6 Factors That Will Determine Moyes' Success at Manchester United
Much has been written about the changing of the guard at Old Trafford.
David Moyes arrives with great expectations but with the heavy burden of expectancy that would have accompanied any successor to the great Sir Alex Ferguson.
Moyes has proved himself a worthy leader at Everton but, with no disrespect to their Merseyside rivals, the bar has been raised considerably with his move to Manchester, where these days, anything less than one major trophy per season is considered a failure.
He will need all his Scottish nous and experience to hit the ground running in August, and I have taken the time to list five factors that could prove vital in the early stages of his stewardship of the Reds.
Sir Alex Shows Admiration for Moyes Earlier in the Season
Sir Alex Ferguson
Following in the illustrious footsteps of probably the greatest football manager that ever lived is never going to be a straightforward task, but it can be made a lot easier by being given the space to work things out your own way and forge your own path. Sir Alex has always been available for advice when Moyes has called on him and that should be his role from now on.
Sir Alex will continue to be a huge presence at Old Trafford, just as Sir Matt Busby was before him, and the temptation to continue to exert his influence on team matters may initially be an issue.
However, just as Sir Matt before him, it is vital that Sir Alex doesn’t cast his giant shadow over Moyes and allows him to make his own mistakes, run things his own way and take the credit or blame accordingly.
Everything he has said so far points to him doing this and being in the background with his wealth of knowledge at the new man’s behest if called upon.
A Reminder What Rooney Can Do at His Best
Our “Wazza” has been through an unsettling season, although his request for a transfer just weeks before Fergy announced his retirement may, in retrospect, be a cause of regret for him.
Whether he stays or goes is now a major topic of debate in the media, and much will depend on Moyes' skills of persuasion if the former is to be the case. One could argue that Rooney’s departure would not be the loss that it would have been a season ago.
He has certainly dropped down the pecking order of automatic selections that has seen Robin van Persie grasp the mantle of match winner and become the first name on the team sheet for vital matches.
Sir Alex frequently left Rooney on the bench toward the end of the season, and omitting him from the starting lineup in the home leg against Real Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League was a body blow for a man who likes to play 90 minutes of every game his team is involved in.
Moyes has to decide whether last season was just a blip in Rooney’s career development or an indication that the peak has been reached.
If the new manager believes his former charge still has more to offer, he has to start right away in restoring him to his former glories.
How does he go about it?
First, Rooney is the type of player who loses fitness very quickly but has a fantastic engine when fully fit. He needs to start games on a regular basis and play for the full 90 minutes to retain top form. He is the type of player that doesn’t respond well to the squad rotation system, unlike strike partner Van Persie, who often comes back fresher and sharper from a break.
Rooney’s summer holidays should be pared down to the minimum. He hasn’t played in any of United’s run-in matches, so he should cope with a stringent preseason schedule.
Moyes also needs to decide on the most effective way of utilising Rooney. He is a great team man and will do his best wherever he is asked to play. It is unsettling, however, to be moved to and fro from striker to wide midfield player to central midfield as he has been this season. United will get the best from Rooney when he is allowed to concentrate on one position.
Is Lewandowski Old Trafford Bound?
Summer Signings and Sales
Not much activity occurred in January apart from the signing of Wilfred Zaha (more on that later), but United really need to dip into the transfer market this summer with perhaps three or four quality signings to supplement the existing squad.
This may mean disposing of some players to help finance the deals.
Gareth Bale and Robert Lewandowski would be mouth-watering acquisitions, but even if they become available, United would face stiff competition from other big-spending clubs.
The loss of Paul Scholes, the unpredictable performances of Anderson and the approaching sell by date of Ryan Giggs would point at the need for a creative midfielder in the mould of Christian Eriksen.
The new manager may even persuade former Everton employees Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini to follow him to Old Trafford.
To make way for any new signings, Nani must be one of the favourites to depart. His absence toward the end of the season seemed to indicate that Fergy’s patience with the Portuguese's erratic performances had finally run out.
Nani’s apparent lack of joy during the Cup presentation celebrations indicated perhaps that he believes that his future lies elsewhere. Whoever comes or goes will have an important bearing on Moyes' success or failure in his inaugural year.
Is Zaha the New Ronaldo?
The signing of the mercurial talent that is Wilfred Zaha may prove to be the best bit of business United have done since the capture of Cristiano Ronaldo.
In some ways, the raw, rangy style and trickery of the ex-Crystal Palace tyro echoes the early Old Trafford days of Ronaldo.
His performances in the Championship playoff semi-final against Brighton and Hove Albion showed that, despite not being anywhere near the finished article, he has enormous potential. Marked out of the game completely in the first half of the first leg by the ageing Wayne Bridge, he switched wings in the second half to create panic in the Brighton defence. In the second leg, he tore Brighton apart, scoring both goals in a surprising Palace victory.
To shine as he has done in a very mediocre Palace side bodes well when he is surrounded by quality players next season.
Hopefully he will be given plenty of opportunities next season to exhibit his talent.
It is, of course, far too early and far too optimistic to suggest that Zaha could emulate the great Ronaldo, but with Antonio Valencia losing his way a little last season and Nani unsure of his future at Old Trafford, it could prove to be an important signing.
Who Fills the Subs Bench and Who Starts Is Crucial
Arguably the most important function of a manager is team selection and tactics. Moyes will have more choices at United than he did at Everton and must get it right. Successful clubs, by implication, have a greater workload in terms of number of matches played, and the way he rotates his squad and utilises his prized assets will be vital.
A Good Example to Fans of How Not to Behave
Patience is a virtue and may be a quality that the United faithful have to exhibit. It is likely that Moyes will take time to settle, so instant success cannot be taken for granted.
Fans can be remarkably fickle and the hero today could well be tomorrow’s villain.
Moyes begins his Old Trafford career with a general feeling of goodwill toward him. This can change quickly as the honeymoon period passes.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that Ferguson was not exactly the flavour of the month in his early period at the club when results were going against him.
Fan power can exert a huge influence and put unwelcome pressure on a new manager, as Rafael Benitez recently experienced at Chelsea.
Benitez should be championed for his season’s work despite the misplaced animosity shown toward him by sections of the Chelsea crowd. It was surely the owner who should have been targeted in this instance.
Generally speaking, such pressure can only be detrimental to the manager’s performance. Such negativity can, in turn, transmit itself to the team on the pitch.
Hopefully the supporters will exercise restraint and, even if early results are less than favourable, give Moyes time to get it right.