As we hurtle ever quicker to a world in which Liverpool and their favourite racist, Luis Suarez, become Premier League champions for the first time ever, there are several things that you might wish to consider. The first, most obvious one, is suicide – if you’re dead, you can’t hear You’ll Never Walk Alone, for instance. The second is to book a holiday – North Korea is probably the best place to avoid the media coverage of the fallout. The third is to sit tight, grin and bear it, and hope against hope that David Moyes is kicked out of the club soon enough, and an able adult is given the chance to take over, and make sure that at least next season isn’t as horrific.
It’s all gone wrong. Everything, as Tony Soprano says, turns to shit. It all, as Livia Soprano says, is a big nothing. Let’s embrace this misery, as a way to learn from it to ensure that never again do United put up such a miserable fight against Liverpool again. Let’s have a look at David Moyes’ top five mistakes, and hope they don’t happen again.
1) Taking the job
If David Moyes was anyone else, he would have been accused of hubris. If he were as cocky as Tim Sherwood, or as deluded as Tim Sherwood, or as arrogant as Tim Sherwood, then it would look like he took on the job by believing he definitely was the man for this job, and indeed any job. But the way Moyes tells it, being offered the job out of the blue by Alex Ferguson, while he was in jeans, suggests that he was too shocked to do anything but take it, and couldn’t say no to Ferguson. It’s also fair enough – it’s one thing to think you’re good enough for the job, and another to simply want to find out if you’re good enough, and then quite quickly realise you’re out of your depth.
That’s what happened to Moyes. The look on his face betrays that he realises what a mess he’s in, and so does everything he says and does. Nobody could know for certain that Moyes wouldn’t be able to do the job – there’s no way anyone could know that anybody could follow Ferguson successfully – but there was plenty of evidence to make an educated guess. He’s never won anything, he had no success with any of his more expensive signings, he was not loved by the fans, his style of football was largely unimaginative, and the only truly excellent player he worked with, Wayne Rooney, libelled him in his autobiography. There is nothing to say that he would be a sensible appointment. By taking the job, United took a risk, and so did Moyes. It didn’t pay off, and with hindsight it’s easy to make the case it should never happened. The problem is there were plenty of people who were making that case at the time it happened, too.
2) Keeping Wayne Rooney at the club
He even made a mess of this, too, when he said that Rooney would be handy should Robin van Persie ever get injured, thereby insulting the very player he would persuade to sign a new contract.
It’s been a disaster. Ferguson should have binned Rooney long ago, and he tried to fix that mistake in his final weeks, inventing or exaggerating a transfer request in order to take Rooney to the edge of the cliff at United. All Moyes needed to do was poke him in the sizeable arse and see him tumble out of the club. If he had, Chelsea would have won the league by now, not Liverpool. As well as that, United wouldn’t have been hamstrung by Rooney’s presence and diabolically tied to him for the next four years, too.
Again, it’s been a disaster. Rooney is finished, and all he does is act as a bed-blocker, in terms of long-term planning and on the pitch. His first touch is utterly shot (see Bastian Schweinsteiger getting sent off against United recently. It only happened because Rooney’s absurdly heavy touches led to him almost losing the ball outside the area) and his decision-making is foul (see the return leg against Bayern Munich where he could have passed left to a striker in space, or had a shot himself, instead he dithered and the whole thing fell apart). He runs a lot where once instead he was a savant, able to take on any player in the world and make him look like a wage thief, not the other way around.
As Danny Welbeck proved against Bayern Munich, he is a more effective player. Despite being a less clinical finisher, he is capable of creating chances, running at a top speed over over seven miles an hour, can trap the ball and pass to others. As a starting striker, too, he has scored five goals in seven starts, which is as good as Rooney’s record. Welbeck is now 23, and a better player than Rooney. Rooney’s presence prevents a Manchester-born player from developing and scoring goals for Manchester United. That’s not Rooney’s fault – it’s David Moyes’.
In the last few weeks, David Moyes has hit upon a formation that makes something of the talents of Adnan Januzaj, Juan Mata and Shinji Kagawa, and you should suspect it is through luck not judgement, because David Moyes is yet to show any intelligent judgement anywhere else. With those three on the pitch, they can make the most of their creativity, short passing, first touch and speed-of-thought. Moyes, will ruin that all because he has made Rooney undroppable. To put him as the striker ahead of those three will offer the opposite of creativity (gone), short passing (gone), speed-of-thought (gone) and first touch (as mentioned, gone). Rooney will put a lid on these talents, make play slower, and waste opportunities and chances to exploit, as he has done for the whole season. Robin van Persie, though not hugely mobile, has been isolated to the point we can expect him to leave if Moyes doesn’t, is clever enough to encourage these talents, and is a more clinical striker. Thanks to Moyes we may never see the four play together next season. Danny Welbeck has the youthful verve to complement the trio in place of Van Persie, but Moyes has publicly criticised his striking ability anyway, so that will never happen. Rooney’s there, in the way, on his five year contract.
