After twenty years of success, Manchester United fans are finally feeling the pain. In the League, United are floundering. Their FA Cup run was cut short by a secondstring Swansea team, whilst progression in the League Cup looks perilous following a first leg defeat at the hands of the Manchester United B circa 2007 – also known as Sunderland.
To blame David Moyes alone for United’s apparent crisis would be unfair. Indeed, Fergie himself must take some of the blame: he bequeathed a sub-par squad on his successor. Above all, Ferguson failed to address the club’s obvious deficiencies in midfield, exposed time and again by lesser teams. The midfield which lined up against Sunderland – Giggs, Carrick, Cleverley – lacked pace, power, and physicality. Anderson, whilst capable of inspiring performances, lacks consistency, whilst Shinji Kagawa has not yet adapted to the English game.
It would be wrong to leave responsibility solely at Ferguson’s door. Moyes took over at United a full month before the transfer window opened: this should have been ample time to assess the squad’s weaknesses, identify viable targets and, as has been the United tradition, to conclude business early. The club opted for Marouane Fellaini, a panic buy, after other midfield acquisitions failed to materialise. Imperious at Everton, Fellaini has disappointed immensely since arriving at Old Trafford: to call the Fellaini of 2014 glacially slow would be to insult glaciers.
Moreover, analysis focusing solely on squad weakness is plainly insufficient. The current squad have worn league winners’ medals twice in the past three years, coming within minutes of another. Whatever its frailties, this team certainly has the quality to overcome the likes of Sunderland, Cardiff, and West Brom. The problem is not that Ferguson’s old squad has stopped over-performing; Moyes’s team are under-performing.
So David Moyes is far from faultless; and yet United fans stick with their man. Some, immersed in the cut-throat post-Abramovich football world, where failure occasions immediate sacking, scoff at such quaint naivety. These people fail to see the value of a long-term approach. Ferguson recognised this. In choosing Moyes over Mourinho, he rejected a track record of immediate success, in favour of one of impressive longevity. Thus, Ferguson chose Moyes because he saw in his fellow Glaswegian the potential for long-term stability and success.
This experiment has only just begun, but will we ever see it through to the end? Though the initial results are far from encouraging, to jump ship now would be to judge a long-term venture on short-term criteria. United’s loyal fans are able to transcend this modern obsession with immediate results; perhaps it is time the media try doing that too