No place for sympathy

David Moyes had a torrid time as Manchester United manager.-AP

At Everton, David Moyes beyond doubt made a splendid job of survival in the Premiership, showing shrewdness in the transfer market, which alas seemed to desert him when he arrived at Old Trafford. By Brian Glanville.

When Ryan Giggs, for so many distinguished years, right into his 40S, a Manchester United star was suddenly out in coaching charge of the team, he could scarcely have made a better start. Norwich City, struggling to stay in the Premiership, were the well beaten visitors to Old Trafford. A United team which had so recently looked sluggish and inept at Everton, the club from which David Moyes joined them last summer, suddenly looked full of vigour and commitment. Giggs himself made it quite clear that, promoted only so far to the end of this season; he would like the job on a permanent basis. However, well United do between now and then, after what has been such a disastrous season, it looks a great deal more likely that the next United manager will be the Dutchman Louis Van Gaal, presently a somewhat reluctant manager of Holland, a job which he surprisingly and publicly says he is all to eager to give up.

Would the United players respond to him as they have quite plainly responded to Giggs? He is something of a dour, controlling figure, whatever his impassive record, not least with Ajax in his native country. Meanwhile, there has been much discussion and disagreement over whether Moyes has been given a fair deal.

Certainly his dismissal was clumsily and insensitively handled by the club, who allowed the news of it to leak out well before an official announcement was made. It is reported that even Alex Ferguson, his mentor and the man who chose him as his successor, regretted the way the dismissal happened. Though, he himself was bound by his position as still a highly paid employee of the club from communicating the incipient sacking to Moyes.

It has been emphasised that Moyes, in the vernacular, had “lost the dressing room,” though this has been contested in some quarters and it is true that the team’s foremost and most highly paid star — at a colossal GBP3,50,000 a week — Wayne Rooney had expressed his sympathy. As well he might since Moyes engineered his phenomenal new contract, whereas he and Ferguson had fallen out, with Rooney at one point criticising the way the club was being run, forecasting failure and understandably displeased when Ferguson played him far out of position on the wing.

But Moyes was certainly not supported or liked by players such as the veteran centre back Rio Ferdinand, who was in and out of the team, and the young England striker Danny Welbeck, who announced that he wanted to leave Old Trafford, and though seemingly good enough for England had not of late been sure of a place in a United team which plainly needed him.

My own view is that Moyes, however, insensitively treated by the club, was never going to be the right appointment, though it was cruelly sad that his last game in charge should have been at his old club Everton, where United simply down and dead. Beaten 3-0, while the home fans, who for some ten years had admired and supported Moyes, now, turned spitefully against him.

What he achieved at Everton was notable, laudable, but had no real connection with what he was expected to achieve at Old Trafford. His achievement at Everton, was simply, you might say, to keep them afloat, keep them, that is to say, in the Premier division. This he did with great skill.

Forgotten and forgiven it seems, though there has been a good deal of mirth at his expense, is Giggs’ hectic romantic life: a euphemism. Three years ago, at the futile expense of GBP150,000, he failed to repress newspaper publication about his affair, as by then a married man with children, with a young model, who told it all to the Press. Worse was to come when it emerged he had had an affair with the woman, Natasha, who married his brother, and to whom he gave GBP500 to have an abortion. On the so-called Twitter on the Internet, one entry ran, “Giggs has ruled himself out of succeeding David Moyes full time as he wants to spend more time with his brother’s family.” Not that morality matters much to a club’s supporters, provided that their team is winning; as United did against Norwich.

And where, in all this turmoil, do the Glazer family fit? The Glazers own United as indeed they own a major American football club, but they have no interest in football as such but a fervent interest in money. When they bought United they managed with remarkable sleight of financial hand to burden the club with their own huge debt of almost GBP600 million, bearing an annual interest of nearly GBP50 million. These sums have since decreased respectively to GBP357 million and GBP20 million. Hardly small change! When the Glazers bought United, Alex Ferguson was initially opposed to them, as indeed were the vast majority of enraged United fans. But as time passed, Ferguson seemed to achieve an accommodation with them and no more such criticisms would be heard. Keith Wyness, formerly the chief executive at Everton, has said, “The Glazers have sweated the assets of Manchester United like no other owner in English football has ever done.”

At Everton, Moyes beyond doubt made a splendid job of survival in the Premiership, showing shrewdness in the transfer market, which alas seemed to desert him when he arrived at Old Trafford. Not adroit enough to sign the key players he wanted, he bought, at a colossal price, the towering Belgian international midfield attacker Marouane Fellaini, who has been a disaster, chiefly notable for the occasional use of his elbows. He precipitately got rid of the leading members of the United coaching staff when he arrived, and unsettled the player with his somewhat severe training methods; not least because quite unlike Ferguson, he was always on training field himself. It worked at Everton; not at Old Trafford.

I still believe that, consciously or otherwise, Ferguson, after his remarkable long run of success, didn’t want to appoint the kind of manager, such as Jose Mourinho, who could eclipse his fame. Meanwhile, there are analogues with what happened when on the retirement of Matt Busby, who dramatically rejuvenated United when he took charge of them after the Second World War, a club whose stadium had been so badly bombed that it couldn’t be used for years and United had to share Maine Road with rivals Manchester City, United appointed Wilf McGuiness. One of the so called Busby Babes, a wing half with no managerial experience whatsoever! With Busby retaining his own office, right opposite McGuiness! “I had to follow Sir Matt in 1969, so I know how it feels,” says McGuinness. “I think David Moyes should have been given longer but then again, I thought I should have been longer as well.” And he reminds us that Ferguson himself, arriving from Aberdeen just about survived an uneasy beginning at United.