Robin Van Persie warmed up next to the Old Trafford home team section itching to come on, while David Moyes and Steve Round deliberated on who to take off in what seemed an interminable few minutes. On the pitch, Wayne Rooney whipped in a precision freekick- the sort where any touch in the box from a player on either side could deflect the ball into the net. United’s polarizing superstar then claimed the goal as his and allowed Moyes to haul Javier Hernandez off to introduce the current cherished one of the Stretford end, RVP. Any of Moyes’ detractors pining for a return of United’s dominant displays would point to that as indecision, yet there was a deeper issue unfolding.
In what already seemed an insurmountable task of replacing the Premier League’s longest serving manager, United’s top brass did very little to bring in the calibre of player that could help Moyes return United to their deserved place among Europe’s elite. Although the transition from David Gill to Ed Woodward was never going to be easy, the decision to afford that in this particular summer of change was baffling. Moyes invited some deserved criticism in trying to bring in some of his former Everton players, but his pursuit of Fabregas is evidence enough that he knows the kind of player capable of playing for Britain’s biggest club.
A lot has been made of the #FreeShinji campaign and the continued upbraiding of David Moyes for a lack of sophistication in his constant omissions of Shinji Kagawa and not playing him in his suited position in the hole behind the striker. Even if we disagree with some of those decisions, apart from a promising initial burst from Kagawa against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League, he has looked distinctly short of match fitness. Evidently, giving the Japanese more game time would sort part of that problem, yet, can the United manager really afford a bedding in time for one of his players in this pivotal phase of his tenure?
Even taking into account United’s consecutive defeats in the Manchester derby and against West Brom, Moyes’ revival of Rooney has been remarkably underplayed. Not only did he keep the mercurial striker away from the clutches of Mourinho-who considered him to potentially be the most important cog in his second spell at Chelsea, but has evoked the spirit and verve of that display against Fenerbahce earmarking his arrival at Old Trafford. Had Ferguson been able to reinvigorate Rooney to realize his prodigious talent, I doubt whether any of his managerial nous would have been understated.
In recent years, United’s kryptonite has been superior midfields dominating possession resulting in some of their premature exits from Europe. Ferguson’s refusal to address such a blatant concern attracted far less scrutiny than some directed at Moyes in United’s present state of crisis. While his willingness to overpay for Fellaini might admittedly have been misguided, Moyes’ appraisal of United’s lack of quality to win European trophies shows the necessary alacrity-so prevalent among the successful continental managers, to address prevailing issues swiftly. Additionally, the generosity in allowing certain players like Nani, Anderson to coast through seasons was also not befitting of a manager possessing Ferguson’s aura. Moyes had this to say when asked about United’s chances of winning the Champions league, “If you look at Bayern Munich, they have five or six nearly world-class players. Look at Barcelona, who had it in the past and Real Madrid have maybe got it now. That’s the level you have to get at to win it. We’ve not got that yet but what we have got is experience and several players who are in that category or close to it.”
Another myth consistently propogated about Ferguson was his ability to attract every player he wanted to United. Well documented ones such as Ronaldinho and Lucas Moura aside, players like Adem Ljajic have moved to different clubs. The revisionism around Ferguson’s know-how in the transfer market, can also be extended to his powers of persuasion in securing younger players to longer term contracts. Gerard Pique and Paul Pogba would have plugged many a gap in United’s current squad.
Whether Moyes is out of his depth still being a moot point, the Glazers would do well to provide the necessary backing in the transfer market as well as grant him sufficient time in the uncertain muddle that is United’s short term future after their twenty six year spell of stability.