Early Decisions That Could Define David Moyes' First Season at Manchester Utd
David Moyes understands the magnitude of his new job.
In a preseason interview with Inside United, the first-year Red Devils manager conceded his arrival at Old Trafford represented a “step up” not only from Everton but also “from just about any club in the world.” (Telegraph)
He added, “I know it won’t be easy, but I just hope we can all work together. My sole goal is to be successful and have a winning team.”
Success, thanks to legendary predecessor Sir Alex Ferguson, is something already engrained in the club Moyes was appointed to take over in the spring. But without decisive leadership, it’s also something that could prove increasingly elusive, and the 50-year-old, for one, is under no illusions as to the importance of starting off on the right foot.
“I know it won’t be easy, but I just hope we can all work together,” he said. “I hope that over the years we can have plenty of success.”
His early decisions regarding transfers, systems and player relations will have a lot to do with that, as the next few slides will reveal. But Moyes, it would seem, also understands just how important those choices will be, both for the upcoming season and his United tenure as a whole.
As he told the club’s official magazine, “The transition from Everton to United has been difficult at times as I have hard decisions to make.”
What to Do with Wayne Rooney
David Moyes will not be conducting his usual Friday press conference this week, even with the Community Shield match against Wigan upcoming.
On Thursday, the Manchester United manager banished Wayne Rooney to the reserves, escalating a feud between the England forward and the club that hit a new level when outgoing boss Sir Alex Ferguson claimed the 27-year-old had requested a transfer at the end of last season. Moyes, it would seem, is not at all keen on answering questions about the situation.
Getting the feeling David Moyes sick of talking about Wayne Rooney. No press conference on Friday to preview Comm Shield #MUFC— Daniel Taylor (@DTguardian) August 7, 2013
According to Goal, the Scot met with the player and agent Paul Stretford on Thursday morning and informed the pair that Rooney would be training with the reserves.
Rooney “appeared furious” at the decision, according to the report, and may now consider submitting a formal transfer request.
Exactly what Moyes would do with such a document could well have a long-term effect on his career at Old Trafford. At this point it looks as though the United-Rooney relationship has deteriorated beyond repair, but while the 50-year-old could get upwards of £30 million for the attacker, he would be loathe to sell such a high-profile player before bringing another one into the club.
Then there is the fact that Rooney, when at his best, is the sort of playmaker that can unlock defenses—in other words, exactly the sort of player United have a particular need for going into the 2013-14 season.
But if he’s hell-bent on leaving, there’s little Moyes can do. And keeping him at Old Trafford could end up being more disastrous than allowing him to leave.
Sell Before Buying?
It’s unlikely Anderson will have much to do with the United first team this season. Given yet another chance to make an impression during Tuesday’s friendly against AIK in Stockholm, the Brazilian seemed to give the ball away as often as he completed his passes, although he made one or two defensive interventions that may have caught Moyes’ eye.
Still, it would seem the 25-year-old is surplus to requirements at Old Trafford, and if Moyes ends up keeping him it will likely be due to an inability to attract a high-profile central midfielder during the summer transfer period.
As far back as April, Anderson was linked with a return to Porto (Telegraph), but unless the transfer logjam suddenly breaks and he’s able to start making acquisitions, it’s doubtful Moyes will be moving any players out of the club.
The same holds true for Nani, who has repeatedly been rumoured to be heading to Monaco (Telegraph), although a groin injury suffered in the Tuesday friendly against AIK could stall any proposed move.
But once again, Moyes won’t want to be labeled a “seller” before bringing in the type of playmaking midfielder he so obviously craves.
Acquiring a Playmaking Midfielder
So who will that midfielder be? We know it won’t be Thiago Alcantara. Despite United’s advances the Spain U-21 international joined Bayern Munich in July.
And we know it won’t be Cesc Fabregas after the Barcelona man reiterated his commitment to the Catalan giants on Thursday, saying, “I am very happy at Barcelona and I haven’t spoken to any other club in the last two years.” (BBC)
The 25-year-old scored 11 Premier League goals for Everton last season despite missing seven matches, compiled five assists and was named Man of the Match an impressive eight times. While not at the same level as Fabregas, he is nevertheless the sort of midfielder who pushes forward whenever possible and wins most of the aerial duels he commits himself to.
But would acquiring Fellaini represent defeat on Moyes’ part? The 50-year-old has never been able to be a big player in the transfer market before, and in missing out on his primary targets he may be revealing his inexperience at a “buying” club.
Cesc Fabregas pledges future to Barcelona. *shock*. That's a long garden path that David Moyes has been led down. Doesn't make him look good— John Cross (@johncrossmirror) August 8, 2013
He has also been linked with the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger (Mirror), Ilkay Gundogan (Metro) and Luka Modric (Times), and before United fans can take him seriously he’ll have to land one of them, or a player of similar profile.
Which Youngsters to Bring Through
Angelo Henriquez not only scored for Manchester United against AIK on Tuesday, but he also tortured the opposing defense with direct runs, clever layoffs and shifty moves on the ball during his cameo appearance at Friends Arena.
The 19-year-old, who was loaned out to Wigan last January, will no doubt be hoping for some first-team Premier League action with United in 2013-14, and his showing in the Swedish capital will have only enhanced his case.
But is there room for him in Moyes’ plans? And if so, which players will have to make way?
Guillermo Varela, whom Moyes made his first United acquisition back in July when he paid Penarol £2.8 million for his signature, is another youngster in need of playing time to develop. But earlier this week the 20-year-old revealed he was likely headed for a loan spell at Boca Juniors. (ESPNFC)
Similar decisions will also have to be made regarding defender Michael Keane and midfielder Jesse Lingard, both 20, and both of whom have been tipped for the first-team squad for some time.
And then there is 18-year-old whiz-kid Adnan Januzaj, who will likely spend one more year in the youth setup before being made available for loan.
Managing the club’s young players—and bringing them through when the time was right—was a Ferguson hallmark at Manchester United, and Moyes will do himself a lot of favours if he can successfully transplant one or two up-and-comers into the first-team squad before too long.
The Attacking Formation
David Moyes will begin his first Premier League match as United manager with a goalkeeper, two full-backs and a pair of central defenders. Everything else is up in the air.
Michael Carrick—a Player of the Year finalist last term—will be slotted into the midfield slightly in front of the back four, but who will play alongside him?
Thiago Alcantara would almost certainly have worked in tandem with Carrick had he not opted for a reunion with former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola, and Cesc Fabregas might also have been a good fit had he not preferred to remain in Catalonia.
Of course, that’s assuming Moyes would have deployed a 4-2-3-1, 4-4-1-1 or 4-4-2, but he has also been experimenting with a 4-3-3 during preseason and will have to settle on his system in the coming days.
At this point it would seem Robin Van Persie, Wilfried Zaha and Shinji Kagawa are the only attacking players currently guaranteed their places, and if Kagawa is allowed to operate where he prefers—just behind the centre-forward—one of a 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-1-1 would seem likely. Zaha, who has impressed in preseason, could work on his left and one of Danny Welbeck and Ashley Young on his right, but that would still leave the likes of Antonio Valencia and Javier Hernandez out in the cold.
Both of those players would be better accommodated in a 4-4-2, but in that scenario—as in all above scenarios—a problem remains: who partners Carrick?
Is Tom Cleverley the answer? Probably not. And Ryan Giggs is quite clearly not the solution long-term, although with the start of the season just around the corner he would seem to have the inside track on the role.
All this and more will no doubt be playing through Moyes’ mind over the coming weeks, and the conclusions he arrives at will set in motion both the 2013-14 campaign and the club’s overall direction under his leadership.