On Ferguson, Moyes and The Party Line

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Weighing in on the situation at Manchester United seems to be all the rage at the moment so I thought I should cobble something together to express my opinion.

A part of me wants to see David Moyes stay on for years and continue to be a millstone around United’s neck but another part wants to see him sacked. That isn’t to say that I dislike him, indeed I’m quite fond of him, but the prospect of seeing United fans backtracking on all of the nonsense spouted about supporting him ‘no matter what’ and United being a ‘different’ and ‘patient’ club when it comes to managers is too tasty to resist.

A load of holier-than-thou pompous propaganda, of course (ta-ra Fergie), but I have no doubt that they sincerely believed in the mantra for a time and that will make it all the more amusing if they end up turning on their laughably incompetent board for the decision to appoint an unproven manager.

Many comparisons were made between Moyes and Ferguson when the media rolled out the red carpet for their new darling and doted on him: cut from the same cloth, two gruff Glaswegians, heirs of Shankly and Busby, etc, but the fundamental fact is that Ferguson was an infinitely more accomplished manager than Moyes when he inherited the United role in the wake of Ron Atkinson’s departure in 1986.

Ferguson cut his teeth at St. Mirren, transforming them into champions and gaining promotion by fair means and foul. Moyes’ time at Preston compares favourably with Ferguson’s St. Mirren spell but beyond that the gulf is gigantic. Ferguson’s transformation of Aberdeen was Mourinhoesque: tenacious, aggressive, meticulous. He achieved things that the club had no right to, particularly on the European stage.

The defence brought up for Moyes in this regard is that a lack of financial muscle has inhibited him from winning silverware at Everton but the simple fact is that, even in this day and age, the true managerial stars will shine through in spite of the obstacles in front of them: Ferguson broke the Celtic-Rangers duopoly in a manner that no one has managed to since; as far as obstacles go they don’t come much bigger than that.

Think Michael Laudrup, in five minutes he has achieved what Moyes failed to in over a decade. Roberto Martinez has even managed to win silverware with Wigan, of all clubs. On the strength of Ferguson’s achievements at Aberdeen he was offered the Arsenal job, Moyes’ time at Everton didn’t even warrant an offer from Tottenham.

Moyes is a good manager, of that I have no doubt. You don’t hold down a job in the Premier League for years if you are incompetent but that is not the issue at hand. Moyes is tailored for the job he had at Everton, the sum of his managerial efforts over the bulk of his career have been directed at survival, at not going the way of Leeds and Nottingham Forest.

In this regard he has succeeded, you could even say that he has thrived within a mid-table framework, but to thrust him from that environment into the biggest club in world football and expect him to succeed on the strength of his nationality, the backing of a man who has failed to produce any noteworthy managerial heirs (Bruce, Keane, Robson? In a quarter of the time Mourinho has influenced Villas-Boas, Rodgers and Clarke) and a tenuous connection to past Glaswegian greats? That, to me, reads like a recipe for disaster.

I can see a Benitez-like schism developing, the initial narrative when Moyes arrived was one of building on what Ferguson’s side had achieved in winning the Premier League last season. A title challenge, let alone a top four spot, was assumed – both went without saying. When Benitez gleefully stumbled into the Chelsea hot seat talk centred on the winning of trophies, the club was in the thick of a title challenge and a top four spot was assumed on the strength of the squad alone.

The comparison falls short when we factor in the initial discontent faced by Benitez, which Moyes hasn’t had to deal with as the section of United fans opposed to his appointment have thus far held their tongues, but I can see the situation unravelling in a similar manner if form continues on the same mediocre trajectory. United fans will split into two camps, one will wise up to the spiel trotted out by the board and see that Moyes is not cut out, or at least not yet cut out, for top-tier management. The romantics will cling on in hope, accusing the detractors of lacking faith and not towing the party line.

The orthodox will uphold the Ferguson credo, ‘stand by our new manager’, but if the prospect of Champions League football fades and the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool become unassailable a chorus of ‘ta-ra Moyesie’ may well start to emerge from the bowels of Old Trafford.

For those not of a United disposition it is an eminently attractive scenario.

About Dylan McKee

21, New Zealand, part-time hack.
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4 Responses to On Ferguson, Moyes and The Party Line

  1. Teritus says:

    Just had a read of this now – fantastic work, Lofty. Keep them coming!

  2. Dylan McKee says:

    Sorry for the late reply! I’ve been sitting on the draft for a good year-plus now, it really is an epic biographical piece that I think will be the best thing I’ve ever published on the Chels. Football in general, in fact.

    I’m going to look at finishing it today, if not today then tomorrow. Will link you all in via the Shed End.

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