Be clear, no one is suggesting for a moment that David Moyes is not the right man for the job of Manchester United manager. He was and is a fine choice.
But it was never going to be straightforward filling the biggest shoes in English football.
There are mitigating factors regarding Moyes’ first season in the job. While Man United had just won the premiership at a canter, indicating a vintage side, the reality of the make-up of the team warrants a much closer look.
Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic are past their best with Jones and Smalling still unproven replacements. Paul Scholes is gone, Ryan Giggs turns 40 this year, Robin Van Persie is the wrong side of 30 and Wayne Rooney is sulking. Not everything in the Reds Devils’ garden is rosy.
Moyes is being paid handsomely to solve all these problems, and he surely will. Ferguson was the master of morphing one great team in to another while staying at the very top of the table.
While Moyes will be given time and he cannot be properly judged until he has ‘his team’ in a couple of years time, there are things that Moyes must change now, starting with himself.
It is natural for human beings to seek familiarity, and Moyes is clearly no different having transported his Everton backroom team and the returning Philip Neville to Old Trafford. He now appears to be looking to raid Goodison for players also.
This can be an issue where managers are taking a big step up as Moyes is doing. The danger is that you slowly turn the bigger club into the smaller one that you came from. There have been several instances where managers have erred in this respect.
Both Roy Hodgson and Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool immediately returned to their former charges, Fulham and Swansea, for players. Hodgson signed Paul Konchesky to almost disbelief from the Liverpool faithful, and the fact that he was jettisoned down to the Championship after Woy departed says it all.
Rodgers spent an awful lot of money on Joe Allen and he has so far flopped badly. Playing for Liverpool is not the same as playing for Swansea.
Sir Alex did the same thing when he went to Old Trafford, returning to Aberdeen to sign Gordon Strachan and Jim Leighton, the latter of whom was an unmitigated disaster which effectively wrecked Leighton’s career at the highest level. Thankfully Ferguson was not expected to win the league in his first season in charge.
Man U looked painfully short in the midfield again on the weekend, and given that the prospect of Fabregas seems to have been a fanciful one, Moyes is turning his attention to Marouane Fellaini.
Fellaini would be a great addition for United, and there is no reason you cannot go back to a club for a player and be successful. The problem is the mindset of the manager who needs to look forward instead of backwards. Martinez is happily going to replace Fellaini with James McCarthy from Wigan as he attempts to mould Everton into Wigan, and so it goes on.
Regardless of the final day transfer action, David Moyes’ current mentality has been betrayed by his tactics and approach in the two big games he has played so far against Chelsea and Liverpool where ManU have drawn 2 blanks.
While people are clearly lining up to criticise, it does appear as if Moyes is still setting up an Everton team to play these matches with tactics and expectations to match.
Mourinho would have been delighted to take a point so early at Old Trafford. He has little to prove to anyone, whereas Moyes has it all to do. For Brendan Rodgers yesterday, beating Manchester United was a huge shot in the arm as he attempts to take Liverpool back to the Champions League.
Moyes has taken one point from six in these two matches, but it is more the manner of his approach that is the concern. United were possibly the better team against Chelsea, but it was a fairly toothless performance.
Against Liverpool Moyes is telling everyone that United played well but he is fooling no one. This is a Liverpool team still short of real, top-end quality in many areas, yet they matched and even surpassed the Red Devils. Sure, they were missing Rooney, but Liverpool were without Suarez who is probably far more influential for Liverpool.
While Moyes’ selection was fairly non controversial, his tactics against Liverpool seemed fairly pedestrian. Playing Giggs on the right – he could of course be a scholar of the Mourinho born tactic of playing wingers who cut inside on to their preferred foot – after 23 years of his playing on the left and occasionally through the middle did also seem slightly odd.
Saying how pleased you are about the performance when you have just lost to your biggest rivals is dangerous too, as Roy Hodgson found out at Liverpool. Ferguson and Mourinho can get away with that kind of tactic but not many others can. The expectations of the fans is far higher on managers without unparalleled track records.
Moyes quickly needs to find his own identity and self confidence in his tactics for the big matches with the Champions League looming. All the big managers have their own approach in this regard.
Ferguson had the occasional moment of self doubt, tinkering with his tactics, but in the big games he was generally bold and attacked. United are full of attacking players, and playing any other way would appear folly.
Guardiola is another who never waivered, playing only one way, coveting the ball and playing his own brand of possession-based football.
Mourinho generally counter-attacks in the big games which is often misconstrued as being negative. Mourinho is far smarter than that, he simply gives his offensive players – usually quick wingers – the platform to break quickly. That is very different from playing negatively.
Roberto Mancini fell foul of this in Europe where he encouraged a City team with players such as Aguero, Toure, Da Silva and Tevez to play containing football, it simply did not work.
Moyes needs to quickly realise that managing Manchester United in the big games is very different from managing Everton. The expectations are far greater, a point is no longer enough.