Moyes inculpable in United’s post-Ferguson era wobble

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.

The noise from the neighbours will surely be defeaning from now

Eastlands finally gets a taste of Champions league football. A billion pounds from Sheik Mansour seems to have finally broken the stalemate at City. The Real Madrids and the Barcelonas will keenly watch the spending from the richest and most hated club on the planet. Ricardo Kaka might not make the same decision if he is offered a similar multi million pound contract. But thats not why City get all the news now. The banner is finally down at Old Trafford and 35 years of hurt ended. While the Champions league adds to City’s lucre, its silverware that counts for the modern footballer. Even with only a diminished FA Cup in their bag, City can now start to dictate terms.

This season started with more questions than answers. Is Mancini the right man for the job? Do City need Mourinho? Are all the players at City “the second tier” of footballers playing just for money? Although all those questions cannot be answered right now, one man who has earned his way to managing City in the Champions league is Roberto Mancini. The litmus test for him begins where his Inter could never get past the knockout stages even when they had the world’s best footballers.

Mancini’s signings this season have largely been a mixed bag. While Milner, Silva and Yaya have been the shining lights question marks remain over Balotelli, Boateng, Dzeko. But one decision Mancini got right was the recall of Joe Hart. Hart is the quintessential shotstopper; tall, agile and commanding. He has justified his selection over the ever reliable Shay Given. The players aside, City also have an established backroom staff. Mancini has an aura of assurance built around him. David Platt is a welcome addition as first team coach. City, though very defensive through the course of the last two seasons will benefit from his attacking instincts at some point of time. Brian Kidd, Mancini’s No 2 has some unfinished business in Manchester after his stint with United in the 90s. And City also have a core of winners and combatants in Kompany, Viera, De Jong, Barry and Tevez that should help them especially through the latter stages of knockout competitions. Looking at their games against Manchester United in the FA cup and Stoke City in the Premier League, Mancini has also instilled some steel into the so called mercenaries. With a good batch of youth footballers coming through, the technical side of things look rosy for the blues.

In fairness to City’s owners, they have also done reasonably well not to hog the limelight this season. With the infamous sacking of Mark Hughes behind them, they have realized that stability is the only way City are going to join the European elite. Gary Cook after his initial PR howlers, really has done well to get City their desired players. Brian Marwood is the calming presence among the City board. His experience with Nike and SkySports should help him understand the footballing and marketing side of where City are heading as well as keep their spending in reins for the UEFA fair play rules.

With all the good work done this year, one thing City shouldn’t do is go on another massive spending spree. The core group of players look well drilled and seem to be gelling together. A Ronaldo or Ibrahimovic like addition will only rock the boat at City. They need one or two hungry potential superstars such as a Pastore or a Sanchez. They also need to be true to their roots and blend in the youth appropriately. But one thing city can do without is pricing the average fan out of their home games as Chelsea have done. With ticket prices rising massively at Arsenal and Liverpool this year, City could do well to maintain their ticket prices and bring some much needed fans by their side. All said and done, the only way for City is up .