The Manchester United manager has seen his dream job turn into a nightmare.
The stress lines are now forming grooves across his face. The hair is getting greyer and more rugged while the eyes produce a stare that speaks of frustration.
His body language is also faltering, seemingly relaying the message of a beacon sounding the distress call. There is no denying that David Moyes is a man under pressure.
Despite what he says, the pressure keeps mounting with every defeat. The mask he puts on when talking to the press is but just a failed disguise of the reality within. He may want to appear calm, but much more betrays him.
He waltzed into Old Trafford with a smile, enjoying every bit of limelight he got as he realised he was at his dream job. That job is quickly turning into a nightmare. The wonderful stories he told of how Sir Alex Ferguson had hand-picked him to be his replacement have now turned into concealed excuses as to why another defeat was at hand.
Moyes used to be coy, sometimes bullish. He would relish the grandest games and with grit, his team would fight for a result. That however was at Everton, and at the escalated level that is Manchester United, the same is not transpiring.
The Chosen One he may be, but there are many who now feel that he was the wrong choice. While Moyes is a man who ensured stability in his Everton days, he has seen that sort of stability descend into mediocrity when measured against the Red Devils historic traditions, especially, his predecessor’s successes.
Just what is going wrong at Manchester United? The easy stick to pick and break apart is the manager.
His methods are not refreshingly innovative, and there is much to the staticity of movement that is displayed whenever United take to the field. In almost every game this season, there has been no imaginative movement among the players.
No third player to complete intricate triangles. No central player to float within the lines. It is why the play has seemed all too predictable. Get it to the wing, and cross.
That however is playing the percentages, and at the highest level it is a risky game. Better teams make the percentages their own, rather than let it remain on the 50-50 level.
His adaptation has not been complete because his application has remained the same. Some have called it a trouble with formation – others the players he picks. But within all that, it is the application that matters most despite any formation. Manuel Pellegrini and Sam Allardyce may both play a 4-4-2, but you can be sure that their applications will be different.
If Moyes is to survive, that application must change for the better. It must include more fantasy. For even his greatest asset at Everton --- the organisational structure of the defensive two banks of four --- is failing him at United.
But there is more to his problems than himself. Under Ferguson, United was an ordinary squad managed by an extra-ordinary manager. Now, Moyes finds himself devoid of that Midas touch and as such, he needs the sort of marquee players who can lift the side in the way Ferguson managed to on his own.
As such, that means that it was the club’s failure to land major signings in the summer that have contributed to this regress. That and the deadwood within the squad, and the ageing elements mean that Moyes inherited a squad at a poor state considerate to the ambitions set for it.
That means that if allowed time to build his own, then any failure will firmly rest on him alone. At the moment thus, despite all of his misgivings, it is partly harsh to judge his ultimate capabilities.
Many have called for time, but even then, the patience is wearing thin for many a United fan. A fan base used to seeing its side compete in the higher echelons of the table is now frustrated at the battle that is going on near the halfway divide.
Though United are far from the relegation zone --- and it will take a miracle to see them there --- their current state feels like a relegation of sorts. From top tier to mid-table.
Whether Moyes will ever turn this around is anyone’s guess. As such, this is the best situation his managerial career will ever encounter. Following Sir Alex’s footsteps means that he will harden from the hard times and become better. If that bettering happens at United or elsewhere, only time will tell.
The final command by Sir Alex was to stand by the manager. With every passing game, that is becoming highly difficult for United’s fan base to follow. Moyes is slowly finding himself a man standing alone.
image: © Jason Gulledge