The Wrong Choice?

In charge of Manchester United that was crowned Champion of England in May, David Moyes has overseen its fall from grace, less than halfway into the current campaign. By Aakash Vinay.

Even in the surreal world of football, it is unheard of a departing manager picking his successor. But such is Alex Ferguson’s legacy — 39 trophies in 26 seasons with Manchester United — that he was given the privilege of earmarking David Moyes as the man to take over the Old Trafford reins. However, the ‘Chosen One’ may not be the man for the task at hand.

In charge of the team that was crowned Champion of England in May, Moyes has overseen its fall from grace, less than halfway into the current campaign. A long way off the top spot, the title defence is out of the question. Even a top-four finish will take a titanic overhaul.

The fault, though, is not entirely his. Granted, that he exceeded expectations during a decade at Everton and led the Merseyside outfit to a record fourth-place finish and a few Cup finals, but that in no way justifies Ferguson’s decision to name Moyes, with no silverware to his credit, to take over the mantle at Old Trafford.

And with five home defeats — the last four within the space of a month, the results have been disastrous. Everton has registered its first league win at Old Trafford since 1992 this season, Newcastle its first since 1972, Tottenham for the second straight year, after 23 years without a win, and Swansea for the first-time ever (in the FA Cup). The so-called, ‘Theatre of Dreams’ has turned into a rostrum of nightmare for the United faithful. Moyes’ team, though, bucked the trend recently, beating Swansea at home in the League, exacting sweet revenge.

To be fair to Moyes, the team he inherited is not on the same level as the Manchester United sides of old, that cruised to the title, under Ferguson. Having possibly made the decision to retire, the older Scot signed Robin van Persie, ahead of his farewell campaign, and it was the Dutchman’s early season blitz that spearheaded the Red Devils to the title.

Van Persie’s personal form took a nosedive at the turn of the year and United was not as dominant as it normally is, but it did just about enough to cross the finish line. This season, apart from Ferguson’s guidance, United has also missed van Persie’s goals. The Dutchman, despite an early season salvo, has been sidelined through injury.

Having failed to draw any marquee signings in the summer, Moyes has struggled with a team that is just not good enough to make the cut. With the Merseyside blue of Everton, Moyes’ biggest challenge was always his opposition. At United, it has become equally difficult to manage his squad.

Striking and defensive woes apart, United’s midfield lacks an attacking fulcrum that can provide a dominating force; the trademark of the Moyes system. United’s only summer signing, a midfielder by the name of Marouane Fellaini, might just have fit the bill. But, the tall Belgian has since found himself lost in a stadium that is used to free-flowing, flank-attacking football. His presence might even go unnoticed at times. His signature, as evident, was not enough.

Moyes is finding it hard to thrive in the big league. Punching above your weight with an average team, operating on a shoestring budget and getting the best out of mediocre players are one set of skills. But, managing superstar egos, charting out title-winning tactics and grinding out results at the highest level is quite another. Already missing Ferguson’s understanding of United, Moyes’ decision to fire the former’s backroom staff was almost suicidal. With Eric Steele, Mike Phelan and Rene Meulensteen by his side, the 50-year-old would’ve been able to ease himself into the scheme of things at Old Trafford.

There is also the matter of Sir Alex’s aura. United’s drive to win was so great that one wondered what motivated the team more; the victory itself or the desire to escape the wrath that followed a poor result. That aura of invincibility has many a time sparked a win from the jaws of defeat. Moyes is still a long way off in this regard.

Looking at United’s campaign, it would be safe to assume that Moyes is the wrong choice. If his boat is still floating, it is probably because he was handpicked by Ferguson and also perhaps because it would have been equally tough for anyone else to take over a team that was managed by the same man for over a quarter of a century.

For what it’s worth, Ferguson took three and a half seasons to win his first trophy. And for all you know, Moyes might yet turn this around and the early struggle may soon be forgotten.

After all, this is football. Stranger things have happened!