handed Moyes a side that was in much need of rebuilding.

2. Ferguson hired a mirror image of himself. Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to personally recommend David Moyes as the manager to replace him was a mistake. Instead of hiring someone who had a better or different skill set, Ferguson selected a fellow Scot with a fiery temper. Both men were brought up in the same area of Scotland (Glasgow), and had a mutual respect and understanding of each other. By recommending Moyes for the job, Ferguson selected someone that was — at the time of hiring — a safe bet.

3. Moyes removed Ferguson’s backroom staff. By letting Manchester United coaches Rene Meulensteen, Mike Phelan and Eric Steele leave United, against Sir Alex Ferguson’s advice, and bringing in his own Everton coaching staff including Phil Neville, Manchester United had no comfortable transition from one manager to the next. All of the expertise and inside knowledge of Meulensteen-Phelan and Steele was immediately disposed of, and a new team was brought in with new ideas. Ferguson’s legacy and system was destroyed in one fell swoop.

Moyes could have still brought in Neville and his fellow coaches from Everton, but expanded their responsibilities, without getting rid of the previous coaching regime that Ferguson had built.

4. Moyes took an ill-timed vacation. After the news was leaked that David Moyes was going to become the Manchester United manager before the 2012/13 Premier League season had even ended, Moyes had to awkwardly continue on as the Everton boss until the season came to a close for the Toffees on May 12 before settling in at the Old Trafford club.

Instead of hunkering down and using the valuable time to focus on the summer transfer market, Moyes took a vacation and returned to Manchester United on July 1. In hindsight, Moyes may regret the family vacation, given that the first United friendly of the summer was in Thailand less than two weeks later (July 13), which didn’t give him much time to concentrate on securing the signatures of much needed new additions.

5. Manchester United made several blunders in the transfer window. The summer transfer window of 2013 was a crucial period for United to strengthen in key positions. Unfortunately for the Old Trafford club, the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson coincided with chief executive David Gill leaving the club. His replacement, Ed Woodward, had a background in accounting, and wasn’t adept enough to make the transfer signings that the club so desperately needed.

Instead, Manchester United made a desperate move on transfer deadline day, splashing out £27.5million on Marouane Fellaini when United could have signed him for £4million less just weeks prior. In addition, United failed to sign midfielder Ander Herrera, while Moyes said United came very close to making a major signing.

Most importantly, Manchester United’s transfer activity in the summer window failed to resolve the areas of the squad that needed strengthening the most — a creative midfielder with the added bonus of defensive cover.

6. Manchester United’s fear factor disappeared. While much has been made of Manchester United no longer being a team to fear at Old Trafford, I’d argue that the problem is more severe. The main concern is not that teams no longer fear United, but that Manchester United players no longer fear the manager, or give him the respect he deserves.

While it’s difficult to know for sure what’s happening inside Old Trafford or the Carrington training ground, the body language and reaction from the Manchester United footballers is that now that Ferguson has gone, the players have taken their foot off the pedal. You have instances of Fellaini texting while sitting in the stands at Old Trafford. Plus you have former captain Rio Ferdinand laughing behind Moyes’s back during a game, and going public to share his frustration with Moyes’s methods. These are instances that Sir Alex Ferguson would have not tolerated. But more importantly, these are instances whereby the players would have never acted in this manner in the first place if Ferdinand was still in charge.

7. Sir Alex Ferguson needs to step away. Every single time Manchester United lose, draw or put in a poor performance, the camera zooms in to catch Ferguson’s reaction immediately after the referee blows the whistle to signal full-time. As long as Ferguson is in the stadium attending the matches, the narrative continues to be focused on Ferguson, and how Moyes is not performing at the same level as him.

The sooner Ferguson takes a long vacation away from the game, or watches matches in the comfort of his own home, the better it’ll be for Moyes. It’s not going to make a difference on the pitch, but by Ferguson being in the stands, it’s not helping Manchester United at all.


Manchester United are a well-run club with a history of achieving so much success. But the club is human, and they’ve made a catalog of errors that have resulted in Manchester United being in the position that they’re in now. While sacking Moyes may not be the answer, Manchester United needs to make 2-3 sound buys in the January transfer window to make a statement that the club recognizes the error of its ways and that it is giving Moyes the support he needs to try to salvage something from this transitional season.

In recent history, Manchester United are not used to being in this situation. The club has run its commercial departments so well, and has created a global brand. Now it’s time for United to turn its attention to focus on its most important asset — its team of players on the pitch that are led by, for now, David Moyes.

Editor’s note: For the latest Red Devils news, analysis and opinion, visit the Manchester United team page.

22 thoughts on “The 7 Mistakes Manchester United Made In The Sir Alex Ferguson-David Moyes Transition”

  1. It was also a huge mistake how the English media was vetting him as the successor to Ferguson despite his track record of accomplishing basically nothing at Everton. Look at how the managers that land the big jobs at the helm of big clubs around Europe get there. Take AVB, he won with Porto before landing the Chelsea job, Take Rafa he won with Valencia before going to Liverpool and so on …..All I’m saying is that a prospective employee for Manchester United, David Moyes had a weak CV.

