Sir Alex Ferguson retired after 26 years in charge after taking the Red Devils to their 20th league title in sensational style last term. His selection of David Moyes to take over from him was undoubtedly a brave and bold decision and the former Everton boss is one of Britain’s finest football practitioners.
However, the junior of the two Scots has endured something of a baptism of fire since June 1st. Moyes effectively had eight weeks to introduce himself and his backroom staff and integrate them at Old Trafford, implement his ideas and practices on the squad of players available to him and complete his transfer business. Suffice to say it was not the smoothest of transitions.
The first hurdle he faced was the summer saga surrounding striker Wayne Rooney who requested a transfer in May, prior to Ferguson’s departure – keeping the England number 10 should be considered a success in and of itself but the saga may have started his career off on the wrong foot and set the tone for a nervous and testing summer ahead.
From the wrong foot, Moyes went out on a limb to try to sign Cesc Fabregas from Barcelona – he opted to go public with his pursuit of the former Arsenal captain which meant that when the proposed deal backfire due to the player’s desire to stay in Catalonia, Moyes was left a little red-faced and had to turn his attention to other targets.
The club may or may not have been interested in Fabregas’ Spanish teammate Thiago Alcantara but the story unfolded as another misfire when the target signed instead for Bayern Munich.
Moyes turned his attention back to England, seemingly opting for a ‘better the devil you know’ signing with his efforts to sign, firstly, Leighton Baines from former club Everton and then Marouane Fellaini.
Whilst Fellaini’s addition is another success story, the failure to negotiate a deal for Baines would have taken the gloss off the deal for the Belgian midfielder for the manager. Right up until deadline day, United were still making offers for the England fullback to no avail as Everton stood their ground.
Meanwhile, the fixture list couldn’t have been unkind to United – despite a strong start away at Swansea and a solid performance in the Community Shield, United drew at home to Chelsea and lost at Anfield to Liverpool.
They may well recover their form against Crystal Palace next weekend but they’ll be little time for respite with Moyes’ opening Champions League fixture against Bayer Leverkusen followed by an away trip to the Etihad for the Manchester derby with City, and then a tough League Cup draw sees them host Liverpool at Old Trafford. The Reds have taken 9 points from three games in the Premier League with United already five points behind the leaders at present.
Back to the transfer market and with just days left to bring in new signings, Moyes’ ‘confidence’ was perhaps a little unfounded – United made late moves for Athletic Bilbao maestro Ander Herrera in what resulted in another mess and failed in a late attempt to sign Fabio Coentrao after resigning themselves to giving up on Baines.
All things considered, I suspect that if someone had have told David Moyes back in June this is the way things were going to play out, he’d have thought they were pulling his leg.
But he has signed his former Everton talisman, a player he knows very well, and one who will continue to serve him well. He has four points from three games, not horrific by any means, and Rooney is now staying. Crisis? Or an overreaction? How the Manchester derby pans out on September 22 may go someway to altering the perspective, inwardly and from the outside.
Moyes will be hoping he can draw a line under the summer now and get on with what he does best – managing a football team – after what has to be considered the worst possible start to life as manager of Manchester United.
image: © Jason Gulledge