Manchester Misguided

After David Moyes was chosen as Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor at Old Trafford, questions the appointment of the Everton boss

Image: thesportreview.

Image: thesportreview.

There are some striking similarities between this year and 1974: Margaret Thatcher is pissing people off, Bruce Forsyth is on television far too often and the biggest football club in the country is going through a period of monumental transition.

In 1974, it was the mighty Leeds United who were making a change – their longest serving and highly successful manager, Don Revie stepped down to take the England job. Controversially, the club appointed the even more controversial Brian Clough as his replacement, following his achievements with Derby County.

At Derby, Clough had transformed a middling midlands side into one that won the first division in 1972. While Clough had built his reputation on building a team at Derby, the job at Leeds proved too big for him – Revie’s regime infrastructure was ingrained, his ethereal presence permeated the club and Clough was never really able to silence the ghost that haunted it. Clough was sacked after just one win, in 9 games and 44 days.

And although he would go on to cultivate his own similar legacy at Nottingham Forrest some years later, the fact remains that in replacing the irreplaceable, there is a pressure that not just any manager can handle. This is not to say that Brian Clough was not one of the greatest managers in the history of English football (he really was), but it is to say that when the champions are looking for a new boss, the right call must be made. Builders, like Clough, are great if they can start from scratch, but give them something that is not their own, and the bastard reality of player loyalty, cultural hegemony and ultimately habitual fandom spoiled by success, might prove too much to overcome.

The statue of legendary Brian Clough in Nottingham. Image: rchappo2002.

The statue of legendary Brian Clough in Nottingham. Image: rchappo2002.

Fast forward to 2013, and it’s Manchester United who are looking for a new manager to replace their very own golden goose. To be quite honest, comparing David Moyes to Clough is flattery of the highest order, but he is in the same situation, facing the prospect of inheriting not just a legacy, but a duty to perform.

11 years in a job usually means one of two things; success or stagnation, but Moyes’ tenure at Everton has been a combination of both. On the one hand, we can argue that on a shoe string budget four European campaigns and several top half finishes is quite the achievement.

But scratch beneath the surface and the shoe string budget is revealed to be one that can afford £16.5m worth of Marouane Fellaini after being subsidized by £23m received for Joleon Lescott. Furthermore, consider a record of just one FA Cup final appearance and no other trophies and the reality becomes more jarring.

Compared to Clough’s CV at Derby which included a top flight title in less than six years from being at the bottom of the second tier; a man who has managed in the Champions League only once and is not known outside of England (be honest), Moyes does not seem ready to take over the world’s biggest sporting franchise.

Naturally, the populist smokescreen that engulfs sports media would have me shouted down for heresy if I said this on Match of the Day; and metropolitan police would probably have me arrested for breaking on to the set. But that’s beside the point.

It seems you can’t say a word against Moyes because he’s achieved ‘so much’ at Everton, and heaven forbid that you question the judgment of the elders at Old Trafford.

Image: Illarterate.

Image: Illarterate.

I’m not saying Moyes is a bad manager – far from it; but I am saying he’s the wrong choice. And here’s why.

Not least because he looks like Moe Szyslak from The Simpsons, but Moyes is not the most marketable man for the media. The absence of poster boy looks on its own seems a highly superficial and irrelevant reason not to hire someone, but this would be to forget that football is a business. The attenuation of market value has already set itself into motion with Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement; advertising stocks have shaken up in the wake of the news; and without a sufficiently marketable figure in replacement, they risk falling in the near future. Jose Mourinho, aside from being the superior tactician, had the poster boy looks to accompany lucrative sponsorship deals.

I’m sure some readers are rolling their eyes at that point; and those readers probably don’t understand anything about economics.

Ok so let’s move on to footballing reasons. We’ve already established that compared to other candidates, ahem Jose, that Moyes’ CV is barren. This cannot be excused by Everton’s finances when other, lesser funded clubs have won trophies during his tenure – even war torn Portsmouth have won The FA Cup during this time and minnows Swansea have won the League Cup this season.

As for playing style, I dare say there is nothing distinct about a David Moyes team beyond one that ‘always does well in the second half of the season’. A lot of good that’ll do when the title race is wrapped up in January, eh?

One of the main problems that Clough faced at Leeds was that leading players such as Billy Bremner and Johnny Giles could not get behind him; they persisted a loyalty to the absent Revie while their egos would not allow them to be managed by a man who had achieved less than they had. It seems unlikely therefore that the likes of Robin Van Persie, Rio Ferdinand or Patrice Evra would resonate well with a man whose own personal trophy cabinet is on par with my own. It seems equally unlikely that the likes of Robert Lewandowski would be tempted by the prospect of playing under Moyes at United when they could play under Mourinho at Chelsea.

