Anyone remember a player by the name of Teeratep Winothai? Yes? No? David Moyes may not recall him but Winothai scored the winner for the Singha All Star XI as Manchester United succumbed 1-0 in the Scot’s first game in charge of the Red Devils.
Though the result seemed harmless enough, it was nonetheless an inauspicious start to David Moyes’ tenure as Manchester United manager. As far as omens go, it’s fair to say that the result certainly wasn’t a good sign.
Moyes’ time at Manchester United though was not the tale of a man cursed with a ridiculous amount of bad luck, but of a manager who was promoted above his station and made numerous preventable mistakes.
Eyebrows should have been raised right at the beginning of the season when Moyes complained about the opening fixtures that saw United face Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City in the first five games. It revealed a negative mindset that would permeate to the players at Old Trafford.
Sir Alex Ferguson admitted he would have “raged” at the opening set of fixtures had he still been in charge but you suspect that he would have relished the challenge to get a head start over United’s rivals and give the Old Trafford club immediate momentum in defense of their title.
Moyes though didn’t seem to accept the challenge and instead of trying to make an immediate positive mark to buy himself time, he reverted to what came most naturally to him: playing with caution. His subsequent suggestion that the fixture list may have been “rigged” didn’t hint at a man who was comfortable breathing the rarefied air that managing one of the biggest clubs in the world brings. If anything, it betrayed a small-time mentality.
The narrative over the season especially from his backers has been that Moyes needed time to build his own Manchester United. But the question is: did Moyes do anything over the course of the season to earn himself the time his supporters insisted was needed to rebuild United?
Moyes did start building his Manchester United team at the backroom level, dispensing of the services of Mike Phelan, Eric Steele and eventually Rene Meulensteen, against Ferguson’s advice, and bringing in Steve Round, Phil Neville, Chris Woods, and Jimmy Lumsden. In hindsight that was the first of many errors.
Under his guidance, United failed to defend their title with any purpose and missed out on Champions League qualification. They were embarrassingly knocked out at home in the third round of the FA Cup by Swansea, and soon after ousted out of the League Cup semifinal by Sunderland in a farcical penalty shoot-out. The morass of unwanted records built up during the Moyes era cannot be blamed on bad luck alone.
Oddly enough, given Moyes’ lack of European experience, his best results have come in the Champions League as United qualified top of their group and went through to the quarterfinals. But even then there was the debacle away to Olympiacos, which reportedly led to questions being raised at board level about Moyes’ suitability as Manchester United manager.