20 Reasons Why Manchester United Should Sack David Moyes
The aggregate score of the past two league fixtures is 8-1 in United's favour. Last week, United achieved a creditable, if perhaps ultimately futile, one-all draw with Bayern Munich.
So why now?
Mostly because it is too little, too late for Moyes. In a a season which, barring a European miracle, will be a write off, Moyes has not done enough to earn the time to build his version of Manchester United. There is little indication that his version of United would be a desirable thing to see.
There is certainly an equivalent list to be written of reasons why Moyes should be remain in charge, but here are 20 reasons why Moyes should be let go in the summer.
Here is to hoping that this list will seem laughably short-sited once he has built an all-conquering United.
Woeful Home Form
Moyes has very quickly turned Old Trafford from a fortress into a happy hunting ground for the opposition.
His own explanation of the reasons, that there is "a big expectation at Old Trafford to go and be a bit gung-ho and play in a real attacking style," (per Goal.com) seem at odds with most observers, who have seen United consistently play within themselves.
Those decrying home form as an outlier, citing United's impressive away form in Moyes' defense seem to be ignoring the consistency of poor performance at home, which, in domestic terms, lasted the entirety of the meaningful part of the season.
Domestic Cup Performances
Linked to the home form, have been United's well-below-par domestic cup performances.
Getting to the semi-final of the Capital One Cup may be some sort of achievement, but the limp two-legged defeat to Sunderland was a serious disappointment.
Culminating in what has been proven by science to be the worst penalty shootout of all time (well, okay, perhaps not proven by science, but still) United should have been in a different class to their opposition.
The FA Cup was even worse, United departing after a timid, heartless performance at home to Swansea. Nowhere near good enough.
A Litany of the Wrong Kind of Broken Records
Two wins in 14 games against the top nine.
Most defeats in a Premier League season.
Most home defeats for 12 years.
Beaten home and away for the first time ever by Liverpool and Manchester City.
Epoch-resetting defeats home to Newcastle, Everton and West Bromwich Albion. Swansea's first ever win at Old Trafford.
A truly abject record of records, and easily enough to warrant the sack for Moyes on its own. The caveats and arguments about transition and the quality of the squad do not hold up in the face of scrutiny and counter-example. It has been a disastrous start, too disastrous to warrant continuance.
Failing to Do Enough to Keep Rene Meulensteen on Staff
Robin van Persie, in February 2013 said of Rene Meulensteen, per the Daily Telegraph.
He is truly one of the best coaches in the world. I have had a lot of good trainers, but it’s the way he prepares our team for games. Every match is different, so every training session in the build-up to games is unique.
We know exactly what to expect and he wins points for us through his training.
There is some dispute between Meulensteen and Moyes about how much effort was made to keep the Dutchman at the club, per the Daily Express, but, whatever effort was made, it was self-evidently not enough.
Given the rumours of discontent between van Persie and Moyes, per the Daily Mail, it is hard not to wonder how much better things could have been had Moyes kept hold of more of the previous regime's coaching staff.
Allowing a coach of the apparent calibre of Meulensteen to leave the club would appear to be a very significant mistake.
When Javier Hernandez scored the fourth goal in United's 4-1 defeat of Aston Villa, he barely raised a smile. Too good for the bench, not good enough for the first team, Hernandez has been in limbo and it is hard to imagine him being at United next season.
Hernandez has been underused and he is not alone. Feast or famine have been the order of the day for Rio Ferdinand and Danny Welbeck, often either playing several games in a row or not featuring at all. Ditto Shinji Kagawa, of whom more later.
Anders Lindegaard, who put in a highly creditable performance against Newcastle, has also been absent from the first team. This is not to advocate his regular selection ahead of David De Gea, but to suggest that Moyes' ability to incorporate fringe players in the squad has been poor.
'The Fulham Game'
The two-all draw between Manchester United and Fulham on 9 February 2014 was my personal low point of this very difficult season.
During the game, United's tactical plan could not have been clearer, and it could not have been clearer that it was not working. The relentless commitment to a percentage-football approach was painful to watch.
It was agonisingly obvious that Fulham were enjoying United's insistence on crossing, and Moyes did nothing about it. In the aftermath, he accused the players of "mental softness" and said "I don't know if we could have done an awful lot more," per BBC Sport.
It was a comment very much at odds with the experience of those watching (more of that later) and a very worrying indicator of Moyes' limitations.
Poor Man Management
There is, by necessity, inference in this suggestion.
Partly the assumption of poor man management comes from the performance of players, clearly less impressive, in most cases, than their performances last season.
There are also the aforementioned rumours of difficulties in the relationship with van Persie.
All this comes whilst Moyes' lionisation of Wayne Rooney has become a running gag amongst fans.
Moyes will praise Rooney for Mata's goal...— Jay (@RFFH) April 5, 2014
This turned out to be more premonition than joke, as Moyes said, per ManUtd.com, "Every day, him and Wayne Rooney practice their free-kicks and try to get them right."