  2. United fans have every right to panic. The Moyes era is becoming a train wreck. It took one man 27 years to build an aura of invincibility about United. That has been squandered in less than half a season. Not even Souness did so much damage in Liverpool’s demise in such a short space of time. The results speak for themselves. Moyes is failing at his job with no end in sight. The choice for United is either to give him time to build his own team, or cut him loose. I think it’s getting close to the point of what seemed unthinkable even 3 weeks ago.

  3. Allowing SAF to choose his successor was the biggest mistake.

    No one of right mind would think this job was right for Moyes, to compare EFC and Man Utd is ridiculous. its almost as laughable as Spurs appointing Timnept Sherwood as Spurs manager. The fact he lost to Timnept is quite frightning. However, it is amusing seeing Utd falter, cough and splutter with Moyes in charge. Long may it continue.

  4. I’ve never rated Moyes all that much but even now I can’t completely blame him for what’s going on at United, even though he’s majorly out of his depth.

    The powers that be at that club should NEVER have allowed their manager to leave at the exact same time as David Gill for starters. Ed Woodward isn’t experienced in the role and Gill should have stayed on until the end of the current season.

    The other fatal error was, as pointed out, sacking the entire back room staff.

    For a club that wasn’t used to change, everything changed at once and it’s rocking them.

  5. Hardly anyone thought Moyes was a bad choice so hindsight is, well you know. Would Mourinho have been a popular choice? Definitely, but Moyes was a safe bet and although not proven in Europe, was always considered to have Everton punching above their weight in the league. Except Pep or Jose, there would have been skepticism among Man Utd supporters. Some of those mistakes could have been made with any other manager though.

  6. How does Fergie make it harder for Moyes by attending games? He doesn’t give a damn if he’s at the game or not. How does that put pressure on Moyes? Media just making up propaganda again. I always see that argument and I don’t get it. Warnock said the same thing. If we were winning it would be ok but because we are losing it’s not? Well Fergie got him the job so I don’t see how Moyes would be affected by the guy who’s out of his site in a director’s box. When did Moyes say this bothers him by the way? Stop making up stuff and spreading false rumors. I’m curious why this is all not David’s fault. If we were in 1stvplace with the same team he would get all thr credit right not the players? So because we lose it’s the player’s fault? I call those guys a lot of things but they are all trying out there so no no one “took their foot off the gas” from what I sed they are working hard but are just not good enough. That’s a criticism that’s always leveled when a team loses and it’s just not true. They took their feet of the gas in Spring 2012. Compare the run in to these performances and that’s taking your foot off the gas. These players are a lot of things but they do try. The managar gets the credit when the side does well and it should be the same when they do badly. Moyes doesn’t have the perfect side but 7th and 3rd knocck out at home and 5 home defeats are just piss poor. You guys say that Moyes should stay because you love the fact that Manchester United are down and want us to stay there hence the apologist Moyes articles. Real Madrid are cut throats and the same for Barca and Bayern and those are three clubs plus Milan who we see as the true European elite and I don’t see them tolerating 7th in la liga after 20 games and 4 defeats at the Bernabeu. That’s lack of ambition to me from the club that Moyes is being given such lee way and he has us as the laughingstocks if the world. No Pep Mourinho or Klopp may not have challenged for the title but come on we wouldn’t be in 7th place after 20 games. I keep hearing more time and I’m like Wtf. He pursued three players last season and he got the worst of three. The club have backed Moyes and he wanted to wast 100 million pounds on Gareth Bale who isn’t even worth half that amount. Perez came out and said we were the other side that came in with a ridiculous offer. He himself said he had and I quote ” a Warchest”. Give me logic on why he should stsay and not sentimentality it’s 2013 not 1986. How quick can a side fall from glory now? Milan are closer to the relegation zone than first place. First season or not the Champions league is a bare minimum and if we don’t make it he should be out the door. For all the stability talk since 1986 Real have sacked their way to 3 European cups and Barca 4. Bayern 2 Milan 3. We get no points for sticking with David Moyes and if he were sacked do you see Chelsea City Barca Arsenal Real Bayern Juve Milan etc. hiring him? I don’t at all and it’s because of the style of football he plays it’s less entertaining than watching myself piss and his negative tactics. He took Rooney off for Smalling against Southhampton at home and we promptly gave up an equaliser. He’s to defensive and for all the talk of his tactical acumen i have not seen it at all. The team doesn’t know what the term shape is and we are loose. We leak goals yet we are very defensive against better teams. I thought he would at least tighten up the back 4 and he can’t even do that. Explain to me Valencia starting repeatedly and the same with Ashley Young? He blames everyone but himself and that’s not the trait of a leader. We make the most crosses in the premier league gaffer and complete the least of our crosses. We are 17th in terms of attacking through the middle in the league. Why has Zaha been rejected for loans? He has played 3 games for us. Community Shield sub against Newcastle and starrted the League cup game against Norwich. Why keep him on the roster and have him play u21 games every week when Teams want him on loan? He’s famed for getting the most out of nothing and I can say he’s doing quite the opposite with the squad we have now. Losing to Tim Sherwood it doesn’t get any worse than that for me. I think the reason why the media particularly the British Media is so in love with Moyes is due to him being Scottish and one of “us”. If his name was Carlos Hernandez I doubt he’d be given the massive lee way the media has given him and the constant supply of he needs time articles. I’m not leveling this criticism at you Gaffer or any writer on here but to a lot of the other media outlets in general deriving from the UK. I don’t like it and it leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Tim Sherwoods being hired instead of being castigated by reporters was oh finally a young English manager gets a chance at a top job. I’ve really gone off topic towards a general issue but I hope you see my point with how this connects to Moyes. The BBC is who I level the favoritism comments towards. If Tim Sherwoods name was Pedro Aguilar is bet anything they would have called Spur’s idiots abd would have had a whole lot of bs articles. I think most of us know it’s true if Moyes wasn’t Scottish he wouldn’t have gotten the job or the public championing by the media. It’s sad that we picked a guy off his nationality and similarities to Fergie and not credentials. That reeks of xenophobia to me and that’s what really saddens me that my club would even let a persons origins get into the selection process. That’s just unfair and blatantly wrong to me. Maybe I’m the wrong one but Moyes was selected off of intangible factors and not his own record as a manager. Being Scottish and giving off the appearance as a guy who will be here for thirty years and will bring stability does not qualify you to be Manchester United manager. Chelsea City and Real Madrid needed new coaches so why did all 3 overlook him? City and Chelsea are in the same league as him so they have seen his “Miracles” so why did both over look him again? Chelsea hav a managerial go round and have never looked at him to be their manager why is that? If he’s not good enough for Chelsea and City why is he good enough for us,? Why us Everton ahead of us after 20 games with a much weaker squad? Thats just not right and none of these things bode well for us add the fact that he was a Free agent and we faced no Competition from any big clubs considering most of them got new managers last year. Maybe I’m just a fool and sorry for the longest comment in the history of the site and I really mean it to everyone for it s length sincerely but. I had to get somethings off my chest.