I’m being obtuse. Moyes is not a bad manager; he has steadied the ship at Everton marvellously and clubs like Newcastle and Aston Villa could learn a lot from their fellow ‘big’ club. But this is not a wee club in the North East, or one that feels the need to remind everyone that they won a European cup, long long ago in a galaxy far far away; this is Manchester United.

Those swept up in Moyes mania will have my head for this article I’m sure; and when Manchester United win the League Cup in three years, will probably tell me to eat my words; but I’m afraid I disagree with the board’s decision.

Mourinho might be a globe trotter, but if any team was going to hold him down surely it was this one? And surely, he was the obvious candidate for all reasons considered: a glowing CV, good looks and you know that every player in world football respects him, even if they don’t like him.

I wish Moyes well, but I won’t be surprised if we see another Damned United.


  1. 11 May ’13 at 1:18 pm

    Guy Wakefield

    I know everyone rates Fergie, but tell you what. He ain’t no Alan Pardew.

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  2. You watch the dammed united… we get it. Get over it. Comparing clough and that era of football to the modern era when money rules is ridiculous… the 70s anyone could win the league now there are 5 teams who can challenge for the top 5 and realistically 3 who can mount a serious title challenge. Only finishing outside the top 10 once is an achievement for a team who’s highest purchase has been fellani after selling rooney and leacott for over 20 mil each…. also ferdinand has publically backed moyes. And as you mention mourihno united dont want a manager who can only play with star players and who will most likely have a tenure of a few years also with him pretty much having a done deal with Chelsea moyes is the only choice

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  3. To be honest, I am a bit of a spoon

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  4. Everybody knows Mourinho is going to Chelsea. Moyes was chosen by Ferguson. Deal with it.

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  5. Ferguson’s ego wouldn’t allow a personality that was bigger than him to potentially overshadow him. While obviously the achievements cannot be eclipsed, younger fans might soon turn to chanting another man’s name and that’s something that Ferguson’s inner insecurity would not allow. Ferguson cehrry picked Moyes so he would have someone to handhold and maintain his grip on the club, well beyond his tenutre

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  6. Good article. Moyes is underwhelming in my opinion. Klopp would have been better if you were going to gamble. I don’t trust top six to become top 2 in the space of 1 season…..

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  7. I agree with the United fan that Klopp would have been the best appointment but, to be honest, I doubt he’d be interested in leaving Dortmund at the moment and he’d hardly be less of a risk given his lack of familiarity with the Premier League.

    Personally, whilst I hope he and United fail miserably, I am pretty sure that Moyes will lead United to plenty more trophies. Their era of dominance under Ferguson may be over but they will remain one of the best teams in Europe I am sure. Contrary to what this article suggests he is highly respected by anyone who is anyone in the English game, and that includes the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Robin Van Persie. They know it’s not as simple as “Where are your trophies?” Otherwise nobody would get a job anywhere.

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  8. Fellani and baines to follow moyes and probably one marque signing (probably a striker) means that moyes will offer long term success (even avram grant could win a trophy with that united team) whilst mourinho would offer instant success in either the league or champions league but then move on once thats completed he just doesnt fit in with uniteds ethos

    also mourinhos wage demands would probably be triple moyes too

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  9. Interesting article and I agree with several of your points. Also, like others, I could see other candidates being a better match, such as Klopp.

    I think the key thing you and many others have overlooked is the role SAF will have at the club. Although not in charge, he will surely have the ability to influence decisions over Moyes, effectively being a puppet master.

    In this sense, his appointment makes sense and they are simply moulding Moyes into SAF mkII.

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  10. 12 May ’13 at 6:17 pm

    Biggest club in the 70s

    Interesting you talk about the “transition” taking place at England’s biggest club in 1974.

    I can only assume you were actually talking about Paisley succeeding Shankly, as that’s the only Club who warrants that sort of recognition from that era…

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  11. You can’t compare 1 era to the next. That Leeds team came up in ’64 and qualified for Europe ten seasons in a row, the first (and only pre-CL era) club to achieve this. Never out of the top 4, 2 titles and 5 2nd place finishes, not to mention 8 cup finals. They underachieved if anything. All achieved with little or no money on the back of an astute manager. Clough did the same at Derby and Forest, if not for quite so long. If the Premier League and Champions League had been founded in ’72 instead of ’92, how would English football look now? What state would Leeds and Manchester Utd be in? Never mind the ‘small’ clubs (Everton? Villa? Newcastle? small?) When Liverpool and Arsenal can’t compete with Chelsea and Man City then something is not right. The English game is lost and I for one hope it collapses in on itself.

