Manchester United: 10 Things David Moyes Must Do
The jury will be out on David Moyes' appointment for some time to come. However, it wouldn't take much to end the honeymoon period. Sir Alex Ferguson may be "upstairs" but he is clearly having little influence as Moyes stamps his mark.
The last time a Manchester United dynasty ended—when Sir Matt Busby retired, former player Wilf McGuinness was asked to take the reins in an attempt at continuity. The result was a 26 year gap before United won the League title, 31 years to be Champions of Europe and five different managers in 16 years.
That must not happen this time. United cannot afford to slip as Liverpool have. They are now a major business enterprise operating in the entertainment industry just as much as the sporting arena.
The question is however, will Moyes be given the same leeway Sir Alex was if he doesn't continue United's pre-eminence? At least Ferguson has handed the club over in a strong position yet with room to change and grow further.
So what are the 10 things David Moyes must do as a minimum in the next 12 months or so?
Win the Players' Loyalty
Of course Sir Alex will be a hard act to follow but Moyes will stamp his own style quickly.
Carlo Ancelotti would have been a good choice as manager. He could legitimately have handed over the squad to a home-grown management team including the likes of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Ryan Giggs or Gary Neville after say, five years.
Instead, the United Board have opted for an outsider who may be in the Fergie mould. Similar personality, capable of building a winning team, cognizant of United's playing style and tradition and most of all—with a track record of turning youthful talent into top players.
The United players won't know him well, but they cannot ignore what Moyes has achieved on scant resources just down the East Lancs Road.
He is, however, joining a club which, though it has fewer world class players than in the past, is an excellent blend of experienced and raw talent, waiting to be augmented and move to the next era of success.
There are different challenges in winning the loyalty of different factions.
The established "squad" players may readily be won over by an injection of fresh ideas. They are happy at the club and just want to continue to be successful, perhaps with more playing opportunities.
The younger players, whether emerging from the Academy or Under 21s, or on the fringes of the First Team squad already, will be hungry for chances and nervous about possible fresh arrivals.
The established players will give Moyes a fair chance but may be unsettled by a clear-out in the coaching team. They were close to Mike Phelan and will have appreciated Meulensteen's innovative methods. The future of the latter is still unclear.
They are the key, however. Paul Scholes has retired and Darren Fletcher may have to as well. Ryan Giggs and Rio Ferdinand have been given new one-year contracts.
But while Michael Carrick will surely remain a mainstay of the team, even players like Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic may be nervous about younger replacements. Given that these two have been the captaincy team for the last two seasons, they may have more reason than most to be concerned.
Mind you, Patrice Evra may be on his way and the captaincy might change.
So will Moyes have a clear-out or will he retain the experienced core of the first team for at least one more season? With Giggs probably retiring in a year's time and having a more peripheral playing role next season, a smart move would be to make him a player-coach. He has his badges, so why not?
What can be said by observation is that the vast majority of United's players are loyal to the core and mature in their outlook and behaviour. Their response to Moyes' arrival will guide the others.
One established player who could rock the boat and therefore whose future must be sorted early, is Wayne Rooney. If his saga drags on or if he reluctantly stays, he could be a divisive element. We shall return to him.
Settle the Coaching Team
In just five weeks, United play the first of five matches in their Asian tour. By that time they will need a pretty settled squad and even though the players will have a few weeks off before then, Moyes will need to settle his coaching team as soon as possible.
It seems that Moyes has already brought Steve Round (assistant manager), Chris Woods (goalkeeping coach) and Robbie Cooke (chief scout); Phil Neville may well become first team coach.
But there have also been rumours that Willie Irvine would be brought in to run the Academy. Not only would that displace Paul McGuinness (Wilf's son), but it also reduces by one the number of roles available to former players like Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and possibly Darren Fletcher—if he is forced to retire.
Then there is the case of Warren Joyce who has just guided the Under 21s to the National Championship. He has also been coaching the next generation of United's talent, including gems like Adnan Januzaj, Tom Thorpe, Marnick Vermijl and Ryan Tunnicliffe.
So there would surely be concerns among young players and old alike if Moyes "sweeps clean" in the management and coaching hierarchy. It is critical that he retains some of the above and blends them with the new blood he may import.
