David Moyes has reached the point of no return at United, writes Richard Jolly. 'What reasons are there to believe it will get better if the Scot stays in charge? There are none.'
It’s time: David Moyes has to go at Manchester United
David Moyes did not apply for or accept the job of Manchester United manager. He was simply summoned to Sir Alex Ferguson’s house and told it was his.
Perhaps that explains why Moyes appears so passive; why, with his team being out-thought and outfought by Liverpool, supposedly their fiercest rivals, it took him 75 minutes to make any sort of change.
Moyes is a man who is allowed a rare level of authority at one of the world’s great football clubs, yet he seems powerless.
He is utterly unable to halt a stunning slide. There have been skiers in Sochi in the past few weeks who have not gone downhill as quickly as United.
A team that used to acquire an irresistible upwards momentum – when they had the sniff of a trophy in their nostrils or when they sensed one of their famous comebacks was on the cards – seem, like Moyes, resigned to their fate.
Perhaps Ferguson can change his destiny again. Maybe his trademark obstinacy will prevent him from accepting that he made a dreadful mistake when he recommended that Moyes, rather than Jose Mourinho, should become his successor.
His sheer force of personality may be too great for anyone else at United to act against his wishes.
But it should not be. Sunday’s 3-0 defeat to Liverpool ought to have taken Moyes beyond the point of no return. It was doubly extraordinary – stunning and predictable at the same time.
To see Liverpool in complete control at Old Trafford was astonishing, while the 43-point swing between these historic rivals in 12 months is amazing in that it has come as no surprise given how dismal United have been.
Their performance level over the past three-and-a-half months has veered between the average and the abject. When the pressure is on, United tend to be appalling. Moyes’s methods worked in the long term at Everton but the longer United spend with him, the worse they get.
It is why he should be sacked in the summer.
United may brand this a transitional season but it is easier to believe that if there are glimpses of light at the end of the tunnel.
They can accumulate sponsors and commercial partners by the dozen, they can compile a transfer budget in excess of £100 million (Dh6bn) and they can trumpet improvements to the infrastructure – although whether a revamped scouting system or a new medical facility would, as Moyes oddly claimed, help attract players is questionable.
It is on the pitch where it matters, where the light must shine. What reasons are there to believe it will get better if the Scot stays in charge?
There are none. Not in the defence, the midfield or the attack.
Not in the home form or the away record, which have both deteriorated in 2014.
Certainly not in the uninspired, one-dimensional tactics or the tame way United accept defeat.
There are no indications of any strategy, ethos or playing philosophy being implemented that, whatever the short-term costs, will bring benefits in the future.
Nor does his record in the transfer market offer encouragement. Juan Mata has only played seven games but it is already clear Moyes is struggling to accommodate the classiest passer in his squad. His old Everton ally Marouane Fellaini has floundered as badly as Moyes.
Together, they cost £65m. Why, then, should United trust Moyes with a further £100m or £150m? Why, too, keep a manager whose predecessor got far, far more from his players?
Adnan Januzaj has had a breakthrough year and Danny Welbeck and Chris Smalling occasional encouraging games, but it is a meagre return under Moyes’s management. Reports of Wayne Rooney’s revival have been exaggerated. The success of his season has been securing a contract worth £86m.
The sense is that Moyes has lost the dressing room. With the club’s new-found fondness for PR, United’s players are sometimes quoted saying they are united behind Moyes and everyone is enjoying his regime. Take that at face value and it is even more worrying: if this is a happy camp, how badly would United play if they didn’t believe in him?
Either way, it is almost inconceivable Moyes can turn this around. The United faithful are understandably wary of making premature conclusions that a manager is out of his depth.
Famously, in 1989, a banner was unfurled saying “‘Three years of excuses and it’s still [rubbish], Ta ra Fergie!”.
Pete Molyneux, its author, failed in his attempts to pension off Ferguson, much to his eventual relief.
A quarter of a century later, Liverpool supporters produced a poster of their own, reading: “David Moyes is a football genius.” That, sadly, is what Moyes has become, an object of mockery for rival fans.
Some attempt has been made to write history, to portray Moyes’s 11 admirable years at Goodison Park in another light. The truth is, Moyes’s Everton were organised and purposeful, coherent and committed. It makes it all the more alarming that his United are a lacklustre rabble.
They are a side stripped of belief, swagger and threat. They shrink from the challenge. They have only scored seven goals in 12 league games against top-nine teams. Even Cardif City, the second lowest scorers in the division, have mustered 11.
It is not all Moyes’s fault. But this is not merely about apportioning blame. The pertinent issue is if Moyes, the cause of some of United’s many problems, is the answer to them. There is a case load of evidence to suggest he is not. It is why he must go.
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