Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United were good – good enough to claim the title a month before the end of the season last year but, let’s be honest, United were not good on Tuesday evening.
They certainly were not good enough – if they are not good enough to beat or even stay level with the Premier League’s basement side and relegation candidates Sunderland in the semi-final of a domestic cup with a number of senior and key players back in the side, then how on Earth can Moyes still believe his team were good?
Perhaps this is the problem. I have noticed that on several occasions in his post-match interviews and press conferences following disappointing performances and defeats, Moyes has praised his team (which is normal for a new manager) but he has said he thought they were good or even very good when the club’s own fans can clearly see the team are not playing well.
It is not just that they are not playing as well as Ferguson’s United did last term, but they are not even playing well for a Premier League team – they have played on numerous occasions this term like a mid-table humdrum team with no ambition and that is not what United is as a club.
“I thought we played well after the first fifteen minutes tonight. I thought we were very good,” he said.
“I’ve always been happy with how the players have responded, I thought they were good.”
I know its not fair to compare Moyes to Ferguson, but can you imagine the latter calling that performance ‘very good’ or being pleased with it as a 'response’ to the FA Cup exit to Swansea? You can see from this reaction, that both Ferguson and Sir Bobby Charlton certainly were not impressed with the response.
On that note, his post-match response to the Swansea defeat was completely nonsensical – he completely contradicts himself in the same sentence:
“I thought in the first half we played very well…I thought we played well enough in the game – I don’t think we deserved to lose the game but we didn’t do enough a lot of times to go and win the game.”
How can Moyes believe United played well enough (and didn’t deserve to lose) as well as believing they didn’t do enough to win the game?
One of two things must be true: either David Moyes knows Manchester United have been playing well below par and have been letting him, the club and the fans down (in which case it’s about time he said so) or he believes they are paying well.
Both beliefs cannot be true at the same time and I firmly believe this may well be the problem for Moyes at the moment – he needs to stop placating the team and the fans and come out and say ‘this is not good enough’, we all know that is what Ferguson would do and, yes, Moyes is not and will never be Ferguson but he could at least be honest.
This ambivalence would suggest he is perhaps afraid of losing the dressing room – there are already suggestions he is losing the faith of some fans, but he still has the backing of the board. However, the players would probably respect him more if he came out and said what everyone knows, the elephant in the room, that Manchester United collectively and as individuals have not been playing well at all.
images: © Paolo Camera