    1. You definitely added a new dimension to the discussion. I guess those in charge are more interested in the sense of ‘stability’ than doing what is right & needed to turn around the season for manU. Other top teams undergoing transistion are above ManU, even everton & that doesn’t feel right. I’m not a ManU fan but what’s happening is just wrong & unheard of. I hope the board,manager,backroom staff etc take decisive actions to stem this horrible tide.

  7. ITs more than that.
    1) Yes Ferguson papered over some cracks but this squad is better than the mid-table form its been showing as of late.
    2) Fellaini was a terrible buy. It is not the type of midfielder you buy when you are trying to make the top 4 or win a title. I said this when there rumors about him and I’ll say it again. You don’t buy a midfielder who’s best qualities are suited for set pieces and long ball.
    3) While Moyes is scottish and got a fiery temper, their managing styles are different. Moyes is more hands-on.

  8. #7 is utter nonsense.

    Please don’t talk nonsense anymore until the end of the season. When Manchester United has finished at least 4th before Liverpool, Everton and the Spurs. And made it to the Champions League Final 2014, perhaps even won it. Thank you in advance.

  9. He plays Giggs for 90 minutes and leaves Hernandez, Kagawa and Zaha on the bench. We’re down 2-1 and he brings on Smalling and Fletcher. At this rate, it won’t be long before we’re battling Nottingham Forest in the Championship.

  10. This article’s tone is that the natural order of things has been upset. The author’s soccer universe evidently requires ManU to win endless championships for the Premiership to be in balance.

    Oh woe! ManU has become a top six team. What are we all to do? Sorry, I like seeing some ripples in the United pond.

  11. It is a little weird that Ferguson is regularly attending games. I mean, I get that he wants to support the team, but it gives the impression that he’s looking over Moyes’ shoulder.

  12. I have been a Man Utd supporter for 60yrs now & when you get right down to it Man Utd only made ONE MISTAKE – DAVID MOYES. When his appointment was announced I said he was the wrong choice, his career shows him as an “also ran” regularly his team finishes between 8th and 12th in the League and, looking at it, so far he is keeping true to form as we are 7th and, to be honest, I cannot see us getting any higher. I just hope that the light is seen sooner rather than later and that Man Utd brings in a manager it deserves to have at the helm.

    1. Wow… So you figured all of this out in 6 months of somebody’s management in the middle of a 6 year contract? People tend to easily forget how rubbish United’s defense was last season too. If it wasn’t for Fergie’s hairdryer and RVP’s goals, we would be exactly where we are now.. No RVP + No Fergie + Same team = currently 6th place.. And if it helps, I’ve been a fan only for the last 20 years.

  13. 3 & 5 are valid. 7 No.
    No 2. Why is this a mistake? A lot of SAF’s qualities are widely admired. So nothing wrong with choosing someone with the similar qualities.

    1 – that’s how you can see SAF’s and his backroom staff’s qualities: they can make things work better. If you see RvP’s comments regarding Meulensteen, you can see that they figured out how to exploit certain weaknesses of their opponent and tailored the trainings accordingly. Efficient.

    6 – is more a result, not a factor

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