Many see his charm offensive as having been a success given United have retained Rooney's services. However, it has come at a cost. Financially, Rooney's contract is highly lucrative, per BBC sport, but there is also a cost to Moyes' apparent insistence on prioritising Rooney over his colleagues.
Rooney has been cemented as the side's "main man." Whether he warrants that position or not, there are tactical and personal reasons why that creates challenges at the club.
Whether it is good man management in the long term is entirely unclear. Overall, what Moyes is doing shows very little signs of working.
He Is Too Quick to Pass the Buck in the Press
On 29 March 2014, David Moyes said, per FourFourTwo.com;
I actually think if Sir Alex was here this year it would be difficult for Sir Alex as well, and I'm sure he'd be aware of it
On 8 May 2013, when announcing his retirement, Sir Alex had sent a very different signal about his view of the squad (h/t The Guardian):
It was important to me to leave an organisation in the strongest possible shape and I believe I have done so. The quality of this league winning squad, and the balance of ages within it, bodes well for continued success at the highest level whilst the structure of the youth set-up will ensure that the long- term future of the club remains a bright one.
Whilst there may be an element of truth in what he says, his tone has been difficult to take.
The primary reason for United's difficulties this season has been the inability of the new manager to acclimatise to the role. Perhaps he will do so in future, there is ample evidence to suggest he will not.
United's Best Form Has Come in Spite of Moyes, Not Because of Him
United's recent good run of performances and results has happened in spite of Moyes, not because of him.
Kagawa and Juan Mata have dominated three league fixtures in a row, against West Ham United, Aston Villa and Newcastle United.
It seems very unlikely that this would have happened had Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney both been fit. When he has had his two star strikers available, Moyes has consistently built a side around the idea of playing Rooney at No. 10.
With first van Persie and then Rooney unavailable, United have become a much more fluid side. Even then, the most attractive football was only played against Newcastle once Moyes' first choice, Ashley Young, went off injured.
Replaced by Adnan Januzaj, United went on to play beautiful football, enhanced by the movement of forgotten-man Hernandez.
This was not "Moyes football." This was football we have only seen played when he has no other option.
United's Best Result Came About as a Result of an Incredibly Defensive Approach
The one-all draw with Bayern Munich was an extraordinary event at which to be in attendance.
I left Old Trafford bereft of voice, and hard of hearing, such were the noise levels in the Stretford End. It felt like most of United's side had done themselves proud and the performance left United fans with a sense of pride for the first time in any of Moyes' attempts to take on a "big" side.
And yet, in the cold light of day, what was achieved, and at what cost to the "United way," whatever that might be?
A one-all draw is creditable, but gives Munich the edge in the tie because of the away-goals rule. In order to achieve that draw, United surrendered possession to Munich time and again, defended their own box with tigerish intensity, but made no attempt to impose their football on Munich.
United were also forced to ride their luck. Bayern made 16 attempts on United's goal, compared with the six United managed on Bayern's, per Squawka.com. The eight blocked shots show how reliant United were on last-ditch defending. When that is your strategy, you maximise the chances of a minor individual error being crucial. This is not just an issue of aesthetics, it is also an issue of efficacy.
It could reasonably be argued that this ultra-defensive mindset was the best approach to take, but if the high point of the season is a game in which United completely conceded to the notion that they were the underdogs, it does not speak well of their manager.
Signing Marouane Fellaini for More Than Was Necessary
There may well be an argument to suggest that “Signing Marouane Fellaini” would in itself deserve a place on this list, but even if it doesn't, the fact that United's indecision in the summer meant spending £4 million more than was necessary is poor management.
The details of these events can be found here, courtesy of the Bleacher Report's Ben Blackmore.
It may be that executive staff at United share culpability in United's summer transfer dealings, but the buck stops with Moyes, and wasting at least £4 million on a transfer is unacceptable.
The Misuse of Shinji Kagawa
Kagawa has rarely been able to show the best of himself this season. When he has, it has normally coincided with someone other than Rooney playing at No. 10—either Kagawa himself or, latterly, Mata.
Moyes' inability to get the best out of Kagawa, other than when reacting to limitations imposed upon him through injury to other players, is indicative of a deeper problem in getting the best out of creative players, which has also been the case with Mata.
The Misuse of Juan Mata
The signing of Mata was a glorious high point of optimism and excitement for the Old Trafford faithful. However, it has only been in the past few games that anything like the best of Mata has been on show.
This is no doubt partly to do with the challenges of settling into a new team and learning to play with new players, however, it has partly also been systemic. Mata has sprung to life when playing with Kagawa, with Rooney not playing at No. 10.
The concern remains that Moyes does not know how to get the best out of his most creative players. What will happen when he has more attacking options? Will he revert to type? Will Mata be consigned not just to a wide role, but to a set of instructions which do not allow him to be his best self?
