For Man Utd's Moyes, is this the beginning or is it the end?
by Will Taylor
The season seems to be all but over for Manchester United fans, bar the shouting.
Out of all domestic competitions and, in all probability, could be out of the Champions League for this season and more to come following last week's tough draw with holders Bayern Munich.
There have been mistakes made. There has been blame cast. But what could David Moyes have done that would have preserved the club's dignity if the season ends trophyless?
From the moment he stepped through the door at Old Trafford, Moyes has made some serious errors of judgment and the club has allowed him to get away with it.
Phil Neville would never have been promoted to such an exalted stage so soon under Sir Alex. Forgive me for dwelling, but it is true. He would have learned his coaching craft at the junior levels and not walked straight into a first team role without proven success at a lower level.
The same goes for Steve Round. He may have been Moyes' trusted number 2 at Goodison Park, but expectations at Old Trafford are significantly higher. Sir Alex Ferguson's backroom staff knew what made the players tick.
The players trusted Mike Phelan & Co. New methods from an inexperienced and, let's be honest, unsuccessful management structure was never going to fill people with confidence.
Robin van Persie had signed on the premise that SAF was not planning to retire. Not only did the great man step away, but his trusted lieutenants were also gone in a heartbeat.
I'm not one to support player power, but the club needs them to have the confidence that the basic structure of the club won't change, even if the head is altered. Mistake number 1, allowing Moyes to rule the roost without laying an egg.
Moyes brought with him a tactical structure that worked wonders on a shoestring budget at Everton but let's put things into perspective, with a low budget comes a very limited success requirement.
What worked on Merseyside is not the United way. I think it has been made clear to us that his appointment was predetermined. If this is the case, Moyes should have studied how United have achieved so much success over the years.
Come to think of it, he should have already known!
The Moyes way has brought slow build-up play, often with ten men behind the ball. Historically, United don't try to hold on to leads; they extend them.
For the most part of Capital One Cup tie against Sunderland in January, United were holding on. They found themselves in the lead and if they could have retained that lead, they were on their way to Wembley.
They would also have been on their way to Wembley if they had extended that lead. That should have been the instruction. That would have been the instruction with Phelan in his ear. Up until they scored, Sunderland were the only team that looked likely to trouble the scorer in the 2nd half.
One thing you cannot blame Moyes for is the most embarrassing execution of penalty kicks since England's efforts at the World Cup in 2006. However, the players available to take those kicks that were left on the pitch after 120 minutes were down to him. Overly defensive and cautious tactics make up the most of mistake number 2.
Team selection was always going to be difficult for the new manager, particularly when the previous backroom staff had left the building. But there was no thank you and goodnight.
They had already left and it was only right that the club and the supporters gave him time to work out his best eleven. That said, when one poor performance is followed by another, something has to give. It is up to Moyes to see what is obvious to everyone else.
Some players are not performing at a level that is required for Manchester United Football Club. Some, maybe, never will. These players need to be worked on to see if they can improve. It is just not good enough to be "enthusiastic" in training if the performance delivered on match day is not up to scratch.
You can be sure if I was training with United I would be enthusiastic at training.
If there was evidence of improving performances, such support would be justifiable but it is there for everyone to see, there hasn't been. You could say it has been quite the opposite.
If the more established members of the squad are letting you down, match after match after match, then Moyes needs to show that he is in charge and make changes, no matter who the player is.
As I said, player power is wrong no matter how good you are, but too often this season we have read the same old story. If you keep doing the same thing, why should anyone be surprised when, at the end of it all, you get the same result. That accounts for mistake number 3.
Moyes has shown himself to be tactically naive, at best. He has no Plan B and, in turn, United have become predictable.
Let's look at the stats
Almost 50 crosses were sent over in the first half of the Premier League match against Fulham in February, all to no avail. The half-time whistle sounds and Moyes has his chance to rally his team and even the chance to change things if he sees necessary.
What happened next is astounding. Another 30 incomplete crosses in the second half. Where was the tactical nous? Where were the inspired substitutions? You could say they were left in the changing room, but if I were a betting man I'd say they never entered the thought process.
In the defeat by Tottenham at Old Trafford on New Year's Day, Michael Carrick was replaced by Javier Hernandez, leaving young Cleverley to pull the strings. No disrespect to Tom Cleverley, but who is more likely to make the difference in that situation?
Moyes then forces himself in to reorganizing the team, resulting in Wayne Rooney dropping into midfield to make the passes that, in reality, he should be on the end of. An inability to positively influence the game from the sidelines accounts for mistake number 4.
The support at Old Trafford has been nothing short of remarkable but, as expected at such a proud club, the cracks are beginning to widen and the pressure is mounting.
I saw an interview with one fan following the defeat to Liverpool last Sunday and I have to say I couldn't have agreed with him more. Moyes needs to get over the fact he is Manchester United manager and realize that is exactly what he is and needs to start doing what is required of him.
A manager at a club of this magnitude should embrace it but not dwindle. They should say, "I've arrived," not "I'm so lucky to be here." Sport is not like other ventures. It is a cruel world with a harsh reality.
Success is slowly becoming everything. Ultimately, the fans are the people who pay for success and failure one way or another. They should not be ignored. It has been obvious to many, fans or not, that Moyes is not up to the task.
He's had his chance, been weighed, measured and sadly, found wanting. His time could well be up before it has begun. Sacking him would go against the United way, of course it would, but this is Manchester United. Success is a minimum.
The next manager, whenever that time may come, should be recruited on the back of a quality and proven winning CV and not based on friendship with the previous incumbent.
That is the only way, in my opinion, that this great club will move on from what should only be a temporary blip.