What will David Moyes offer Manchester United?

May 20, 2013 in Premier League by Jamie Levitt

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The king is dead, long live the king. Sir Alex Ferguson’s dominion over the game of football has drawn to a close, and it is fellow Glaswegian David Moyes who inherits the red leather Audi throne. United’s overlord ruled for more than a quarter of a century and saw fit to anoint a manager of a similarly cut jib to assume his mantle.

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History has often proven that disobedience and unrest stirs when kings are replaced. Unsettled disputes and power grabs are just one thing David Moyes will have to deal with. Which Men at Arms will Moyes bring with him? How painlessly does he prise any unwanted coaching staff from their Old Trafford oaths? And then, perhaps most intriguingly of all, how much influence will Sir Alex bring to bear on the new young pretender? A shadowy, Alastair Campbell-esque puppet master, influencing affairs over his famed glass of red? Or will he be a wise old wizard, from whom David can seek secrets in dire times?

Only time will tell.

So what are Manchester United getting exactly? Well, if you’ve listened to your radio in the past week, you’ll have been inundated with words like ‘stability’, ‘continuity’ and ‘safe’. Clearly this is an appointment intended for longevity. The anti-Benitez if you like. In a multi-billion pound ecosystem on the same plane of reality as the Geordie Shore (the Premier League), it’s hard to imagine Moyes will be afforded the same leniency in terms of a perceived failure as Sir Alex was when he was first appointed.

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Everton and Moyes were often described as ‘punching above their weight’, but what weight class comes above Manchester United? Moyes will join them in the same month that they have won the Premier League title for the thirteenth time. So what about the issue of trophies? Laudrup, Martinez and Alex McLeish all have more than Moyes, whose trophy cabinet echoes. With limited European experience but excellent recent cup runs with Everton, a domestic trophy would seem the most likely achievement for Moyes in his first term.

Among the Everton faithful, Moyes was frequently criticised for his negativity when it came to expectations; even within the groups who dubbed him the ‘Moyesiah’, this ruffled feathers. I would argue that this negativity was shrewdly employed for two purposes: management of expectations and mind games. Everyone loves a good mind game, especially when managers are rattled by them (see Benitez circa Liverpool title challenge years). With all the attention aimed at the upper echelons of the league, you’d be forgiven for missing Moyes speaking out about a particular referee prior to an important game. These mind games also extended to the Everton players in ways that would frustrate many an Evertonian.

The constant (and currently justified) talking down of Ross Barkley’s prospects and apparent lack of faith in his abilities was a clear move to take the player out of the limelight and force him to prove his worth. As recently as April, Moyes spoke publicly, criticising the attitude, fitness and work rate of Kevin Mirallas, during the attacker’s best form of the season. This one was altogether more puzzling; why take a player brimming with confidence down a proverbial peg or two? While some might point to a rift between the two, past examples lead me to believe this isn’t the case. When one examines previous examples of troublesome players, Moyes has always handled them internally, never hanging ill-disciplined players out to dry. Andy van der Meyde was playing for the club with a failing marriage and substance abuse but he was dealt with privately. Similarly, Royston Drenthe’s issues were also handled with sensitivity. Moyes criticises to get the best out of players he thinks can be their absolute best and have the desire to reach that best.

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This is the greatest quality he has to offer Manchester United. What Moyes has consistently achieved is turning decent players who sometimes have good form into very good players overall, key examples being Baines, Pienaar, Jagielka and Distin. Check out Seamus Coleman for a prime example of this in progress.

This leads me into Moyes’ next best attribute: his ability to sign very good players on a shoe-string budget. While no stranger to the odd £30 million purchase, United’s spending tends to look conservative when compared with some of European football’s other powerhouses. However, there is no question that Moyes will have a significant rebuilding job waiting for him. With the old knights of the realm, Scholes and (presumably) Giggs, retiring, and stalwarts Evra, Ferdinand and Vidic on the wrong side of 30, Moyes will once again be called upon to provide smart, incisive buys.

I don’t believe Moyes would take Baines and Fellaini to Manchester United simply because they were very good in his Everton team. This isn’t to say he won’t try and take them, but only if they make sense within the context of the Manchester United team; he isn’t Harry Redknapp and this isn’t QPR. Of the two stars, I’d say Baines is more likely; United are clearly in the market for a new left-back and Baines fits the bill.

There are reports that in between blubbing and begging, Chairman Bill Kenwright made an agreement with Moyes that he would not try to prise the two greatest assets from the club. The only thing more ridiculous and unbelievable than the idea that Moyes would agree to this, is that Kenwright would possess the savvy to even suggest such an agreement.

The final intriguing puzzle in this piece is Wayne Rooney, hilariously shunned by Sir Alex in his last home game (receiving the lightest of back-pats in the post-match orgy of hugs – watch the replay in super slo mo to catch it). Moyes and Rooney supposedly buried the hatchet and Moyes is outspoken in his admiration for Rooney’s talents. I think Moyes will make attempts to keep him, but let’s face it, he’s lost him before and the first time is always the hardest. I expect a big bucks move to France, but would love to see him at Chelsea just for the trolling factor (once a blue, always a blue).

Undoubtedly interesting times lie ahead for David Moyes. More expectations, more money, more media.

Heavy hangs the head that wears the crown.

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