Everton Fan: Man United, Don't Trust Moyes With A £200m War Chest
With United’s season over, it’s understandable that the suitability of David Moyes as a manager is now being seriously questioned, but should his difficulties at Old Trafford really come as a surprise?
As an Evertonian I have a great fondness for Moyes and what he achieved at Goodison. But there was little evidence to suggest that his talents were suited to a club of United’s stature and expectations.
For much of his time at Everton, Moyes advocated the 4-4-1-1 system, employing a hard-working midfielder such as Tim Cahill or Marouane Fellaini behind the lone striker rather than a creative number ‘10’. This allowed the manager to shift to a more defensive 4-5-1 formation with relative ease.
Creativity under this system tended to originate from the wings, with balls being pumped into the box in the hope that aerial threats such as Cahill and Fellaini could make something happen. It’s telling that during his final season in charge, 44 per cent of the team’s chances came from the flanks.
Although at times this could produce football that was difficult to watch, a tactical approach whose primary aim was to thwart rather than outclass did yield results; turning Everton from perennial relegation candidates into a team that regularly finished just outside the top-four.
There was a belief, largely held by fans of other clubs that these tactics were shaped more by Everton’s limited resources than the manager’s footballing philosophy; that Moyes was adapting to the hand he’d been dealt.
But a vein of thought amongst the Everton faithful existed that disagreed, believing instead that this was simply the ‘Moyes Way’ and that if transplanted to any other side he would employ a similar approach.
Despite some slight tactical experimentation at Old Trafford, it’s evident to date this latter perspective appears to have judged the Scot correctly. United are currently playing like a Moyes-era Everton side, hoping that a combination of organisational solidity and balls pumped optimistically into the box will be enough to steal the win.
This is not a system that will ever deliver the title. But it will enable a club to finish around seventh (Everton’s average under Moyes).
It’s telling that after 29 games during the 2012/13 season, Everton had accumulated 48 points, scored 46 goals and conceded 35. At the same point this season, the Moyes incarnation of United had managed to earn 48 points, score 46 and conceded 34. And this form has left United mired amongst those clubs vying for fifth place, which is exactly the kind of outcome you’d expect from the ‘Moyes Way’.
Despite his disappointing first season in charge, there are still plenty of United fans who are willing to give Moyes the benefit of the doubt and have him reside in the manager’s chair for a little longer. But to do so would mean handing their manager a summer transfer kitty that ranges from a conservative estimate of £100m to a more generous prediction of £150m.
It’s likely that the board, and most supporters, will hope that this will be spent on big money names, the kind that a club of United’s stature should be attracting. The only problem is that Moyes doesn’t really excel at big money signings. At Everton, one of his undoubted strengths was finding hidden gems, such as Mikel Arteta (£2m from Real Sociedad), Tim Cahill (£1.5m from Millwall) and Seamus Coleman (£60,000 from Sligo Rovers).
But when it came to really splashing out, Everton’s former boss was less successful. In his time at the club, despite their meagre finances, Moyes was allowed to shell out £8.6 million on Andy Johnson from Crystal Palace, £8.9m on Diniyar Bilyaletdinov from Lokomotiv Moscow and £11.25m on Yakubu from Middlesbrough, none of whom really set Goodison alight. United fans have already had a taste of the Moyes approach to expensive transfers. So far, nearly £65m has been spent (£37.1 million Mata and £27.5 million on Fellaini) and all to - as yet - relatively little effect.
No doubt, should he survive this dismal season, pressure will be brought on Moyes to sign stars. And no doubt, he’ll make mistakes. In his heart, Moyes is a manager at his best when buying relative unknowns who can fit perfectly into his system. Summer targets such as İlkay Gundogan and Ross Barkley are signings that under the Moyes system would just be a waste of money. Like Mata, they’d likely spend most of the game wandering around the pitch like lost souls, gazing upwards as cross after cross sails above their heads.
Replacing Alex Ferguson was always going to be a challenge. But by misreading what happened at Everton over the past eleven years, United made a fundamental mistake. As a manager, Moyes would thrive at any club similar to Everton, one in which the expectations aren’t too high, the budget not excessive and the fans relatively happy with any style of play that delivers results. If the Scot had followed his long-held dream of managing in the Bundesliga, then no doubt he’d now be thriving at a club like Schalke or Stuttgart. Instead, he’s flown too high and got himself involved in a job for which he appears woefully under-qualified. And until he leaves United it will be a decision that will continue to cost them dearly (unless of course they’re happy to finish seventh).