For the 2013-2014 RoM season review, a whole host of this country’s leading journalists answered a few questions on the season just gone.
Here is just a small excerpt of their opinions.
Daniel Taylor, The Guardian: Well, I had no idea it would be quite as bad as it turned out. I did, however, write at the time that he was the wrong man for the job, and I hope that doesn’t sound like I’m trying to be wise after the event. I always said it was possible to respect the man, and recognise he was a good manager, but to be surprised he was regarded as the best candidate. I mean, let’s not forget Mourinho was out there. Guardiola was free a few months before. Plenty of others too. And the damage could take a long time to repair.
I went out for dinner with someone reasonably high up at Old Trafford a few weeks before Fergie retired and the topic came up about who might eventually replace him. When Moyes’s name was mentioned, this guy started laughing. “Absolutely no chance,” he said. No experience of the Champions League, or winning trophies. Or dealing at the higher end of the transfer market. The idea was completely rubbished (I wrote about it as well, and made myself look a bit daft ultimately) and then, lo behold, look what happens a few weeks later.
Oliver Holt, The Mirror: I think we probably all underestimated the extent to which the influence of Sir Alex Ferguson pervaded the club. He had dominated the place for 27 years and his philosophies, his rules and his methods couldn’t just be dismantled overnight. The Irish journalist, Ken Early, said that Moyes had taken over the hardware of the club but Ferguson had taken the software away with him and that’s the best explanation I’ve seen of what happened.
I know the squad Moyes inherited won the league by 11 points the year before but I do think it had begun to grow old and thin. Moyes needed to hit the ground running and he was not ruthless enough or assertive enough at the start. He wasn’t helped by the fact that Ed Woodward was learning the job, too. Right to the end, Moyes seemed to believe he was building for the future but these days you just don’t get given the time to do that. He seemed to find it hard to adapt to being at an elite club, to the fact that he was now in the market for the biggest players, not bargains. It was all a sour cocktail.
Henry Winter, The Telegraph: Moyes wasn’t decisive, he froze, he was slow to address obvious squad problems and he exuded too much caution in press conferences and on the pitch. He stupidly dispensed with Meulensteen, a brilliant coach who improves players and questions managers. Nobody questioned or advised Moyes. Players also lost some of their edge and intensity without Ferguson, which would have happened with any new manager. Moyes also needed a year of Gill.
Darren Lewis, The Mirror: He should definitely have bought more players last summer. It was an unmitigated disaster to allow an experienced administrator such as David Gill to leave at the same time as Sir Alex Ferguson for obvious reasons.
For example, I find it hard to believe Gill would have left it as late Ed Woodward did to conclude the club’s transfer business and agreed such a poor deal for Marouane Fellaini.
I’m surprised that Moyes appears to have tried so hard to steer such a successful model under Sir Alex in a different direction, losing the dressing room in the process. And I am also surprised that Moyes went into a club like United unable to embrace the attacking ethos has been their byword for over two decades.
I understand completely that he would want to bring Steve Round and Jimmy Lumsden, two of the men with whom he achieved so much (relative) success at Everton, with him. But to cut the likes of Mike Phelan and Rene Meulensteen loose was another strategic error.
Mark Ogden, The Telegraph: Moyes’ man-management was the root of the problems. He just didn’t know how to deal with players who didn’t owe him their career.
It’s fine plucking the likes of Seamus Coleman, Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines from lesser clubs and making them top players, but a different matter entirely when you walk into a dressing room full of winners.
There was a credibility gap, one which widened with the appointments of Steve Round and Jimmy Lumsden. Somebody at the club told me they just couldn’t shake off their ‘small club’ mentality at United, which wouldn’t have helped when dealing with the likes of Ferdinand, Vidic and Van Persie.
The rest of the failures — bad selections, negative tactics, poor decision in the transfer market — may have been overcome had Moyes been able to deal with the dressing room better.