Why Reds are right to criticise Moyes.
When directing the movie Se7en, David Fincher wanted constant oppressive rain to reflect the unpleasant, pessimistic character of the city in which the grim events took place. One of the few good things about 2014 has been to remind me to watch the film for the first time in years. What prompted this desire to revisit a modern twist on the classic film noir? Manchester United of course.
Let me explain; ever since 2014 turned up in Britain it has done nothing but rain. I exagerrate of course, but the overall feeling is that this is a damp, miserable period with no end in sight. Weather forecasts only bring more dismal news and the feeling is very much that things could even get worse before we start to enjoy happier times. If David Fincher was directing a film about United under David Moyes then this is the weather he would choose.
It was fitting that our latest nadir came in the proverbial wet and windy climes of Stoke. A team of cumudgeonly clods, overseen by a man adored as a player yet deplored as a manager. The easily spinnable response of our manager ‘I don’t know what we have to do to win’ represented a fitting end to a wretched few weeks.
This a difficult time to be a Red. Our players look lost, our manager and coaching staff appear at a loss, and as fans we simply don’t know how to respond. Rival fans understandably relish our demotion from Superman to Clark Kent. We must appear pathetic to be bemoaning a position in which most football clubs would be happy, yet over the past two decades we have been anything but ‘most’ football clubs. Success had become a set routine and the disruption to that norm has felt like being thrown into a maelstrom. A panoply of coping mechanisms have been in evidence amongst supporters; ‘this was inevitable when Fergie left’(it wasn’t), ‘the players are entirely to blame’ (they aren’t), ‘the manager is entirely to blame’ (he isn’t), and my personal favourite – ‘real fans wouldn’t criticise the manager.’
Let’s take this last point, as I have been on the receiving end of such garbage from more than one person after voicing disappointment at losing a third of our league games thus far. This argument is foolish and dangerous. It is advocating ignorance. The idea that in difficult times we should abandon critical analysis and blindly ‘stand by the leader’ simply doesn’t hold water. To pick an example from elsewhere; following the devastating attack of 9/11 the prevailing mood in the United States was to back the President’s every whim or face being labelled a traitor. What we got in response was two catastrophic wars and the Patriot Act; hundreds of thousands of unneccessary deaths and the restriction of civil liberties in the world’s foremost democratic state. Clearly football pales in comparison to something as serious but the point still stands; critical analysis is the answer not the problem. Not booing, not calling for the manager’s head, but articulating when and why you’re dissatisfied with the approach being taken.
Those in power should always be scrutinised and held accountable. As manager of Manchester United, David Moyes is clearly in a position of power. The personel selected and the strategy deployed is the will of the manager. As our manager David Moyes has plainly failed to carry out these requirements effectively. I’m not suggesting it is a lack of effort but the brutal truth is that since becoming manager of Manchester United there is precious little evidence that the new man is equipped to succeed in the job. He might succeed in time and having backed his appointment at the time I dearly hope he does. Yet so far the football has been archaic. If we don’t object, if we acquiesce and allow such dire football to go without censure then we forfeit our right to complain when it becomes our standard approach.
When making an appointment you set targets and evaluate performance against those targets at an agreed time. No doubt performance will be reviewed in the summer but any final judgment will not come in this calendar year. Several players will go and several others arrive before any decision is made to remove Moyes. I am reminded repeatedly that this isn’t ‘his’ team and he should be given time to mould a side reflecting his own footballing ideals and philosophy. All of which is fine; except for the fear that based on what we’ve seen so far this could at best mean a line up more effective at executing the ‘get it wide, get it in’ approach that has seemed our default strategy all season despite the dismal results it has garnered.
I am not saying Moyes should be fired imminently – it would be a worrying precedent for our club to be so trigger happy, yet unless clear signs of progress emerge by this time next year then it would be just as worrying a precedent to accept mediocrity through some misguided sense of blind loyalty. I really want Moyes to succeed and haven’t given up hope that he will. However I’m not willing to accept truly abject football as a necessary price to pay in the meantime. Trophies soon become statistics but what made the Ferguson era so special was the thrilling moments of exciting football. For the majority of his reign he carried on the Busby mantra of football to entertain the people. Moyes would be wise to remember that. Maybe then we will start to see signs that the rainy season is coming to an end.