If these fears are realised, and Moyes does not learn quickly, it is reason to make a quick change.
He Should Never Have Got the Job in the First Place
Moyes was recommended for the job by Sir Alex Ferguson, per ManUtd.com.
For an outgoing manager to appoint his successor is unusual. It does not necessarily follow that an outstanding CEO makes an outstanding Recruitment Consultant.
Moyes' CV was miles away from being of a standard suitable for Manchester United, and the idea that somehow he represented continuity, continuing the lineage of the previous manager is at odds with how much the previous manager had achieved before he joined United. It is also at odds by the number of changes imposed in the coaching staff and the amount of deterioration in the quality of United's play.
Moyes' trophy cabinet was empty when he arrived at Old Trafford. Some may be impressed by his stabilisation of Everton as an upper-mid-table Premier League club, but, speaking personally, it remains entirely unclear to me how that is an appropriate grounding for the manager of Manchester United.
The 'Burning Out' of Rio Ferdinand
Rio Ferdinand played seven times in the first two months of the season, including six league fixtures, culminating in poor performances against Manchester City and West Bromwich Albion. He has played only five more times in the league in the seven months that have passed.
Ferdinand looked a shell of himself after that initial run of games, not surprising for a player who was 34 at the time, and used to being heavily rotated.
The best of Ferdinand's performances this season, including the one-all draw with Bayern Munich, have shown what an effective player he can still be. Moyes, and United, would have been much better served by keeping Ferdinand in better fettle by relying on him less so early in the season.
Failing to Secure the Services of Nemanja Vidic
Nemanja Vidic has signed for Inter Milan.
Whilst age and injuries mean Vidic is certainly past his prime, he has shown on several occasions this season, including his dominant performance against Bayern Munich, that he has an enormous amount to offer United.
Given how much upheaval there has been at United in the past 12 months, to lose the club captain is a serious matter.
Perhaps it would have been impossible to keep Vidic, but if it was an option, and Moyes has let Vidic leave, then it is further evidence that there is mismanagement at work.
He Has Consistently Made Defeatist Comments in the Press
There are so many "small-time" comments to chose from, and they have caused such personal frustration it would have been fairly straightforward for me to produce a list of "20 terrible things David Moyes has said that are reason enough not to be all that sad if he gets sacked."
Picking one was a challenge, but the hardest to take, harder even than saying of Liverpool "They possibly do come here as favourites," (h/t The Daily Mail) followed the 3-0 home defeat to Manchester City.
I think we've played a very good side and it's the sort of standard and level we need to try and aspire to get ourselves to at this moment in time.
That quote, per Sky Sports, has an understandable context. United had been comprehensively played off the park by City.
However, he was talking about a side United had beaten to the league title by 11 points the previous season. It was, tonally, so far from being the note he needed to hit.
That has been the story of Moyes' season.
A performance so poor it is worth of special attention. Everything about that game was dismal, from a United perspective. I wrote about the game in more detail here, but, in short, it was an atrocious mess.
If Olympiakos had not been so wasteful at Old Trafford, United would have paid a heavier price.
That he put Olympiakos in a position to knock Manchester United out of the Champions League is a further knock against Moyes. That he scraped through in the end should not distract all the attention from that truth.
Liverpool and Manchester City Do the Double over United
For the first time, Liverpool and Manchester City have beaten United at home and away in the league.
The gulf in quality for the Old Trafford games against those two sides was embarrassing. Neither of them needed to be at their best to dispatch United by a 3-0 margin.
At most top clubs, breaking a record like that would be an excellent way to get the sack. United's patience is perhaps something to take pride in, but there is certainly a downside to it.
Once failure becomes acceptable, disaster can follow in its wake.
The Likely Best Case Scenario Not Good Enough
Moyes has had a bad season. There will be those reading this list who feel it is too harsh, too specific and too knee-jerk.
"It is one bad season, succeeding the most successful manager in British football, Moyes will come good," they might say.
They may be proven correct. I hope they are.
It is also probably a redundant list, as the club will stick by Moyes for now. The last two weeks have shown some signs of progress. Once United had overcome Olympiakos, Moyes' job felt safe again.
However, in spite of my personal inclination to support the manager, to be behind him and wish him well (which I still do, incidentally), I cannot fake belief. I cannot conjure faith where there is none.
If Moyes keeps the job, and United invest heavily in the summer, what then? What does the more successful version of David Moyes' Manchester United look like? Given his conservatism, honed for many years at Everton, it seems unlikely that they will be serial winners.
Fourth place next season would be a significant improvement on this season. Will that mean he is given another season in charge? Will that be enough to make him a winner?
Acting now, to correct the profound mistake of his appointment seems best for all concerned.
I have taken no pleasure in writing these words. I hope I am made to look a fool as David Moyes grows into one of the greats, but I simply cannot see enough evidence to believe it will happen.