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The Plight of Manchester United - Part One

10 February 2014, 15:03

Much has been said this season about the form of Manchester United and where the problem areas lie. In light of this, I’m sure fans of the north-west club would be remiss to read yet another scribe’s viewpoint regarding their misfortunes this term.

However, I hope, as many others have done, to offer an alternative perspective as to the reasons for their current plight. There are, I feel, a host of reasons for the club’s distress this season.

First and foremost: Manchester United’s decision to allow Alex Ferguson to name his own successor. This is clearly a decision born from the reverence Sir Alex commands at Old Trafford, and not without good reason, but had the board of the club chosen their own manager (as is the norm in these situations), I’ve no doubt they would have chosen someone with a proven title-winning pedigree.

Jose Mourinho, for example – who desperately wanted the post, in spite of all he tells the press about being “the Happy One” back at Chelsea – seemed an ideal candidate. Yes, this is a matter of opinion, but I’m left with little doubt that Mourinho wanted the United job - badly. The source of my strong opinion being what he said in the wake of his Real Madrid side defeating United in the Champions League last season: “the better side lost tonight.” This is something Mourinho would never admit to, judging by what he says in most other press conferences and post-match interviews. Also, that this comment was made shortly after Ferguson announced his retirement at the end of the 2012-2013 season, to me says he was trying to cozy up to Ferguson and the United powers that be in the hope of securing the job.

Furthermore, I think the manner in which his first tenure at Chelsea ended in 2007 (having fallen-out with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich), has me thinking he wanted to put one over on Chelsea.

So why not Mourinho, he clearly has the aforementioned pedigree? My opinion is that Jose Mourinho could have been seen as a journeyman, having managed Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid – all in less than ten years. Mourinho’s ‘drifter’ image is therefore not suited to the Manchester United ethos of keeping a manager for long periods or even the length of his career.

The other viable option for Manchester United would have been Dortmund man, Jurgen Klopp, the only man currently capable of challenging Bayern Munich’s supremacy in Germany. Not that he explicitly wanted the job, but who in their right mind wouldn’t want the job of running the world’s biggest football club? It’s something every manager aspires to.

So, then why David Moyes – a man who spent eleven trophy-less seasons at a much smaller mid-table club (I mean no offense to the Everton faithful)? My only guess is that David Moyes idolized Ferguson as much as anyone else, and given the relationship between the men, and both being from Glasgow, I’m sure they would have seen eye-to-eye on most matters in football, albeit with seemingly contrasting football philosophies.

I also understand that the Moyes and Ferguson families are at close ties, and am I not suggesting Ferguson elected David Moyes by way of nepotism, as I think he’s far too principled for that.

And contrary to what many have said about Ferguson purposefully choosing someone inferior to himself that would never match his trophy-hauling record, I think Sir Alex lives, breathes and bleeds Manchester United – and as a result would never do that either. Indeed, such a suggestion would render my previous point null and void.

I think the truth is much simpler than that: I think Sir Alex Ferguson, despite his near-infallible nature, made a mistake.

I also think the notion of Ferguson leaving Moyes a squad of players in desperate need of an overhaul, is false. Ferguson would never have jumped ship at the first sign of trouble, not given his total devotion to the club for a quarter-century.

I believe Ferguson had every confidence in the players he was leaving behind, and why not – they coasted to victory in a thirty-eight-game league by staggering eleven points – in other words, with nearly four games to spare! Surely, with the right stewardship, these players should have been able to carry similar form into the new season? Which is also why Ferguson explicitly requested Moyes to retain his coaching staff at the club, after all they could be seen as half of a winning team.

David Moyes subsequently denied Alex Ferguson’s old backroom staff the opportunity to lead the squad into a new era, and instead employed his own technical staff from Everton – a decision met with derision from most quarters. Of course, we all understand Moyes’ reasons for doing so – he knew his Everton staff better, and wanted to step out of Sir Alex Ferguson’s considerable shadow and be his own man.

One thing Moyes does not want to have hanging over him is being seen as Ferguson’s ‘lackey’. Now, it seems Moyes and Manchester United, in the wake and under the weight of that decision, seem to be buckling. United, in this season, are now only two losses away from equaling the total amount of games lost for the past two seasons combined, and it would take a brave man to bet that United won’t loose more than two games in the run-in to the season.

To be continued …
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