Listening to TalkSport all day at work, it’s fascinating to hear the views of supporters, experts and programme hosts. Of course, all football fans are passionate about their club, and we sometimes say things that, when you have time to reflect, you wouldn’t necessarily repeat. Then again, sometimes your initial instincts are totally spot on.
I have been contributing to this Man Utd blog for a number of months, and one look in my ‘sent items’ email folder shows that I was never in favour of Moyes’ appointment since I first became aware of the idea a couple of years ago.
Everton always seemed to fall at the final hurdle when they had the chance of winning something, and I was convinced that Moyes would not be the right man to take over from the world’s greatest. That’s still very much my opinion, and I suddenly find myself relating to supporters of other clubs lamenting their current managers’ flaws.
This week, radio phone-ins have been inundated with Gooners discussing the pros and cons of Arsene Wenger, after what is looking like another year of disappointment. It sounds like even if they lift the FA Cup, most Arsenal fans will see this as a season of failure. This was possibly Arsenal’s best chance of winning the title in the last decade, mainly due to United , City and Chelsea all having new managers, and in truth no one fancied Liverpool last August to be challenging for the title. I feel, given the fixtures remaining, Arsenal will still manage to claim the 4th spot, with Everton just missing out by a couple of points.
The most important point that I have been hearing from a large proportion of the callers is that football has moved on, and most of the teams moving in the right direction are managed by young coaches who play the game without fear. Pellegrini at City is probably the exception, but he also has an extremely talented squad of players.
Arsene Wenger deserves great credit for what he has achieved at Arsenal, especially his first 500 games in charge – he played the game in the right way and brought a new style of football to the Premier League, which many neutral fans embraced. But the Gooners speaking out generally feel that he hasn’t moved it on from then, and in fact they have gone backwards. It’s worth remembering he inherited a terrific back 5, and Bergkamp, but he brought in some fabulous players like Henry, Petit, Vieira, Pires and Overmars, and Arsenal were arguably the best team to watch in the league at one point. Most Arsenal fans seem to want Wenger to retire, making way for a young manager with the latest ideas, like Martinez or Klopp.
Watching Arsenal basically collapse since Christmas, who can really argue with the fans? Like Arsenal, United also need new ideas to keep up with the best teams in England and Europe. Of course, we want to be winning trophies again sooner rather than later, but whilst we will all be praying for a miracle in Munich, will we really be proud of our team if we go there, park the bus and hope for a breakaway goal? Yes, I know it would take us to the semi-finals, but let’s not forget how we berated Chelsea for winning the Champions League in this fashion. Yes, they were crowned European Champions, but no-one seriously considered them the best team in Europe.
I read the comments made by Sir Bobby Charlton: “I’m absolutely certain that we picked the right man.” With all respect to Sir Bobby, who, both as a player and a director, has been nothing short of fantastic for our club, he is now in his mid-70s, and I am not convinced that he and maybe Sir Alex could imagine the club being left in the hands of a 40 year old manager like Klopp, Simeone, Martinez or Rodgers. These 4 young managers have spent minimally in the transfer market, but playing no-fear football – a joy to watch for any neutral fan, and winning at the same time.
Of course it kills us to admit how well Liverpool are playing, but we have to be honest, and they are playing some brilliant stuff . They would be worthy champions should they manage to pull it off. To my mind, Moyes exudes fear, and that has manifested in the players on the pitch. Maybe that can change, but Moyes is already in his 50s.
In contrast, Moyes’ younger adversary for tomorrow night is playing the game with pure style at Bayern, as he did at Barca, and you can see that the clubs managed by the 5 young managers I have mentioned could well be the most successful teams in Europe over the next 2 decades, whether it’s with the clubs they are currently at, or elsewhere.
I think United went with what they thought were ‘safe hands’. So far, those hands have a safety rating on par with Massimo Taibi. In one season, we have basically traded places with our biggest enemy, Liverpool. In a few months, we have seen Martinez completely transform Everton into highly-watchable team, challenging for a top-4 finish. Somehow, we have gone from Premier League Champions – a team feared across Europe – to mid-table mediocrity; the one team all the others wanted to draw in the UCL quarter finals.
If we stick with Moyes, I hope he is capable of bringing in the right players to play free-flowing attacking football, but I have serious doubts. In my view, a safer (and altogether more elegant) pair of hands for the next 5 years would be Klopp or Simeone, who the owners should back to bring the glamour back to Manchester United.