Neil Warnock: I don't see how Mata, RVP and Rooney can play together
I’ve never felt so much relief watching a game on television as I did when Robin van Persie put away his penalty on Wednesday night.
As a manager I know what David Moyes has been going through and I was desperate to see him turn it around.
He has been under so much pressure, especially after last week’s home defeat to Liverpool. After that match I thought, “Where does he start?” Manchester United were so flat, like a bottle of bubbly that had been left open for a couple of days.
All Wednesday I feared the worst. I could not see where they would get three goals from. But David showed why he is a good manager. He made a few crucial decisions and got the win he needed.
He is looking stressed, but that is the job, especially at a club like Manchester United, which is a massive step up from Everton.
As a manager at any level when things are going wrong – and they can’t have gone much worse for David – it is with you every minute of the day. You go home and your wife will be talking but you are not listening, you are thinking, “Do I pick him, or him?” You’ll watch TV but you are not really watching, you are doing it to be sociable. Inside you are thinking, “How do I leave a top player out?”
You don’t want to go out, you are almost in a cocoon. And when the media get into you it is even worse. At a club like United there are always stories in the papers. Last week it was about Ryan Giggs. It’s probably ridiculous, it usually is. It’ll be a comment made somewhere that has been blown up out of all proportion.
People ask what you do to switch off but when it is as bad as it has been at United I don’t think you can get away from it. My only out was playing with the kids. They are not bothered about you being the manager of this or that club. But that only really works when they are young. As they get older they become more aware of the situation and that can add to the pressure.
Your family try to help, your staff at the club try to help, but you know at the end of the day, it is down to you. Maybe the only way is to see it for what it is, a game. There have been times when I’ve thought, “If I get the sack I get the sack, life goes on, I’ll do my best and get on with whatever happens.”
A lot of people will say managers at David’s level have the consolation of walking away with a fat compensation cheque, knowing they never need work again. But at that level of management it is not about money, it is about being successful and showing people what he is about. It’ll be his ego that is feeling damaged at the moment and the size of your bank balance won’t heal that.
It was a brilliant decision in midweek to bring Giggs back. He stood out like a Rolls Royce in the car park at Asda. He played two great balls for the goals and had that confidence and arrogance United have been missing.
He’ll have been watching games, not playing, as it has gone from bad to worse, and been dying to get out there. When he got the chance – and there won’t be many more European nights with nearly 75,000 at Old Trafford for Ryan – boy, did he take it. He was man of the match for me by a mile.
Ryan had that quality of not being afraid. Old Trafford is a stage and to play there players need courage. When Eric Cantona went from Leeds to Manchester United everyone said what a step up it was, but he looked like he belonged from the start. That is how Giggs looked.
David’s job is to find a few more like that, only quite a few years younger, because it showed everyone why there are problems at United when it takes a 40-year-old to get them back on track. You do have to look back at the last few years of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign and ask what investment in midfield was done.
Now, though, David has some difficult decisions to make. I don’t see how he can play Van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata in the same team. You need pace. Danny Welbeck and Antonio Valencia showed the value of that, as did Liverpool last Sunday. Welbeck pushes defenders 20 to 30 yards back, that gives the midfield more time and space. And David must be tempted to give Valencia a thump next time he plays because getting that black eye seemed to stimulate him.
But if they play, who doesn’t? The owners won’t want to see the manager leaving out someone who cost £37m in January, or a £29m player who’s just scored a hat-trick, or one who’s just signed a big new contract.
It’ll be interesting to see who he picks when they are all fit and available. Van Persie will be a big miss over the next few weeks and they face a tricky match at West Ham today, while on Tuesday Manchester City are at Old Trafford. That could be another difficult night for United, because you’d have to say the squads look quite a way apart at the moment.