Of all the responsibilities that David Moyes has to fulfill in his new, more demanding role as the manager of Manchester United, he’s perhaps failing to take care of one of the subtlest.
He’s not endearing himself particularly well to the Old Trafford faithful, which is making it hard for United fans to get behind him.
There is no hostility aimed at Moyes from the club’s fans, obviously, but there isn’t a mutual affection either. That will take some time to develop, of course.
Here’s why Moyes is alienating some fans, with some suggestions as to how he can get them on board.
Is Moyes Tactically Inept?
Moyes’ biggest failing this season relates to how the team have performed on the pitch. Sure, the players must also harbour the responsibility in that sense, but managers are always the ones who become scapegoats.
Plenty of Moyes’ decisions on the pitch have been odd, with too many points being dropped due to tactical naivety. Simply put, United have not looked or played like United do.
The winning mentality is gone.
After the guy who won everything, Man Utd chose the guy who'd won nothing (Moyes). Strange decision and they're paying for it. #ManUtd— Roger Cohen (@NYTimesCohen) December 4, 2013
In order to avoid more disappointment, Moyes must show greater tactical awareness by using his squad in a more astute manner. The likes of Marouane Fellaini, Tom Cleverley, Shinji Kagawa and Nani all need to be used more effectively in order to get the best out of them.
There is also a need for more open, attacking play.
The thing I miss about the Fergie era - and this is no criticism of Moyes - in the final 15 min cavalry charge. The big red wave of attack.— Nooruddean (@BeardedGenius) December 1, 2013
That is a criticism of Moyes.
With the exception of the comeback win against Stoke, United haven’t demonstrated that rampant, unforgiving style of attack that has proven to be so effective in the past.
Moyes needs to take the metaphorical shackles off and let the team play.
Bungled Transfer Dealings
The summer transfer window was where the real damage was done in the eyes of many fans.
Yes, Moyes targeted a number of talented midfielders, but none arrived at Old Trafford. That failure was compounded by the deadline-day signing of Fellaini from Moyes’ former club. The £27.5 million man was not the solution to United’s problems.
In short, Moyes blew it over the summer. The fans were left disappointed at bungled transfer dealings. Again, though, it’s worth pointing out that Moyes was not fully to blame.
United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward would have been at the heart of the club’s transfer negotiations and, for all we know, could be equally to blame.
Woodward’s comments shed some light on the summer dealings when he spoke to the club fanzine United We Stand (via Sky Sports):
We didn't want to impose a plan on the new manager that had come from the old manager...and we knew we had a truncated window. The early view was that we needed a central midfielder and a left-back, but David also wanted to spend time with the squad. There wasn't a long list he wanted—it was a unique window.
To translate: Moyes wanted Fellaini and Leighton Baines as a minimum. Two of his former players who, in all honesty, are not United quality.
Moves for Cesc Fabregas and Ander Herrera demonstrated that there was no real plan of action to secure top-class talent. United’s half-hearted attempts to bring new faces to the club ensured that the squad entered the new season devoid of fresh, innovative ideas.
That cannot happen again in January. Moyes knows that.
January must be a month in which at least one world-class player arrives.
Moyes’ Strange Comments
The fact that Sir Alex Ferguson hasn’t been mentioned up until the latter half of this article was a deliberate measure. He’s retired, and we must move on.
However, Ferguson would not have made some of the strange comments that Moyes has since taking over. He’s said some things that perhaps illustrate his lack of experience at the very top level of management.
Check out what Moyes had to say in the pre-match press conference vs. Newcastle United to get a real sense of the problem:
“If” and “try” are the keywords there. Where’s the conviction?
Everyone knows United must strengthen in January in order to avoid slipping out of the top four. It would be good to hear the manager state outright that he aims to bring new players in. Ifs and maybes do not resonate with the cutthroat attitude that a United manager should have.
And there are plenty more examples to illustrate that point.
Moyes: "I think Man Utd supporters understand fully that it was always going to be transitional & that it will be a bumpy road at times."— Rahul (@forevruntd) December 7, 2013
What Moyes says is completely fair, but it shouldn’t be coming from the club’s manager.
Moyes lacks conviction when he speaks, which isn’t helping. You have to wonder whether it rubs off on the players. Can you think of any top-class managers who aren’t assertive, and who don’t speak with a measure of control?
Now, you could argue that Moyes has more pressing concerns than worrying about what the fans think of him.
How would you grade Moyes' start?
And you’d be right.
Luckily for Moyes, though, addressing all of the above issues will have the effect of bringing the fans onside.
It’s been a disappointing start, and the fans are well within their rights to be critical of their manager if they want to be. Moyes must address the issues that have come to the fore in the first six months of his tenure, quickly.
For now, Moyes will divide opinion.
Come the end of January, though, we will know more about the kind of United manager he is.