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.