Dull David no match for Europe’s New Elite

It was with a sad inevitability that the curtain fell on David Moyes’ fleeting reign as Manchester United manager last Tuesday. The simple fact of the matter is that his face didn’t fit from the outset.

With vultures circling and senior players leaking damaging quotes to the media, it seemed as though the Grim Reaper was stalking Moyes at every turn.
It is easy to point fingers at woeful home performance, questionable signings and player unrest, but the main issue is actually that in a world where the ‘positive manager’ is very much on the rise, with the likes of Pep Guardiola and Brendan Rodgers very much en vogue, the old guard of conservative, reactive football does not fit with a club like United.

This was epitomised by a source close to the United boardroom, who told Vision following United’s first leg loss to Greek outfit Olympiakos “They [the board members] are not so much worried about the impact of one result, but the effect results of this ilk and football of this style have on Manchester United as a global brand.” Therefore, it is hardly surprising that a defeat to Moyes’ former club Everton was a bridge too far for the suits.

Everton should be dwarfed by United on and off the field in English hierarchy- and yet they played United off the park. Martinez has added to the Everton arsenal a new found proactivity, chiefly due to the partnership between McCarthy and Barry in central midfield. McCarthy roams forward while Barry sits deep. Both are tough-tackling and recycle the ball quickly.When Fellaini was in Everton’s midfield, they were a lot more static. In offloading the burly Belgian to United, Everton are a lot freer in midfield and capable of penetrative passes. By signing Fellaini, Moyes confirmed fears that United would regress to a duller brand of football under his leadership.

This would have made it clearer than ever to the board that the restrictive football of Moyes is just outright wrong for United. The encounter with Bayern will not have helped Moyes any, either. United sat deep, kept the spaces compressed, and retained organisation throughout, but their besieged defence was always destined to give way under intense pressure from Pep’s Bayern. Guardiola has added to Bayern’s short passing game and given them an impressive propensity to switch play at will.

Away at the Allianz, defensive approach is acceptable, but to be so negative at Old Trafford is questionable. It is also testament to Moyes’ inability to do any more than to make average to good players well-drilled and capable of quick counter attacks.

That functional approach is all well and good when you are looking to punch above your weight, but at Manchester United there is nothing to punch above. You are the elite, and you must do better than to ‘try and hold them off’. The fact that this is just one of a sprawling comedy of errors in the Moyes reign combined with the fact that Giggs is already reverting changes Moyes had made back to the way Sir Alex did things in his tenure shows that Moyes had not only lost the fans, but the dressing room, too.

Though the world’s top clubs are favouring a pro-active mentality with the likes of Guardiola and Rodgers increasingly geared towards absolute fluidity, there is still the likes of Mourinho, Simeone, and Klopp clinging to pragmatic rigidity. Where they should offer Moyes an olive branch and hope that his style of football is not lost forever in the upper echelons of the modern game, the problem is that they simply do it better than dull David.

Simeone has outclassed Moyes in terms of getting the best out of what he’s got. Both he and Rodgers have shown just how to mount title charges by milking the best out of a wafer-thin squad. Simeone’s use of winger Arda Turan and the right kind of play transitioning through Koke to give Diego Costa all the right service show why he is making a name for himself as one of Europe’s top tacticians.

Jurgen Klopp is the most attacking defensive manager in the world. The Gegenpress he has implemented at Dortmund is a very highly disciplined and reactive system based around counterpressing, but it is so high tempo that it feels as attacking as any of the Rinus Michels school. In the company of these names, Moyes is out of place because he appears to have no philosophy or idea of how to harness talent.

If Moyes can’t yet face up to the prospect of returning to Old Trafford at the helm of another English club, perhaps a spell abroad could do him good. Steve McClaren was able to partially reconstruct his reputation at Twente. As a former centre-half at Celtic, perhaps Moyes’ emphasis defensive solidity would suit the rigours of the SPL.
Most likely, Moyes will rest on his laurels, waiting for a chance a few years down the line, in a similar vein to Roberto Di Matteo. After all, he does have a huge pile of cash to sit on.

Whether he can get back into a top job is dependent upon him learning from his mistakes and moving with the times. If he can’t, then he moves with the Evertons, and becomes yet another of football’s ‘nearly men’.