I can’t be easy being David Moyes, it certainly doesn’t look easy, actually it looks an incredibly tortuous experience. Since being in the proverbial ‘hot seat’ at Old Trafford – a strange turn of phrase as a perishing cold seat or the Iron Throne of Westeros would be far more uncomfortable – Moyes has aged faster than Tony Blair after being informed that a government scientist had told a BBC journalist that there was something decidedly dodgy about a dossier related to the lands once known as Mesopotamia. He looks stressed to the point of a heart attack the poor chap, more wrinkles appear for every goal conceded and every point dropped. His post match interviews are almost carbon copies of those delivered by a crestfallen Alistair Cook during the recent disastrous tour of Australia sprinkled with a dose of grandiose delusion; “We played well,” “We were unlucky,” “Not a lot in it” and so on and so forth. It’s fair to say the film ‘Being David Moyes’ would be a far darker and harrowing experience than the wonderfully bizarre Being John Malkovich. I would imagine it something more akin to the bleakness of the Shane Meadows film Dead Man’s Shoes or a kitchen sink drama by Ken Loach; Morose with a sense of futile hopelessness but without creative swearing or brutal revenge schemes.
Where as Pep Guardiola is credited with developing ‘tika-taka’ or Mourinho is credited with the uber high pressing approach to defending with lighting quick transitions to attack, ‘The Chosen One’ has merely regressed the post-Ferguson United to a style resembling a division three match on ITV’s The Big Match in 1976. The only difference is you won’t get a pitch invasion followed by a pitch battle between sideburn sporting fans wearing tan leather jackets outside the stadium.
Moyes’ approach to attacking football is as follows:
Ball goes out wide, wide player hurls in an aimless cross to the head of a player who specialises in the ball being played into feet, attack dissipates with melancholic inevitability. Repeat until team are desperately chasing the game with the season slipping away. It is a tactic that has proved a disaster and made the team look at tremendous amount worse than it actually is. Against Stoke, a team with two towering thugs who specialise in crippling opposition and putting their head against things the tactic looked utterly ludicrous, equally so against Fulham, who fielded a 6 feet 7 inch centre half from non-league football.
In Moyes defence he did mix this up abit in the humiliation against Liverpool. He switched to the repeated long ball down the middle to 70’s American exploitation film throwback Marouane Fellaini, in an appreciative nod to the Wimbledon side of the 1990’s.
United right now are some way off the quality expected in a United team, however, it isn’t 7 league places off, it isn’t losing 8 league games by February off and it isn’t being out of the running for 3 trophies far off. A team with Mata, Van Persie, Carrick, De Gea, Rafael, Januzaj and Rooney is still top six and capable of playing entertaining, attacking football, in fact with our current ramshackle defence, attacking football is our only option. Moyes is an honest, hard working man, a man far more likable and with far more moral character and courage than his ego maniacal and autocratic predecessor. Unfortunately Moyes seems to possess the boldness and imagination of the Tunbridge Wells Conservative club, the likes of Rooney, Van Persie and shiny new Spanish action figure Juan Mata having their creativity shackled in a rigid, outmoded systems with a plethora of high balls and more crosses than a gathering of Catholics at the announcement of a new Pope. When things go wrong, the system melts into nothing like a house of cards, much like Liverpool, where players didn’t know who was where and defenders were constantly caught out.
Moyes, for all his honest qualities, appears to be a man who if given Van Gogh, Jackson Pollock and Michelangelo (the Renaissance artist and freethinker not the Ninja Turtle) to decorate his house would simply hand them a bucket of Dulux Magnolia and three paint-rollers. “Keep it simple lads and none of that fancy stuff on my ceiling Mike!” Moyes would utter in his brusk, Scottish accent.
Indeed one of his former Everton players, David Weir, once said of Moyes that he coaches and sees everything “from a defender’s point of view,” Moyes of course being a centre half himself in his playing days. The problem is that approach simply won’t cut it at, even if successful, Manchester United, a club famed for producing great technicians of the hallowed turf and signing maverick artisans such as Billy Meredith, Eric Cantona, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karel Poborsky…ok maybe not the latter. Nevertheless, if anybody saw the exciting cameo of the capricious but precocious Wilfried Zaha in the Welsh capital against Norwich one could be forgiven for wondering what, as United fans, we have done that is so bad to have Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young inflicted on us repeatedly instead, like a brutal but incredibly tedious interrogation technique in shady foreign state by MI6 officers. I saw that Zaha cameo after our asinine tactics in the Potteries and wondered whether David Moyes decided that abit of immaturity in training from a young man (immaturity is a crime us men are guilty of until well into our thirties at least) rather than his ability to light up a crowd without using flares and win a football match.
United’s players, some magnificent, some average, some Alex Buttner but still reigning champions, have withdrawn into themselves, shackled by Moyes’ stubborn conservatism and stale ideas to the detriment of their confidence, ability and most importantly their enjoyment. Moyes suffers too, I don’t believe the Glazers will be as patient as many believe; they threw 37 million on a player in mid winter out of seemingly nowhere and will expect a quick return. If Moyes continues on his current course, which includes turning Mata and Januzaj into Valencia and Young Mk. 2, he most likely will do himself out of an opportunity he has so long craved: The opportunity to test his ability consistently at the highest level. The Glazers are ruthless, blood sucking businessmen and a bit of sentiment and a 6 year contract will not stop them signalling for the guillotine from The Equalizer, Ed Woodward if the spiral continues.
The Contrast between Moyes and Rodgers on Sunday was marked in brutal fashion for those wonderful United fans on Sunday: One man positive and eager to entertain, the other dour, depressing and scrambling an idea. The fans deserve better than the latter.