Wednesday 22 October 2014

Henry Winter: Time for Moyes to get tough and be himself

New United boss unrecognisable from the fearsome figure at Everton – and he must rediscover his nasty streak soon

Henry Winter

Published 01/10/2013 | 05:00

David Moyes acknowledges the Manchester United fans after losing to West Brom

Come on David Moyes, be like David Moyes. Be decisive. Be tough. Be the boss as you were at Everton. Moyes must dispel this image of him as Alex Ferguson's anointed successor, the Chosen One – or Fergie Lite to his critics.

Moyes must remember he was appointed Manchester United manager because of his lauded reputation, so applauded that his peers voted him Manager of the Year in 2003, 2005 and 2009.

Moyes is a good manager who just needs to be himself, who just needs to do the United job his way. It may not work. United may get knocked off their perch for a while, sliding into the shadows of rivals after so long basking in the sunshine spread by the incomparable Ferguson.

It may well prove a significant error by Moyes in not retaining the respected services of Rene Meulensteen, Micky Phelan and Eric Steele, coaches with an incredible combined knowledge of what makes United's squad so resilient.

EXALTED

But Moyes has to do it his way, not another manager's way, however exalted Ferguson was. Moyes has to keep faith with his new coaches. He has also to impose himself on players assembled by Ferguson, making it his team, making them forget the illustrious predecessor and fear the new man. Moyes has to show he is not just minding the store while Ferguson has popped out.

He needs to make some big calls such as dropping Rio Ferdinand and telling Phil Jones or Chris Smalling that they are the future at centre-half. Give Wilfried Zaha a chance. Or Adnan Januzaj. Usher in a new era on the pitch as well as in the dug-out.

He should back his own judgment, acumen acquired while doing his apprenticeship at Preston North End and then on the Premier League front-line at Everton. He has earned this chance. He certainly showed his managerial qualities in his handling of the Wayne Rooney saga. He just needs to believe in himself again, to be the boss.

Moyes needs to spread a little fear and coax a keener competition for places in the squad. At Everton, Moyes was totally in charge, partly because he inherited a struggling team which he first galvanised and then rebuilt but also because of that look of thunder in his eyes. He scared people. A charming man also had a nasty streak. Only fools or those with death wishes would cross Moyes at Goodison Park.

He is a different creature at Old Trafford, more obliging, less willing to upset people. That is not the David Moyes that Ferguson felt could take on the huge job of managing United, a job for a leader who stood tall in storms.

At Everton he was decisive, offloading David Ginola, even challenging Duncan Ferguson. He fought his way out of tricky situations in 2002-03 and 2005-06, guiding Everton up from the depths.

He asserted his authority time after time at Everton and must do so now at United. He has to stop being in awe of his new, celebrated surroundings and his new, famous workmates.

On the eve of the season, Moyes spoke of his excitement at sitting in the manager's swivel chair at Carrington. It was a nice anecdote designed to signal his passion for the position, but the wide-eyed fresher act has to end. The seat belongs to him now.

If he feels that Ed Woodward is not moving quickly or cutely enough in the transfer market then he should have a strong word with his executive vice-chairman. Moyes needs players, his players. The more that arrive the more powerful the squad will become and the more the existing cadre will know they have to regain the intensity they showed under Ferguson.

At times, Moyes seems to defer to members of United's respected media department over what questions he should answer. Ridiculous. He is manager. Do not avoid issues. He did not earn such relentless praise at Everton through slavish diplomacy.

At Everton, Moyes was usually most quotable in defeat when he backed vanquished, vulnerable players, taking criticism on himself, earning the appreciation of the dressing-room. Some of his public utterances as United manager border on the defeatist.

He needs "five to six world-class players". He is prepared to suffer "blow after blow" while rebuilding "a team in transition". Few would argue about the need for heavyweight reinforcements or the need for time and forbearance. Moyes was being admirably honest and a delighted print media hungrily paraded his sentiments in block type.

But it was unwise. Moyes risks talking the team into a recession. Such comments foster uncertainty on the terraces as well as the dressing-room.

Demanding increased effort from the players should be done behind the scenes, not in front of notepads.

Moyes has to get to grips with the wiles of the modern media. Former referees, managers and players, even club executives, have newspaper columns. Fans have social media soapboxes and countless local and national radio phone-ins.

Regular attendees at Moyes press conferences down the years know how little he enjoys the television element of the inquisition. He relaxes with the radio types, often opens up to the scribblers but he goes cold when the cameras roll, his body language exuding caution.

In the modern world where perception is key, Moyes comes over as defensive. He needs to be true to himself, yet also understanding the need to present the right image. Be defiant. Come up with such rallying cries as his "people's club" tribute to Everton when joining in 2002. Come on David Moyes, be yourself. Stand or fall on your own terms. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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