First off, I’d like to thank United for their long-running and very flattering pursuit of me as a player coach, but it wasn’t the right move for me in the summer, and it isn’t right for me now either. I’m enjoying playing for QPR. It’s a right old trek down from Manchester to do my degree at Roehampton. My little boy is enjoying his nursery. And the weather in London is loads better than up North!
Glad we got that cleared up.
Obviously the football news has been full of opinion and reportage on Moyes’ dismissal as Manchester United manager. I tweeted the other day that I thought it was a bit harsh and that I think Moyes is a good manager despite his perceived failings at Old Trafford. So I thought I’d have a look at what could have caused them to have such a bad season. So here goes…
Bad business management from the Glazers
It is widely understood that Ferguson picked Moyes as his successor almost single-handedly. If that’s true, it’s insane. We’re talking about a multinational business with offices in London, Hong Kong and New York and an annual revenue of £363.2 million. Can you imagine a comparable sized company allowing its chief executive to hand-pick his own successor? And then to pick a senior executive without any experience of managing a company of similar size or global reach? It just wouldn’t happen, would it? I’d pay to be a fly on the wall at that AGM – someone would leave with their arse in a sling!
To compound the fact that they hired a manager without experience of overseeing a huge global brand, they also allowed the chief executive, David Gill, to stand down at the same time as Ferguson. I can’t help but think that the fact his replacement, Ed Woodward, and David Moyes had never operated at the very top end of the transfer market had a big impact on their ability to effectively bring in the players they were looking for. Fabregas stayed at Barca, Alcantra went to Bayern, Bale went to Real, Sami Khedira stayed put, Ander Herrera stayed in Northern Spain and Everton rightly told Moyes to stick it when he came back with an offer for Leighton Baines.
The players haven’t bought into it
The team that Moyes took over were crowned Premier League Champions last year. They also got through to the last-16 of the Champions League and only lost out to Real due to a bad refereeing decision. Despite the fact that Chelsea and Man City weren’t really at the races last year, United were still a formidable force with some top players playing at a high level. But this year those players have been a shambles, and I think they have to take a huge part of the blame.
While Fergie sent his teams out all guns blazing and expecting to win, Moyes set his teams up to play with patience and caution, and towards the end both he and his team believed that losing was always a distinct possibility. I think this has played a part in all the rumours in the media that some senior players have been dismissive of Moyes’ tactics, his training methods, his preferred style of play and his suitability for the job.
Having looked at the Opta stats for five of United’s key senior players (Vidic, Evra, Carrick, Rooney and Van Persie) and at their performance overall, I’m a bit amazed to discover that there were no major differences in statistical performance between this year and last year under Ferguson.
The only big differences for me are:
Van Persie had played 34 games by this time last season and scored 24 goals. He’s scored 11 in 18 appearances this year.
Patrice Evra has won around a 25% less of the tackles he’s gone in for this year compared to last. He won 83.5% last year, compared to 68.1% this term. He’s also blocked a lot less shots (four this season, 12 last season). Evra has always been a commitment player, someone who gets stuck in for the cause, and those stats make me question whether he was willing to put himself about quite so much for the new manager.
Goals win games, and United just haven’t scored enough. They’ve knocked in 56 this season, but by this time last year they had 78, and they’ve let in 40 while last year it was 35. That’s a 27 goal difference between this year and last, and obviously that’s gonna make a huge difference.
There’s no getting away from it, Moyes played a big part in his own downfall. For me he just didn’t have the necessary arrogance and swagger needed to be the manager of a top European club. Think Pep Guardiola having a pop at that Daily Mail journalist the other week. Or Ancelotti’s studied responses and his professorial presence. Or Mourihno’s unswerving belief in his own abilities.
Then remember that Moyes referred to Liverpool as favourites before they won 3-0 at Old Trafford, and he went on to say Man City should be seen as the benchmark: those are United two biggest rivals, and United’s fans and owners just aren’t used to hearing those sort of defeatist words from the boss. In my experience, talking like that gives players an excuse to fail. But in the end, there’s one stat that sums the whole thing up: he got 57 points from 34 games, last year they had 84 from 34 games.
But here’s one last little bit of food for thought: Moyes won 17 of those 34 games in charge. That means he had a success rate of 50%, which is more than Sir Matt Busby could manage!