Following our tragic performance on the outskirts of Athens earlier this week – the unravelling of what now looks like an almost hallucinogenic European dream – the tide seems to be well and truly turning against Moyes.
He’s odds on as the next Premier League manager to lose his job, and it’s hard to see how he could possibly turn things round after draining the life from our team in such profound style.
It’s a sign of the scale of his failure at United that the post-mortems are already well underway before he’s even left the club. The overwhelming majority of fans now agree that he’s not the right man for the job, and everyone has an opinion on exactly what he’s done wrong.
Clearly, our transfer strategy has been flawed, the tactics have been out-dated, and the players have simply not been inspired to play with the passion and commitment we need.
But for many fans, myself included, the decision to dismiss Phelan, Meulensteen and Steele, and replace them with Steve Round, Jimmy Lumsden, and Chris Woods looks like the biggest mistake Moyes has made; the moment it all went wrong.
In September, ex-United goalkeeper coach Eric Steele – the man who learned Spanish to help De Gea settle in – revealed how Moyes had ignored Fergie’s advice:
“You had the United perspective – the manager saying, ‘Keep what we’ve got, keep the continuity, work with them and they’ll guide you through. You’re taking on a massive machine here. You’ve gone from Marks and Spencer’s to Harrods.’”
And in January, our legendary former coach Eric Harrison – the man behind the Class of ’92 – made his feelings known:
“In hindsight it does look like a mistake, I don’t want to criticise anyone but I’ve got to be honest because if I’m thinking that why shouldn’t I say it, like most of the Man United supporters.”
“They certainly should have kept the staff that they had, they shouldn’t have brought so many in from Everton.”
I never imagined I could miss Mike Phelan as much as I do right now; that his shiny, stubbly, splendidly spherical head could be the object of such melancholy nostalgia. It’s hardly surprising how bitter he has sounded since he was kicked out of Old Trafford – he knows Moyes got it completely wrong from the start.
Moyes, the trophyless newcomer taking his first tentative steps into a world of winners, inching onto the very biggest stage there is, cast a proven team aside and filled his backroom with his equally wide-eyed buddies.
One of the only things we’ve heard from Steve Round since he took the Assistant Manager position is how unprepared he was for the job: “From the outside you don’t really understand the enormity of the club,” – that was his comically frank assessment shortly after joining the club.
Of the men Moyes appointed, with the exception of Giggs, only Phil Neville truly understood what United is all about. But he’s hardly a United legend, and has no previous coaching experience. Can you really imagine Wayne Rooney or Juan Mata arriving at Carrington each day buoyed by the excitement of working with P Nevs?
As for Steve Round, Jimmy Lumsden and Chris Woods – do they deserve respect from the players? Have they achieved enough to be worthy of the roles they’ve found themselves in? Are they the source of some unbridled technical and tactical genius – the foundation for a new era of footballing brilliance at United?
I’m pretty sure the answer to all of those questions is ‘no’, but let’s take a closer look at Moyes’ band of backroom upstarts, just to make sure I’m not being unfair.
Round joined Derby County as a full-back in 1990, but only ever made 9 senior appearances in 5 years at the club, thanks to a knee injury that eventually saw him retire as a player aged 25.
He spent 6 years as a coach at Derby from 1995 to 2001, and was then appointed as coach by former team-mate Steve McClaren at Middlesborough. He continued in this role until 2007, citing a “difference in philosophy and ideas” with new manager Gareth Southgate as his reason for leaving.
So where did he think he would be a better fit? Sam Allardyce’s Newcastle United, of course! He joined them as first team coach but after a year in the North East, Moyes brought him in as his assistant at Everton. 5 years later, aged 43, he followed his boss to the greatest club in the world.
Rumour has it we paid Everton £1 million to bring Steve Round in, and 7 months later, I still don’t have a clue what he brings to the table.
Many Everton fans made their concerns clear when he was being linked with the manager’s job at Goodison in the summer, with some blaming him for DM’s overly-defensive approach. With the way United have been playing under the new regime, it seems like they were probably right.
Glasgow-born Lumsden is the man who replaced Meulensteen as first team coach. He began his senior career as a midfielder at that club we all love, Leeds United, in 1966 – in 4 years at Elland Road, he made 4 appearances for the club.
After his unsuccessful stint at Leeds, Lumsden spent a year at Southend United, before spells with Morton, St Mirren, Cork Hibernians, Morton, Clydebank and, finally, Celtic, where he made a single senior appearance.
Although certainly not much of a goalscorer (12 goals in 176 games), former Cork teammate Dinny Allen casts him in an almost Scholes-esque light:
“He was super to play with. He used to play in midfield and he was kind of small but he was a real players’ player. He was very good at one-touch stuff, if the ball was coming towards him he’d have the next move planned in his head already.”
The main reason Billy McNeil brought him to Celtic in 1978 was to mentor the club’s next generation, and he was credited as a major influence on the development of a number of young players.
Lumsden was promoted to coach at Celtic, before returning to Leeds as assistant manager, then managing Bristol City and Rochdale, and coaching under David Moyes at Preston and Everton.
Now 66 years old, Lumsden seems to have plenty of experience, and it sounds like his footballing philosophy should be a good fit at United. He has also gone on record to say he’s never frightened of challenging Moyes when they don’t see eye to eye, which can only be a good thing. We do love a straight-talking Glaswegian at United, but I just wonder whether his appetite for an argument is the highlight of his CV.
Chris Woods – our new goalkeeping coach – played for 9 clubs at senior level. After 3 years with no games at Nottingham Forest, he went on to establish himself in a 2 year spell at QPR, before making 216 appearances in 6 years as Norwich number 1. He went on to make 173 appearances for Rangers and 107 for Sheffield Wednesday, and the last couple of years of his career took him all the way from Colorado to Burnley. He also got 43 caps for England between 1985 and 1993, having deputised Peter Shilton during most of that period.
In 1998, he joined Walter Smith’s Everton as a coach, and has also been working as a coach for the US national team since 2011.
There’s certainly nothing to suggest Woods isn’t a perfectly competent coach with solid experience at both club and international level, but is there really any justification for replacing Steele, the man who played such a big part in De Gea’s development at United?
Neville doesn’t really need any introduction – we all knew him perfectly well as a player. But other than a bit of time spent with England’s under-21s last year, Neville has zero coaching experience, so he’s basically learning his trade at United. Giggs is doing the same, but he’s still playing the odd game too, and, well, he’s Giggs.
Neville has been open about his ambitions to progress into management – he’s sought advice from Mourinho in the past, and was interviewed for the Everton job before Martinez got the nod from Kenwright.
As Neville hasn’t replaced anyone as such, I don’t think there’s any problem with his appointment as a first team coach at United – he has always kept us close to his heart, and hopefully he can grow into a quality coach alongside the likes of Ryan.
Ultimately, I don’t think Moyes needed to replace any of Fergie’s coaching team. If he felt he needed to bring these guys in to make the club his own, surely that just suggests a lack of authority; a weakness of character.
Overhauling the squad should have been the top priority – why meddle with a coaching team that knew our players and our setup inside out? Moyes and his motley crew have definitely revolutionised the way we play, I’ll give ‘em that!
Joel Stein blogs for Manchester La La La. You can follow him on Twitter @joelstein.