New boss David Moyes has indeed suffered a ‘baptism of fire’ as he had feared upon the release of the fixture list this summer for the new season. The boss was given just eight weeks to come in along with his choice of backroom staff, meet and asses his players, prepare for the new season away on tour, make new signings in the transfer market and then, bang, hit the ground running.
"I can't put my finger on what’s happened. We have just not played as well as we can both individually and as a team," he explained.
"We know the quality in the dressing room. We're the champions so we showed that quality last year and we have to show it again.”
Giggs’ insistence that the players must take the responsibility as much as if not more so than David Moyes may come as something of a surprise to the press who have, by and large, leapt to point the finger at the Scot so far this term. Instead the very-soon-to-be 40-year-old who set a Champions League record in midweek with his 145th appearance in the competition, leapt to the defence of the new boss.
"Sir Alex (Ferguson) was a great manager and a great influence on the team and the club. You are going to miss someone like that. But I don’t think that is an excuse when individuals aren’t playing as well as they can,” he insisted.
"We are not playing well as a team. We haven’t got injury problems as we have had in the past - there is no excuse.”
It s important to note, incidentally, that Giggs is also taking up a coaching role under Moyes’ leadership this term and that is likely a job he’ll want to hold down so it is not quite so surprising he has backed the boss in this manner.
The question is, is he right? On the one hand, one could argue the squad of players at Moyes’ disposal are virtually unchanged from last term when they were crowned champions under Ferguson and, on the other, one could argue that Giggs is accurate in his assessment that a number of those players have not played well – some of them have, in fact, been poor.
The likes of Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Chris Smalling, Antonio Valencia, Shinji Kagawa, Nani, Robin van Persie and new signing Marouane Fellaini have, to varying degrees, been poor, average or underwhelming so far and certainly not up to the high standard they set for themselves last season under Sir Alex.
The only players I can really note any consistency or even improvement in are Danny Welbeck, Michael Carrick, and Wayne Rooney.
However, shifting back to my position balancing on the fence, you could also say those players have not necessarily been given the platform to go and build consistency – they have been rotated a fair bit so far – and whose fault is that?
Is it Kagawa’s fault entirely that he was completely ineffectual in the first half of United’s 2-1 defeat at home to West Brom last weekend when, previous to that, he had featured in not a single game in the league, had not even been on the bench for two out of five of the previous fixtures, had played 73 minutes in the League Cup and 71 minutes in the Champions League (out of his preferred position, I might add)?
Ryan Giggs says there is no excuse for poor individual performances and I would tend to agree – Fergie or no Fergie, these are professional footballers playing for one of the biggest and most successful clubs in the world – but, whilst you cannot excuse poor performances and the results that reflect them, you can reason and I think there are some reasons why David Moyes is seeing sub-par performances from the players so far.
Ultimately, when a team loses, the manager is at fault – he picked the players; he is responsible for ensuring they are motivated and capable of following his instructions and he is responsible for deciding what to instruct them. If they don’t listen once, that’s their fault but if they don’t listen more than once, you have to question the manager’s communication and or instructions and perhaps even his preparation and training with them.
Either the players haven’t understood his ideas or they have understood but haven’t been able to realize them yet. I find it hard to believe they are not willing to do so – these players are champions, they want to win as much as he does and he wants to win just as much as Ferguson did, it’s just not been displayed on the pitch yet. Ryan Giggs can’t ‘put his finger on it’ – what’s been failing – and it’s lucky for him that it’s not his job to ‘put his finger on it’. David Moyes must figure this out fast or the finger will inevitably be pointed at him.
image: © illarterate