Moyes.

Moyes. Was already a fascinatingly gruelling ‘affair’ for all of us, crying out for a resolution…

At the centre the frankly dour scot being worn down by the arrogance of players and agents and the blistering levels of flak; at the heavily shepherded perimeter us lot, either exasperated or cruelly elated, depending on our degree of manc or mickeyness.

Wherever you go, people have been either stirring or cursing or holding forth: maybe, on reflection, that’s wonderful? Except that (excruciatingly) The Undeserving – the non-footie peeps, those who really might munch those prawn sarnies should they ever actually attend a match – have also been fog-horning their opinion. Because United are that MASSIVE that everyone feels entitled. Meaning the ether (and us lot, right?) are subsumed under a shit-storm of dumb ‘reactions’. To which I will now… add.

Whatever the ownership rights may be to discussions over his fate, Moyes will surely be distraught. The word damaged may be an unwise one to use but that’s surely where we are?

At the key football level some have recently noted signs that the dressing-room may be lost but we can’t be certain of the whens and wheres of that – not at least until the book(s) come out. But the central point – Exhibit A against Moyes – has been the obvious lack of a sense of team. We can unpick or fiddle with the detail – the personnel, if you will – but it is the absence of purpose from his side that has done for Moyes.

Sure he’s been unlucky; following Fergie, let down badly by certain players, up against a resurgent Chelsea and (god forbid) Liverpool. These have been and might have been significant difficulties for almost any incomer. Moyes though has utterly failed to find the necessary blend.

Just one example; playing Nani/Mata/Rooney/Kagawa at Everton was simply ludicrous unless his team – and those individuals – were utterly on fire with that rare, joyous confidence you only see or feel in the most irresistible of charges. You’ve got no business picking all four of those guys in a struggling team when the chances that it will ‘come off’ are simply nil. Admittedly not Moyes’ fault that Kagawa and Nani in particular are relatively spineless characters but absolutely the gaffer’s job to judge how many spirited or durable or loyal or passionate or genuine blokes he needs out there on the park, representing Manchester United. That kind of misjudgement smacks worryingly of someone who doesn’t understand or who can’t judge players as personalities as well as footballers.

Moyes, for weeks, has not looked like he knew what he’d got or who he could count on. This implies criticism of the players and I am happy to indulge that evil too. It’s genuinely hard to think of anyone who has raised their game or even their level of defiance during this humiliating period. Was this because from early on there was either unrest or detachment from the new ethos? And did that detachment or rebellion come because players lacked faith in the manager – on the grounds that he lacked the feel for it, the instinct, never mind the strategic awareness for this awesomely big Manchester United thing? Contrast that with his predecessor.

The delicious and perverse truth is that players play more or less in the manager’s image. They are puppets as well as prima donnas/divers/heroes.

The relationship is of course as complex as any other on an individual level but a particular magic can occur when the boss really does capture his team. Like say… Ferguson. Sir Alex may well have made as big and as real a contribution to United’s Premier League title in any given year as the fellah who knocked in twenty goals, or stopped twenty. He was as directly responsible for stuff despite the fact that he was sat on his squeaky bum eighty yards away. He had the power and the will and the ability to manage.

Moyes has some of that, to be fair. But the rather sad truth has been that he could not carry this team.

I’m reminded of the mild shock and bewilderment accompanying week after week of Rooney playing teams on his own, earlier in the season. The gulf in everything between him and the rest of the United side was both remarkable and kinda weird. He looked like the only proud professional on the staff. The rest were giving journeymen a bad name. Defensive frailties that had somehow been survivable under the Fergie bluster became open capitulations. It felt like only one bloke was trying.

That particular malaise – so painful to watch and subversive of your own support – cannot happen where the manager is a) topside of players and b) fundamentally confident. It happened. United starting getting beat – even soundly thrashed – at home! Worse, in a way, was the fact that rather than occasional blips we were seeing consistently poor performances and an obvious failure to rally. Nobody (except Rooney, in that one period) could get past the general, listless mediocrity. With fans understandably screaming for some pride in the shirt, players shirked the responsibility that comes with any challenge. They got nervier whilst playing safer. It was bloody awful.

And Moyes never got to grips with it. It can’t have helped that ‘his feller’ – Fellaini – was firstly injured then plain ordinary. Or that the one United really needed –Baines – stayed at Goodison. (My strong hunch btw was that Baines would have been a revelation at Old Trafford. Raiding or defending. Ever present, spirited, great with a dead ball. At the critical time they should have paid whatever it would have taken.) What is extraordinary is the thought that looking at how United’s defence has been for most of the season (mostly at home?!?) should they have bought Baines… they would have only have needed three more.

Perhaps somebody else can rebuild Jones/Evans/Smalling and the rest. I hope so. Moyes didn’t so much tell them to get lost as lose them. In the void, the flux that was his flimsy empire.
Poor man. Did he ever get to feel that he had entered something special? That he was leading it on and up? Or was he always too busy, too stressed, too overawed – too under-supported even?

The spectre of Ferguson and Charlton and maybe Giggs/Butt/Neville(s) has hung around all this. Inevitably. Despite the unspoken but shared knowledge that there can and probably should never be another Ferguson – there are other, better, more civilised ways of gathering folks to your cause – the Moyes era feels like a bungled attempt to stick with methods only viable under that uniquely motivational senior man. ‘ Tough’, football has said. ‘The game and the world have changed’.

Could it be that United have, in choosing Fergie 2, been simply too dumb, too obvious, too reactionary for the crazy carousel that is elite sport 2014? Perhaps.

My A Level English – Grade A, thank you ver ver much – reminds me, you, us lot that
you can’t repeat the past.
Suggesting maybe the American owners should have read more attentively the fable that is Gatsby?

Moyes, ultimately, or maybe from the first moment, had neither the raw power of the original nor the true top-level genius to compensate or even to compete. He floundered. What if we say that he was unlucky and poorly served? There’s some truth in that. So… he was unlucky, poorly served… and unable to manage Manchester United.

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