Get Rid of the Dead Wood
One of the reasons why Sir Alex decided to call it a day was because of the need to have a clear-out—including players to whom he has been surprisingly loyal—as well as the obvious misfits. It would be hard for him to save face while presiding over the departure of £7 million flop Bebe.
But surely Sir Alex has been far too loyal to Anderson and Nani and they must go. Federicho Macheda will surely not survive and even Anders Lindegaard may be sold.
Fans would not lose much sleep if Ashley Young or Antonio Valencia departed as well, but there will always be a need for squad players and they should be given another season while the younger players like Powell, Januzaj and Zaha establish themselves.
While Evra is not dead wood, he could surely not survive if Leighton Baines arrived (unless he moved forward into a wing position). The matter of left back will need looking at urgently and Fabio will surely have a stronger claim than Alexander Buttner as an internal candidate.
There are, however, players in the '"arzipan layer" who may have to be culled. While Jesse Lingard and Larnell Cole have had bright ends to the U21 season, they are not pulling up trees nor are they getting any younger. Davide Petrucci is highly regarded but he is also 22 this autumn and was on loan last season. He will surely leave, as may Wes Brown's younger brother Reece.
Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind and United have a wealth of young talent coming through in all positions. We haven't even mentioned Academy players like Mats Daehli, Jack Barmby, Ben Pearson and James Wilson who will surely become established in the U21s next year.
The Glazers and the United Board will have approved a substantial transfer budget for any new manager coming in and there will no doubt have been potential signings in the pipeline.
Selling players like Nani and Anderson will raise some funds and while sponsors may be involved in funding a package for Cristiano Ronaldo—if he comes, there will still need to be money for other players, especially in midfield.
Finally, clearing out dead wood at all levels will send a message to those who remain, that although they may consider themselves fortunate, they will have to fight hard to prove their worth.
Resolve Wayne Rooney's Situation
But frankly, why would he want to?
In some senses Rooney has become a liability. It is wholly unacceptable, professionally speaking, that Rooney cannot sort out the issues that lead to him being sporadically unfit. Sir Alex may have tolerated much more than other managers would to get the best out of his star player, but even the fans are getting restless. Wayne has tried their patience—if indeed he has requested a transfer yet again.
Whatever happens, once he has got his management team established, Moyes must lance this particular boil.
It may be that Rooney can be re-motivated to give his best years to United for the rest of his career. If he once again reviews the serious options elsewhere and concludes that he is best placed at Old Trafford, then United may even be able to renegotiate a cheaper contract as a condition for him staying.
But if Moyes has any sense he will call Rooney's bluff and sell him, especially if an auction results in a figure as high as £40 million; and better still if Robert Lewandowski can be prised from Borussia Dortmund as a replacement.
Sign Key Players
We should not forget Javier Hernandez or Danny Welbeck, of course. Even if Lewandowski did not come, United need not struggle up front. They would still have three main strikers but they also have Shinji Kagawa who can play "in the hole"; needing only one out and out striker.
In addition, Wilfried Zaha can play as a striker as well as a winger and there is also Will Keane, who went with the U21 squad to the Dallas Cup and is on his way back to fitness. He is a talented finisher in the Teddy Sheringham and Denis Bergkamp mould.
United's biggest need and the hole they have never filled since Roy Keane's departure, is in midfield. Even allowing for the promise of Cleverley, Powell and Januzaj, two signings here would not go amiss.
While Ryan Tunnicliffe may covet the opportunity as a holding midfielder, surely Moyes must crystallise United's long-standing interest in Kevin Strootman—the PSV Eindhoven captain. He could not only release Carrick forward, but is himself a versatile midfielder with strength and ability.
Alongside these two, surely Luka Modric must be the prime target. He is the natural Scholes replacement. If Real Madrid won't release him then Cesc Fabregas or Thiago Alcantara from Barcelona are the obvious alternatives.
Moyes may not need to sign Baines but if he did, he would be getting arguably the most productive player in the Premier League after Gareth Bale and Juan Mata.
In central defence he could strengthen with the likes of Ezequiel Garay from Benfica but why bother with Vidic and Ferdinand—who is still a class act for one more year; Phil Jones is England's future at centre—back; Jonny Evans was one of the best in the Premier League last year; and Chris Smalling, Michael Keane, Wootton, Thorpe and Michele Fornasier are waiting in the wings.