If Van Persie leaves (and thanks for that, if it does come off, David. Van Persie is unhappy and Rooney couldn’t be more content. It’s what United fans over the world really dreamed of when you took over), United buy another striker – Edinson Cavani has been mentioned too often for there to be nothing in the rumour, even if it probably won’t happen – but Rooney is, as we know, never going to be out of the side. That means one of two things. One, Mata is shunted out, pointlessly, to the wing, and Rooney will be the number 10, ruining every move with his brain and body, and Shinji Kagawa will take his talent back to Dortmund, where he actually wins things. David Moyes though, will be there, patting Rooney on the back. The other option is that Moyes continues to embrace 4-4-2, with Rooney and a new striker, with Antonio Valencia, scared of the number seven, whacking crosses in. And how depressing is that? Not only has Moyes managed to get Rooney to stand in the way of everything now, but in the way of everything that might theoretically happen in future, too.
David Moyes made a big deal about starting on 1 July 2013. All well and good, but it actually looks like that not only did he genuinely only start work on 1 July, but he hadn’t given the job – the biggest and most daunting job in all of football, possibly ever – a single thought. His compartmentalisation should be praised, but his choice to do so is absolutely wretched. Still, he hit the ground running, strong and decisive on bringing players in. Thiago Alcantara, one of the best young players around was ignored by Moyes for so long that Bayern Munich and Pep Guardiola signed him in a few days when they decided to. Cesc Fabregas was pursued at the expense of any other midfielder who might want to join. He expected Manchester United to bring in Gareth Bale, despite it being fairly obvious how that particular dance was going to end.
He did find time to bring in Marouane Fellaini, an act of desperation. The transfer, not Fellaini himself, is the act of desperation, though you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise given his performances so far. Only Moyes teamed with Edward Woodward could have £27 million pounds to spend on a midfielder and end up with Fellaini.
In the winter, obviously, he would have time to lay the groundwork for transfers. Chelsea, for instance, made light work on the return of Nemanja Matic. Moyes and his teams to identify targets that would give him the chance of fourth place, and possibly keep him in a job. Nah! He had found nobody United could buy, and only the ‘opportunity buy’ of Juan Mata arrived, utterly devoid of Moyes’ endorsement. He’s not clever enough to know how to use him or understand him. At least he’ll be good enough for the next manager, you would hope.
It is true, yes, that Moyes can lay some of the blame on Woodward’s incompetence, such as the phantom lawyers who turned up for Ander Herrera, but managers like Jose Mourinho or Pep Guardiola would not so meekly accept such failure. By Moyes’ virtue of being Moyes, he allowed the miserable performance to go on, and then added his own flourishes to the misses and mistakes.
Like desperately trying for Leighton Baines. The undignified pursuit ended with Baines signing a new contract with Everton a few months later, but it also insulted Patrice Evra, one of the most important dressing room figures and most popular player with the fans, Of course, Moyes didn’t care, and tried to replace him as soon as possible. Still, Moyes wouldn’t make such a stupid mistake more than once, would he?
4) Making Rafael unhappy
Rafael goes over my dead body. Rafael is the only player in the team who played like he wasn’t intimidated by Liverpool, and every other player was gripped by The Fear. He might have been tactically undisciplined, but he put in the best performance despite that. He is the only player to conspicuously celebrate against Liverpool in the post-Suarez-is-a-racist match a few years back. He offers an attacking threat that few other right backs do, and is still young enough to improve. He gets United and he wants to stay. If Moyes wants to get rid of him, it’s an admission that he cannot coach Rafael into being a better defender, and that’s a weakness of Moyes, because no other manager would be so fucking stupid.
5) Tactics, plus everything he’s ever done while he’s done at United
He’s made terrible decisions with tactics, and probably thinks that Chris Smalling is a superior right-back to Rafael. His assistants just look thick, and one of them has the nickname ‘Fuck Off’ because his advice is so useless. He bought Marouane Fellaini. He talks about trying, and making things hard, and calling Liverpool favourites. These are just a select few errors in a select top five. The list is almost endless. And now he’s ruining next season, where we can only hope won’t he won’t be there. He’s saying signings will be difficult, and they might not be here in time for pre-season. He is a man who cultivates, encourages and accepts failure. He is a specialist in disappoint. He is useless, and these have been his top five mistakes. I hope they have been fun to read, one after another. There will be more to come, no doubt.