A realistic approach to Manchester United’s concerns over their first season without Sir Alex Ferguson after 26 years in his charge.
It’s say a lot about the mood amongst Manchester United fans at the moment that one of the most popular articles I wrote last week was ‘7 candidates to replace Moyes’. I accept that, with that in mind, it will seem hypocritical of me to assert my genuine belief that David Moyes will lead United to success and, furthermore, to call for calm from the fans who I urge to support him now when he needs it most.
They say a friend in need is a friend indeed and David Moyes must feel like the loneliest man in football at the moment, down on his luck with the weight of the world on his shoulders – this is when he’ll find out who his mates are, who he can trust, and which relationships he can take with him into the future.
The fans and players are discontent with the situation, that’s crystal clear, but they need to look at the bigger picture, and see this season in the context of the next decade and perhaps beyond.
There is so much short-termism in football – because of the huge amounts of money and the expectations especially at a club as successful and popular as United but Ferguson chose Moyes because he wanted the club to continue with a tradition and philosophy he put in place at Old Trafford. The appointment of Moyes is in line with Ferguson’s vision of the club and that was a vision that took time to realize fully.
The players and the fans need to firstly get behind David Moyes and the sooner the better – it’s only going to make matters worse if there is friction between sections of the fan-base or between the fans and the manager or the players and the manager. The club supports him, the board support him, the owners back him as does the chief executive and, of course, Ferguson and the directors.
They all believe he is the man to take the club forward so everyone needs to get behind him and push with him rather than against him if they want the transition to be quicker and smoother – in-fighting and complaining is only going to drag this unpleasant period on for longer and make it infinitely uglier for everyone involved. Negative energy will only attract more negativity and negative outcomes.
Obviously Moyes is still adapting, learning, and growing into the role and football is all about confidence from the ground up. If everyone is behind him and believes in his ability to achieve the club’s objectives going forward, he’ll have confidence and he’ll transfer that confidence to the players which, in my estimation, is what’s not happening at the moment – the uncertainty from the players and the fans breeds a lack of confidence in the manager which filters through to the team and we’ve seen that in recent performances.
With more confidence, more consistency and stability will gradually return – the club will again be able to attract players which, in the summer, they found difficult, such was the uncertainty following Ferguson’s retirement. If results don’t improve Moyes will find it a big challenge to attract genuinely world-class talent to Old Trafford in January which they need undoubtedly to boost their chances this term and in the long run.
There needs to be a focus on preparation, adjustment and transition in January – rather than trying to stick a plaster on this season with some quick-fix signings, why not use this already unfruitful season as an experiment and learning exercise.
What I mean by that is start from scratch, from the defence and team organization and working through the team until there is more of a durable and solid system in place to build on going forward. Why not use this season to get all the hiccups out of their system, accept that its trial and error, praise the effort and acknowledge the learning process, rather than bemoan the results of the experiment which is still in its infancy.
More than anything, the club, the fans and the players need to show some patience – they say it’s a virtue – that’s precisely what they gave Ferguson as he aptly reminded Old Trafford in his retirement speech. No more moaning, no more short-termism, no more nostalgia harking back to the past, let’s look towards the future which will be bright under David Moyes, eventually.
image: © Jason Gulledge