David Moyes must be wondering if his old pal Sir Alex Ferguson was doing him a favour or stitching him up, when he was hand-picked as the man to take over the Man Utd empire.
Being Fergie’s choice was the ultimate compliment, but as United’s season unravels Moyes might be forgiven for wondering just what has he took on at Old Trafford.
When he was offered the job he probably knew that much work was needed in order to keep the club at the top. Fergie may have told him that himself, but the chance to manage Man Utd was understandably too big to turn down.
But Fergie is now casting a great shadow over Old Trafford and Moyes’ every move is being put under scrutiny.
Moyes cannot start building his own team with Fergie sat in the stands as part of his role as club director. After being the boss for nearly 30 years perhaps he is struggling to let go.
Last night’s 2-1 loss at Sunderland followed home defeats to Swansea, Spurs, Newcastle, Everton and West Brom this season, an embarrassing set of results for Moyes.
But it was Ferguson’s scowling face in the papers and on TV. Isn’t Moyes supposed to be the boss?
To be the manager of Man Utd you have to be the most important person at the club. While Fergie is still the face then Moyes has no chance making the team his own.
Fergie was always a master of timing
Another interesting issue is the timing and sudden nature of Ferguson’s retirement. At 71 years old and having served the club for nearly 30 years, of course Fergie was entitled to quit and hand the reins over to a younger man. He was always a master of timing throughout his management career. He knew when to throw a youngster into the first team, when to move a player on and when to turn up the heat in a title race by winding up his rivals. Ferguson rarely got it wrong. Maybe he saw these problems on the horizon and decided that the time was right to step down.
A close look at the squad last season showed United had only two genuinely world class players in Van Persie and Rooney. The rest are good top-half players, but not title winners.
Major surgery was needed but unlike for most of Fergie’s time at the club, United no longer had the biggest war chest available. How can you build a team to win the title, when the best players are being offered more money at the Etihad and Stamford Bridge?
Shopping in the bargain baskets was never Fergie’s strength. He could spot a player and build a team to win trophy after trophy, but only when he was able to outspend his rivals.
In the early nineties Kenny Dalglish was given a blank cheque book by Jack Walker at Blackburn and had taken the title from under Fergie’s nose within a couple of years.
Jose Mourinho did the same thing with Roman Abramovich’s money and most recently Mancini at Man City.
Van Persie won the title single handedly
It is widely accepted that United won the league last season not because of their brilliance, but the incompetence of their rivals.
Chelsea were divided under interim manager Rafa Benitez and City were hindered by the antics of Balotelli and Tevez, and the board’s lack of confidence in Mancini.
Arsenal and Liverpool were still in the early stages of building a team that could fight for the title. So United only had to be competent and the league was theirs. The prolific Robin van Persie was the difference and he basically won the league single handedly.
But their rivals were always going to come back strong this season. City’s spending power to build on the world class spine of Kompany, Toure, Silva and Aguero made them the team to beat.
Chelsea underperformed and if any manager could get talents like Hazard, Mata and Oscar firing then they would be up there.
Liverpool and Arsenal would benefit from being the only two top teams to allow their managers the stability to build a team.
So vast changes were needed to the United squad if they were to be able to keep up this term.
United no longer have spending power of rivals
United’s rivals were all were going to come back stronger and the Glazer’s prudent approach made it a daunting task to rebuild United.
Ferguson wanted Wesley Schneider to replace the magnificent Paul Scholes a few years ago. But the Glazers never delivered the Dutchman, with several unsuccessful bids over a series of transfer windows. Instead he had to blood the less than impressive Tom Cleverley and rely on veteran Ryan Giggs. That was never going to be a long term fix.
The Glazer’s spending restrictions and the reckless approach of City and Chelsea created a shift in power at the top of the English game.
Man Utd became just another club at the top, where they had always previously been THE club players wanted to join. Fergie certainly wouldn’t want to work under these restrictions.
So with threats to his top dog position coming from all sides, Fergie decided to quit. He’d served his time and left the team as a champion. Fair play to him.
But step aside and watch the games on TV, and allow Moyes step out of your shadow and put his own stamp on the club. He’s got a lot of work to do.