What David Moyes' First Month of the Season Will and Won't Tell Us
With the 2013-14 Barclays Premier League campaign rapidly approaching, it's time to turn our attentions away from Manchester United's thus far lackluster preseason and focus on the oncoming storm on the horizon.
United fans should not be too concerned about the "start" they've made under new boss David Moyes.
In reality, the games played in the summer months are more of a public training exercise than they are an actual match of football—at least for the bigger sides.
Ultimately, preseason form does not naturally translate into the start of a league campaign.
The first real test for Moyes' new tenure in Manchester will come on August 17, when his Red Devils side travel to the south of Wales to face Swansea at the Liberty Stadium.
This first competitive game as United boss will certainly not define David's reign as a whole, but it will sew the first metaphoric thread in the soon-to-be expanding Moyes-United tapestry.
So at what point can we really start to analyse the Scotsman's impact on the club?
There is no definitive answer to that question. Some would argue not until the end of the season, some perhaps as soon as that first game against Swansea.
For the sake of not falling too short or waiting too long, let's take a look at what we will have learnt about Moyes' time with the club after a much more rounded period of time—one month into the start of the EPL season.
But firstly, while we want to discuss what this period will tell us about Moyes and the changes at the club in general, let's take a look at what it won't tell us.
What we won't know
To start with, let's get one thing straight: After just a month into his first competitive season with United, we will have no idea how good Moyes will be in the long-term.
Sir Alex Ferguson hardly had the best start as United boss (let's not forget that it took six years for United to win their first title under Fergie), so a poor beginning should certainly not be taken as absolute proof of David's inability to manage the side.
At the same time, however, one has to remember that a fantastic start also doesn't necessarily mean that the former Everton boss is going to spend 26 years at the helm.
This is something that has to pan out over a lengthy period (maybe even a couple of seasons) before it can be truly determined. Making a judgement call like this after only a month of serious football would just be silly.
On a similar note, there can be no real answer to whether or not Moyes was the best man for the job out of the candidates available at the time of Sir Alex's retirement.
While many would argue that this a dead issue, there are still some out of there who firmly believe that Jose Mourinho may have been a better replacement for Sir Alex than their current gaffer.
Personally, I think that viewpoint is ludicrous (Mourinho's lack of patience and inability to work with a youth system would never have worked at United), but that doesn't mean that some out there aren't still firmly holding on to this notion.
For those who aren't convinced about Moyes, this first month won't be long enough to answer that question one way or the other.
Naturally with a new manager coming in he will want to play around with the team a lot and experiment to see which formations and players get the best results out of the team.
It is unlikely that at this early stage in Moyes' rule we will have a 100 percent clear picture of who is to be considered a first-team regular and who more of a bench-warmer.
Some players (such as Robin van Persie, Nemanja Vidic, Michael Carrick and David de Gea) will, of course, pose no real question to their inclusion in the first team or not.
However, with a (well documented) weak central midfield on show, I wouldn't be surprised if United fans still aren't completely aware of who has a regular spot in the starting line-up in the middle of the park.
This was an area that even Sir Alex struggled to find consistent starters for and will no doubt pose the same issues under Moyes.
And perhaps most importantly of all, it's crucial to remember that at this tender stage in the campaign it will be impossible (barring a truly abysmal start garnering little to no points) to tell whether or not United will be able to clinch their 14th EPL title, and their 21st English top-flight crown.
Whether good or bad, this first month won't be able to inform us as to whether Moyes will be able to lift the title high in his debut season with the club.
So that's what we won't learn in the first month, but more importantly, what will become more clear as the time elapses? What will we know after Moyes' first month?
What we will know
While we won't have any idea as to whether United can finish on top of the table, this reporter believes that it will be possible to analyse whether or not the club will maintain their record of finishing in the Champions League places in every EPL season to date.
It may seem pessimistic to even suggest that United could possibly fall out of the Top Four (something that would be a huge shock, with the Red Devils never actually finishing outside the top three before), but with such a momentous change at Old Trafford, anything is possible.
If United make a reasonably positive start to the campaign with some good performances, then, regardless of the results themselves, we should be able to safely say whether or not Moyes can ensure a Champions League finish in his first year with the champions.
This proud record is something that United fans won't want to give up lightly, and so a solid start to the year will ease their minds no end.
We will also really start to see how much Moyes has bonded with his new players.
While a healthy bond is not something that is always easy to detect, an unhealthy one certainly is.
If there appears to be no friction on the surface from the United players toward their new manager, it would probably be safe to assume that they are well and truly behind him.
Remember also that while this is just a month into the season, at this point David will have been in charge of the Red Devils for approaching three months.
If the players have started to become unhappy with him or his style of management by this stage, it will be very noticeable in the public eye.
Players often have a way of showing the world their negative opinions of a manager, whether it be a passive performance on the pitch or a sharp-worded interview with the press.
If, by this point, there has been no evidence of this (other than the drama surrounding Wayne Rooney, of course), then one has to surmise that for the most part, he has the support of his soldiers.
And speaking of mister Rooney, the final thing that we will be given a much clearer picture of is the Liverpudlian's role at the club.
If we are to assume (and this is, at this stage, a big assumption) that Wayne will be remaining with United this summer, then after the first month of the competitive season, we will have a better idea of how Rooney fits into the side.
It's likely that if Rooney does stay with United, Moyes will try his best to find some way of playing both he and RVP in the same starting lineup.
Having given Rooney his first real chance on the big stage during their time together at Everton, Moyes is certainly aware of how much of a positive impact the striker can have on a side.
It would make sense that if Rooney does stay, he will once again find himself with a regular spot in the first XI.
However, again this is obviously not something that any one of us can answer right now; a month into Moyes' reign, this will be much clearer.
If Rooney is fully fit but unable to find a place in the first team, then don't be surprised to see a potential winter exit on the cards.
Whatever happens in this first month, the most important thing for United fans will be to stick by their new manager.
In this modern age of football, it has become relatively normal for a boss to be hounded out of a club after just a couple of months of bad results.
United have built a dynasty of success around the faith that they put in both their manager and their players. For their success to continue, this has to remain the same.
The first month of David Moyes' debut season with the club is certainly nothing trivial to ignore, but at the same time it should be assessed with moderation.
Whatever we do and don't know on September 17, Manchester United fans should be sticking by their head coach.
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