Your job now, is to stand by our new manager.” After an astonishing 26 years at the helm for Manchester United, having just won yet another title, these parting words to the supporters were greeted by much fanfare and cheer. Sir Alex Ferguson (Fergie) had chosen his successor in David Moyes, and the fellow Scot was welcomed to the club by a banner claiming him to be ‘The Chosen One.’ Ten months on, with 3-0 losses at home to both Liverpool and Man City, and the team currently languishing in 7th place; the mood is one of pessimism and anger. Disgruntled player interviews, twitter rants and expert columns have followed, with everything from the manager’s credentials, tactical acumen and even his press interviews being criticized. Whilst no one would disagree that his first season in charge has been far from ideal, this would probably be the time to actually ‘stand by your new manager’ and have some faith. To be patient, to persevere and to strive for stability are ideals traditionally associated with the attainment of long-term goals, and by extension; of success. It is an ideal that sport as a whole, has readily subscribed to and promoted. In top-flight football however, where the manager turnover in a league of just 20 teams is often in double figures, such notions of stability are sidelined in the pursuit of increasingly abstract criteria for success. Pressure from fans, and the media have created an environment where the ‘big picture’ is often lost in the debilitating cocktail of ‘goldfish memories’ and knee-jerk reactions; with social media the willing vessel for short-sighted sensationalism more appropriately reserved for an evening at the pub.
Artists are often said to be worth more dead than alive, and so far it seems, the same logic loosely applies to the now retired Alex Ferguson. He has had his critics during his long reign at the top of English football, but retirement has had the remarkable effect of immortalizing him. It is a human condition to view the past through rose-tinted glasses, but such a misguided perspective has further exacerbated the pressure being placed on the new manager. In order to maintain perspective, it is important to remember Fergie’s own shortcomings. With regards to Europe, there have been many; ranging from exits at the group stage, loss of an unbeaten home record to Turkish side Besitkas, or even the humiliation at the hands of Athletic Bilbao. Locally as well, with cup losses to the likes of Portsmouth and Leeds, and embarrassing league defeats e.g. 6-1 and 4-1 to rivals Manchester City and Liverpool respectively has meant that the record is far from perfect. Regarding the acquisition of new players; whilst Marouanne Fellaini is prematurely dubbed a flop, and Juan Mata unnecessary, it is important to consider the likes of Obertan, Bebe, Veron and the misused Dimitar Berbatov. Also, blaming the current manager for either not playing, or playing Shinji Kagawa out of position as well as having the audacity to allow Tom Cleverley, and Young near the first team is unwarranted, and fails to account for the same strategy under the previous manager, even at the expense of the tremendously talented Paul Pogba. This is not, in any way to undermine Alex Ferguson, or to suggest that all of United’s current problems are caused him, but instead, to highlight the fact that mistakes, losses and dips in form are all part and parcel of sport.
For David Moyes, it has been a series of unfortunate factors that have culminated in the unexpected collapse of his team. Starting even before his arrival, a consistent failure over the last few years to strengthen the midfield has left the team far behind its would-be competitors in terms of quality. Yes, they achieved results whilst playing badly last year, and won the league convincingly in the end. But in a season where all the top sides have improved drastically, it was always going to be impossible to replicate that success. The failed transfer market, and the tough set of fixtures at the start of the season put early pressure on the incoming manager. Add to that injuries to key figures like Michael Carrick, and Robin Van Persie – the man who practically won the title for United last year – and it is easy to see why they have struggled. The slightly less documented, but significant loss has been that of club icon Paul Scholes and the increasingly sporadic availability of Ryan Giggs. This has meant that on numerous occasions, where the two would normally have been brought on to offer a different approach, or to ‘see the game out’, United have instead been on the back foot and more often than not, conceded as a result (United have lost no less than 11 points to late goals this season). The compounding media pressure and bad results have had a visibly detrimental psychological effect on the players, as can be seen from the excessive sideways passing, and with a barrage of crosses into the box seemingly the go-to strategy.
People will fairly point out that to rectify this is the job of a manager, and that despite his numerous failings mentioned here, Ferguson consistently delivered trophies, and I completely agree. But I also disagree, that Moyes should be adjudged only by his mistakes, when he has not been given a fair amount of time to mitigate them with success. Critics comparing him to the Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, point to the fact that even last year in their transitional phase, Rodgers ensured the team had an identity, something the current United team lacks. However, Rodgers did not have to contend with the same level of expectation and pressure, as Moyes does; ensuring that rather than imposing a style, his strategy is reactive to events as they unfold. With their recent heroics over the Greek champions Olympiakos, the reds have demonstrated their ability and character, but regardless of how events progress, the manager and the players need a break, to gather themselves, and start over after the summer . Alex Ferguson has probably been one of the greatest managers in the history of the beautiful game, and Moyes needs time to make his own place, and create an identity in line with his personal vision for the team. Despite the season practically over, the media will continue to treat each game as a case for either the continuation or termination of Moyes’ tenure. Sensationalism, the fans should not subscribe to. The club has the prestige, resources, players and the manager to turn it around next year; and collectively, they just need to start believing that again.

 The writer is a member of staff.

Email:hassnan@gmail.com