As Manchester United embarked upon their pre-season tour of Australia, David Moyes admitted that the true magnitude of the Manchester United manager job has now truly sunk in.
The Scot officially took over from his compatriot Sir Alex Ferguson on the 1st July, and it appears that he is now keen to get to down to business. Moyes was very clear in his press conference that he is aware of the enormity of the task facing him at Old Trafford, but it certainly seemed like it was a challenge that he was very much looking forward to it.
United are playing a few friendlies against some teams in Australia and Japan, but it’s off the pitch that Moyes is facing his first major challenge as United boss. Not only does he have the future of wantaway striker Wayne Rooney to solve, but he is also hoping to do some purchasing of his own, something that is proving to be fairly problematic so far.
The difficulty of replacing arguably the most talented football manager ever should never be understated, and many believe that it is very important for Moyes to make a big statement in the transfer market this summer, in order to make it clear that Man Utd will continue to be a major force in both the Premier League and Europe, and the logic of that seems very sound indeed. By procuring the talents of one of the world’s best, not only can Moyes make it clear that he is committed to ensuring the success of Man Utd, but can also prove to the fans and the media that there are players who are willing to buy into the Moyes ideology. Now all of this seems very sensible, but the issue so far for Moyes has been getting the players in the door.
Man Utd have been on the lookout for a combative midfielder ever since the retirement of Roy Keane, and Moyes could have been forgiven for thinking that he had found an answer to the perennial midfield issue in talented Barcelona starlet Thiago Alacantra. The 22-year old was clearly not going to get much gametime at the Nou Camp, and the early signs were the United were the favourites to land the Spaniard. Enter Pep Guardiola. The Barcelona legend has just started his new job after a year out of the game, and chose one of his first Munich press conferences to state that the one player he was adamant he wanted at Bayern was…you’ve guessed it, Thiago Alacantra. Now if you were Thiago, would you want to go and play for the champions of Europe under a Barcelona legend and proven world-class manager, or would you want to play for a team that is undergoing a major transition after their manager of 26 years has just retired and been replaced by a decent and steady manager with no major trophy wins and no European experience? The proof is in the pudding: Thiago is now at Bayern.
Another player on the Moyes radar has been Cesc Fabregas: the fact that the ex-Arsenal skipper is struggling to fit in at Barcelona made this transfer seem eminently possible. Moyes made a bid that was rejected out of hand by the Spanish champions, and then Arsene Wenger decided to rub salt in the wound by indicating that Arsenal had first refusal on Fabregas anyway. Another dead end for David Moyes.
Other attempted forays into the transfer market have so far borne no fruit for Moyes, with Lewandowski also opting for Bayern, and Everton baulking at the meagre £12m offered for their star player Leighton Baines. There has also been talk of Everton midfielder Marouane Fellaini as well as Spurs winger Gareth Bale, but so far, no deals have been done for either player. To be honest, it’s not hard to see why.
David Moyes may well turn out to be a very, very good manager at Manchester United. The story goes that Alex Ferguson selected his replacement personally, and the former manager is clearly a big fan of Moyes managerial style. That certainly has to count for something. The trouble is, no one really knows whether Moyes will be a good manager yet. A competitive ball is yet to be kicked, and until we get well into the season, it’s hard to know whether Moyes has the minerals to cope with a league challenge; especially given that Chelsea Special One Jose Mourinho is back and wielding a Russian chequebook. If the fans are wondering whether Moyes is up to it, then you can bet your bottom dollar the players are too. As a player, would you want to risk your career and go to Old Trafford when there is the possibility that Moyes won’t be any good? It’s a short career, and the best footballers in the world want to play for the best clubs in the world. Until the Moyes regime has begun in earnest, it’s hard to know if United are still in that bracket.
Moyes is in a tricky situation, as to be honest, despite United winning the league last season, the squad he has inherited from Ferguson is not exactly the most frightening in Europe. Van Persie aside, it’s hard to see true world-class ability in the squad, and for United to challenge in the Premier League alongside big-spending Chelsea and Man City, there certainly needs to be investment. If Moyes can’t get the players, he may have to opt for cheaper and inferior replacements; but a couple of seasons of that and United could foreseeably languish outside of the Champions League spots. Moyes must convince any prospective employees that he is up to the job; he must sell them the United vision. If he doesn’t, Moyes stay at Old Trafford could be briefer than he was anticipating.