Sitting seventh in the league with four games to go, we can safely conclude Manchester United have had what was once referred to by an octogenarian feckless workshy benefit scrounger as an “annus horribilis”.
New manager David Moyes has come in for sharp criticism all season, particularly following maulings from their title rivals, a shock home defeat to a team they had been beating since before the UK joined the EEC in 1973, and losing home AND away to both Liverpool and Manchester City for the first time in one season. There are many, many, many, many reasons for this but here are the top five:
1) Being David Moyes – A lot of David Moyes’s problems seem to stem from simply being David Moyes. He has been David Moyes for a very long time, it’s hard-wired into him at this point. But hope is not lost. There are a few options available to him – changing his name to Alex Ferguson by deed poll, identify theft, or simply using a symbol or symbols like purple genius Prince. My suggestion is #£&!
2) His smile – Robert Helpmann’s portrayal of the creepy child kidnapper in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang put fear in the hearts of young children the world over. Despite not even appearing in the original book (he was written in by the film’s writer Roald Dahl), our creepy enemy of kids was voted scariest villain in children’s books. With a smile that sent chills down your spine, comparison’s have been made with David Moyes’s own attempts to portray contentedness and joy on his face. Rumours that Moyes was seen bundling Zaha and Fabio into a wooden horse drawn carriage before riding away with a cackle are as yet unconfirmed.
3) What Would Jagielka Do – As a top coach, there are ways to get your players onside – a group trip to Alton Towers, a trust-building game of Wind in the Willow, where the players have to trust you to catch them as they lean backwards, watching Clueless with popcorn and Haribo. Constantly asking your formerly championship-winning players to model themselves on a previous employee who has never won a thing is not one of these ways. To choose this as a way to get an unwilling player to cooperate is a rather strange tactic. I’m no football coach, so it could be that Moyes is simply a maverick genius walking to the beat of his own drum, but all the evidence seems to point to the contrary on this one.
4) Fellaini – A robust midfield needs someone to clean up and drive play forward. Moyes can be forgiven then, for thinking the answer could be found in the fluffy head of Marouane Fellaini.
You could almost see the logic. “Well, they couldn’t handle him when he played under me, so if I take him with me, other clubs won’t be able to handle us either”. There’s some obvious flaws here though, the main one being that Moyes’s record against the top four is so woeful that only a man who asks “What Would Jagielka Do” would think the answer to that problem was “didn’t have more players like Fellaini”.
Unfortunately for him, Fellaini’s ability to clean up was less like a mop and more like a clogged up ancient feather duster. It seems like Manchester United still can’t deal with Fellaini on the pitch.
5) Being David Moyes – I know what you’re thinking. “You’re so beautiful, Jude”, and you’d be right to do so. But you’re also thinking “You’ve already done this one!”, and it’s true, I have previously touched on this. But as all master debaters know, the power of repetition knows no boundaries. So it’s here we can delve into further detail as to why Moyes is so bad.
It’s not just the woeful record against top teams, the shambolic attempts at man-management, the route one football, the evident lack of a plan B when plan A inevitably fails (yes David, Fellaini is not a plan. A hindrance, definitely, but not an alternative), the creepy smile or even the fact he’s collected about as many unwanted achievements this season as Fergie collected trophies. No, more than all of these (and there were plenty more, to be sure) it is the fact that, in the face of all of this staggering evidence of incompetence, David Moyes remains perplexed as to the source of his misfortunes.
Jose Mourinho referred to Arsene Wenger as a specialist in failure, and there’s mounting suspicion that Moyes is a specialist in mediocrity.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with being distinctly average per se, the world requires a balance of over- and underachievers. Trying and effort are adequate qualities and achievements when you come seventh place in the Year Three Egg and Spoon race. It would not be unfair to state, however, that competitive football is not the place for mediocrity.
Mediocrity rarely wins titles, or inspires players. Mediocrity does not, to borrow a much abused phrase, “take the game by the scruff of the neck”. Unless taking the game by the scruff of the neck means 81 crosses with no discernible target and very little end product.
No, it seems to be that Moyes has possibly chosen the wrong field of sport for his talents. Much like Tim Sherwood, a much more successful future lies in becoming Head of PE at a Free School or Academy.