Obviously, if Ronaldo came United would not need another winger, but otherwise Moyes may be tempted to give Young and Valencia at least one more year as Zaha, Januzaj and Daehli develop.
Have a Successful Tour
There are at least three reasons for David Moyes to take United's biggest contingent ever on their summer Asian tour:
Any new arrivals can be rapidly integrated; he can have a chance to look at every player who may have a long term place in his plans. But most of all, he and his management and coaching team can establish the breadth of rapport that can be the bedrock of a successful season under new management.
The tour will be a sell-out and if any new recruits have arrived by then they will realise what Robin van Persie was denied by his late arrival last season, the breadth and depth of United's global support and fans fervour, especially in the Far East.
During that time Moyes may also decide the captaincy issue. While retaining Vidic would ensure some stability and continuity, the new manager may want to move to the next captain.
This could be a tough decision. There are few obvious candidates and one possible solution would be to appoint Van Persie for a couple of years. He was an excellent captain at Arsenal and will surely be first choice all season. His appointment would give the manager time to appraise the merits of the likes of Evans, Jones or especially Strootman or Fabregas if they came in.
This also opens up an interesting point for debate. Will Moyes rotate his squad as much as Sir Alex did, or will he prefer a settled core to his team? The latter could be the key to United winning at least one trophy next season, even if it leaves some players frustrated.
Win a Few Matches
United haven't been blessed by their early fixture list in recent seasons. They certainly won't want to face Everton in their first match again.
So the luck of the draw by the Premier League could be crucial here, because Moyes cannot afford for his team to start the season poorly, otherwise the jungle drums will start to beat.
He must surely also realise that starting cautiously is not an option either. This isn't Everton, this is Manchester United, who go out to win every match and every trophy.
Reach the Last 16 of the Champions League
Even if Moyes does well in the Premier League, by early autumn he will have the next baptism of fire with the start of the Champions League.
United's form has been, for them, indifferent in the last couple of seasons. They have not qualified for the Quarter Finals during that time. If Moyes can better that he will be doing very well.
At the very least there is a great deal of money at stake, not to mention reputation. English clubs did not fare well last year. He has an opportunity to repair that damage and establish his European credentials in the process.
Win a Trophy
United didn't win anything in 2011/12 and this may well have lead to Sir Alex remaining for a season longer than he intended. A repeat of that will simply not do; nor will the League Cup.
Moyes has been given an added slice of luck with both Chelsea and City replacing their managers. Surely the latter two will be more disrupted than United?
While the Champions League looks several steps too far at the moment, there could be a tight contest in the Premier League with United having as good a chance as anyone.
But at the very least, Moyes can enhance his reputation by bringing the FA Cup back to Old Trafford for the first time in 10 years.
Sir Alex Ferguson may have won 38 trophies in his time at Old Trafford and Moyes only one at Everton, but it was three years before the great man won anything and six years until his first league title. Surely with the legacy he has left, the ex-Everton manager can make his mark quicker than his friend and mentor?
Qualify for the Champions League
One of the first targets for Manchester City after Sheikh Mansour took ownership was to qualify for the Champions League.
That target is the absolute minimum for David Moyes even if nothing else is achieved. And no, the Europa League will not do, either by failure or by default through the Champions League.
This may seem like a tough ask for the successor to Sir Alex, but Moyes has backed himself simply by waiting, and accepting arguably the biggest challenge in football. He has his own high standards and has already stamped his character with the early coaching and management changes.
What he must now realise is that every one of the 10 tasks described above is mandatory. Some are necessary to get the foundations laid as soon as possible and maintain the continuity that is the bedrock for continued success.
But he must also understand that the target achievements described above are the minimum that loyal United fans and indeed a hawkish and critical media will accept.
We shall watch every moment of this developing saga with interest.
Moyes does not have the time left to match or exceed Sir Alex's achievements, unless he goes on a miraculous spree of trophies. But he has the skills, experience, character and personality to take up where the "great Scot" left off.
And if he ever suffers a moment of self-doubt he will have the greatest manager in the history of football upstairs with an understanding and supportive ear to call upon.
Just as Sir Alex did himself with Sir Matt before him.