Sport Soccer

Thursday 21 September 2017

Moyes will need six new players to rekindle fading United fortunes

Red Devils may have to miss out on Champions League as regeneration becomes priority for under-fire boss, writes Chris Bascombe

David Moyes
David Moyes
A picture posted on Twitter by the Everton supporter

Chris Bascombe

David Moyes' misery after Manchester United's defeat to former club Everton was compounded when his anger at the scathing reception he received from the fans who used to support him was revealed on social media.

An Everton follower who met Moyes in the Lowry Hotel in Manchester following the champions' 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford tweeted remarks by the United manager in which he called the hostility shown to him by the travelling support "a disgrace."

Moyes spent 11 years at Goodison Park, ending the spell of relegation battles to cement a regular top-six finish and was afforded a guard of honour when he left to join United in May.

However, his comments during the summer pursuit of Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines – and a bid for the pair that was considered derisory – have soured relations in the months since his exit and those present in the away end of Old Trafford barracked their former idol.

The quote that rankled Evertonians most was when Moyes said in August: "If I'd been Everton manager and Alex had come asking for Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini, I'd have found it very difficult to keep them, because I always felt the right thing to do was what was right for the players."

United did not dispute the suggestion Moyes expressed unhappiness with being jeered by the Evertonians, although there is disappointment private remarks entered the public domain.

There was a robust defence of Moyes, however, from Everton captain Phil Jagielka. The defender was one of those signed by Moyes, who he credits with leaving solid foundations for Roberto Martinez.

He also argued the Scot's current difficulties at Old Trafford were a consequence of a lack of boardroom help in the transfer market and a demanding fixture list.

"I have a lot of time and a lot of respect for David Moyes," said Jagielka.

SORRY

"I do feel sorry for him. The fixture list wasn't that kind initially. The transfers in the summer, the people who were making those decisions didn't help him out one bit. It is nowhere near a big problem but the pressure was always going to be high.

"From being at Everton, where the pressure was not so big initially, he could then grow into the season. You can't grow into the season at Manchester United. You need to come out firing on all cylinders when you look at how Arsenal have started and Chelsea and teams like that, you can't give them too much of a lead.

"He will come under pressure, but I am sure he knew that once he took the job he wasn't going to get a quiet life at Manchester United. It was a fantastic opportunity for him. It proved what a great job he had done at Everton.

"I am sure he will roll his sleeves up, get the guys moving in the right direction and I am more than sure he will get Manchester United where they need to be. He just needs that little bit more time, but sometimes, time seems a hard thing to get when you are at that top level. He will come through it, 100pc.

"He just needs to add a few more players that he wants week in, week out. Once he gets that sorted and he gets more of his team rather than a team he has been given, that is the acid test for him."

Jagielka said the antipathy shown towards Moyes by the Everton fans was a symptom of the modern game.

"It is how fickle football is," he said. "It was the same with Fellaini. He was fantastic for us. I am sure he got abused by our fans. It is the nature of the beast. I am sure when he comes to Goodison he will still get a round of applause for the first five minutes and then he will get booed and abused for the rest.

"When you leave a big club like Everton, with such passionate fans, I am sure David Moyes expected the reception especially with us getting the win we got in the end."

Manchester United's owners, the Glazer family, believe the club's finances are strong enough to survive missing out on Champions League qualification this season, despite warning investors last month that current revenue forecasts depend on a top-three finish in the Premier League.

United face Newcastle at Old Trafford tomorrow 12 points adrift of leaders Arsenal, with a gap of five points separating David Moyes' team from Liverpool, the club currently occupying the fourth and final Champions League berth.

And although the mood among senior figures at United, including the Glazers, is understood to be one of calm, the team's slide down the table in recent weeks to ninth position has raised the prospect of the club missing out on the Champions League for the first time in 19 years.

While such an eventuality continues to be deemed unlikely at United, the ramifications of a year outside Europe's elite competition have been considered, with the club's American owners prepared to invest significantly in new players in order to restore the team to its previous position.

Speaking earlier this season, the United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward insisted that an unsuccessful campaign would not inflict lasting damage on the club or the team.

"If we have a bad year, does it impact on our sponsorship that year?"

Woodward said. "No. If we have a bad year, we have the financial strength to change the team.

"We have so much deeper financial strength that, instead of selling three players and buying three, we can do five.

"If you fight hard and just fail, people will still watch you on television, still turn up and buy shirts. There's still a lot of affinity with the club and interest, but the reality is that you can't always win. Take Liverpool. They still sell an incredible number of shirts and have the second biggest shirt deal in the Premier League.

"They have one of the biggest technical partner deals. And Liverpool haven't won the league since 1990."

United's debt, which currently stands at £361m, is placed in perspective by the projected revenues of between £420-430m for this financial year, with many of the club's commercial deals boosted by participation in the Champions League.

However, with the club conceding in their first quarter accounts last month that the revenue projection is based on the assumption that Moyes' team will finish no lower than third and reach the Champions League quarter-finals, the financial blow of failing to secure a top-four finish could be outstripped by the damage to the club's lustre in the transfer market.

As Liverpool have discovered in recent years, since losing their Champions League status, enticing top players to a club without being able to offer participation in Europe's premier competition has proven to be increasingly difficult.

When Manchester City embarked on their 'accelerated acquisition strategy' under managers Mark Hughes and Roberto Mancini in order to secure Champions League qualification, the club conceded they were forced to pay inflated fees and wages simply to complete deals to attract top players to the Etihad Stadium.

Should they fall outside the Champions League, United would be faced with the problems that have befallen Liverpool and City, and also risk encountering leading players wishing to move elsewhere for Champions League football.

United's poor start to the campaign has highlighted the rebuilding work which Moyes must undertake to make the squad competitive at the top end of the table, but with the sense that the club requires as many as six new signings to replace a batch of players in the thirties, the strengthening will prove expensive, whether United are in the Champions League or not.

While attempts will be made to strengthen Moyes' squad in January following a disastrous summer transfer window which saw only the much-maligned Marouane Fellaini added to the team which won last season's title, the club are prepared to wait until the summer to recruit leading targets amid concerns that the mid-season window rarely presents opportunities for good business.

Efforts will be made in January to recruit Leighton Baines and Borussia Dortmund midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, while Athletic Bilbao midfielder Ander Herrera remains a target.

United's scouts have also been regularly monitoring Benfica midfielder Nemanja Matic, with Porto defender Eliaquim Mangala also being watched on several occasions.

The likelihood of all five players arriving at United next month is slim, however, the club is confident that the current squad, with the likes of Michael Carrick and Robin van Persie free from injury, is strong enough to climb the table and banish concerns over Champions League qualification.

Van Persie, having been sidelined for a month with a groin injury, remains a doubt for tomorrow's fixture against Newcastle.

Wayne Rooney misses the game through suspension after collecting his fifth booking of the season against Everton on Wednesday. (©Daily Telegraph, London)

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