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  12. English football is set for a few years of change in my opinion. Alex Ferguson’s departure was inevitable if not imminent for some time. Whether or not he’s the greatest manager ever to have lived is a debate that will rumble on for a long time, but he certainly impacted upon the game.

    Supporting a longstanding Football League (and now Non-League) Football Club myself, I have a slightly different perspective on the game to many who support Premier League teams.

    Ferguson has achieved great things, but he has done so with money. He managed the most commercialised club in the world, and though they didn’t spend the disgusting amounts that Chelsea and Manchester City have recently, they have spent big. They spent on one player last season what my club spends on its entire budget in roughly 30 years.

    The result of that is that football, in Ferguson’s era, has become almost wholly about money. It’s no longer about the enjoyment of the spectator, but how the broadcasters and the Greedy League can make more money out of the ordinary man fast becoming priced out of the game.

    Consequently, more and more Football Clubs are being killed off, especially those further down the food chain. I know many people that think that doesn’t matter, that the Football League and lower aren’t important. But they are.

    The Football Pyramid is exactly that – a pyramid. Take off the top layer (i.e. the Premier League) and the rest would survive. Take away the lower layers (Football & Non Leagues) and the top will collapse.

    Just a different perspective I suppose.

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  13. This is poor journalism for me. Rohan Banerjee came with an agenda. Perhaps ‘Rohan Misguided’ would be a more appropriate title.

    David Moyes is a fantastic manager, absolutely the right choice for Manchester United. And it wouldn’t surprise me if he won the league in his first season. Moyes is cut from the same cloth, so to speak. He’s done incredibly well at Preston and Everton on such a limited budget and offers the continuity the club are looking for. There is a reason Ferguson choice Moyes, and that’s because he’s very very good. The fact that Birmingham, Swansea etc. have won something and Moyes has not…anybody can get lucky in the FA Cup or League Cup. In the FA Cup you need to win six games. I certainly wouldn’t appoint McLeish or Martinez based on winning a trophy.

    Mourinho is not the right man. He’s a quick fix. Too short term. At other clubs you come in, with an already built squad, win a few trophies and leave. Manchester United doesn’t work like that. It’s a different kind of club. It’s a disgrace that Manchester City are sacking Mancini. It’s this short term culture that is poisonous.

    Klopp doesn’t have any experience in the Premier League, he’s not the right man for the job at this time. Things were different when Mourinho entered Chelsea.

    Moyes has been great in the transfer market.

    Clough and the rest won these trophies in a very different era. There weren’t multimillion pound empires to beat. Everton lost to Chelsea in the 2009 FA Cup Final, a team worth ten times as much as them at the peak of their powers.

    I would expect Moyes to win the PL in one of his first two seasons. I’d rather take Ferguson’s advice than Rohan Banerjees. Bad article. Anti-Manchester United propaganda from a fan of presumably a smaller club. The overwhelming consensus is with Moyes. Typical Nouse pretentiousness. Perhaps try again Nouse, and find somebody to write an article without an anti-Manchester United agenda.

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  14. 14 May ’13 at 1:45 am

    The Mighty Oosh

    Obv obv obv.

    Who do you write for?

    Write one yourself if you’re that offended.

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  15. This Rohan guy knows nothing. Firstly comparing Clough’s appointment to Moyes’ is completely redundant. Revie was still in the game and had taken a more high profile job elsewhere, so comparisons could still be made directly between the two and the players who were loyal to Revie were acutely aware that he could back and manage them at some point. not the case with Moyes. Secondly Fergie is still at Man Utd, he is still one of the most powerful people at the club and he hand picked his replacement and will be doing all that he can to make the Moyes’ transition as smooth as possible. So the issue of player loyalty is not going to be an issue because the players who respect Fergie will respect HIS choice of manager. Not the case with Clough and Revie. secondly your pompous point about the economics of football is ridiculous. Moyes isn’t a player, he’s a manager so superstar good looks aren’t what advertisers are attracted too. Manager’s raise there marketable stock by being successful. Fergie is ugly as sin but he is one of the most marketable man in the game because he has won everything. Jose is marketable because he is successful not because he is a pin up. So as soon as Moyes starts hitting similar levels of success there is nothing to stop him from being just as marketable a commodity. Thirdly. You’re an idiot. Don’t ever write a football article again.

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