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Five reasons why Dithering Dave had to go


A mocking poster hung at the Etihad as Manchester United's rivals took pleasure at poking fun at David Moyes. Photo: ANDREW YATES/AFP/Getty Images

A mocking poster hung at the Etihad as Manchester United's rivals took pleasure at poking fun at David Moyes. Photo: ANDREW YATES/AFP/Getty Images

A mocking poster hung at the Etihad as Manchester United's rivals took pleasure at poking fun at David Moyes. Photo: ANDREW YATES/AFP/Getty Images


"You could describe the Everton defeat as the straw that broke the camel's back," a senior source at United said, when asked to identify the 'tipping points' in David Moyes' reign at Old Trafford. "But there were already plenty of things on the camel's back by then."

In fact, the moment things truly began to unravel was the 2-0 defeat at Olympiakos in the first leg of United's Champions League last-16 tie in February. It was an appalling performance and as the club's directors returned to their executive minibus outside the Karaiskakis Stadium, they spoke for the first time about their misgivings over Moyes and whether the players were not playing for him.

It was not simply the defeats which had stung: it was the poverty of United's performances. The side had never played well under Moyes. "It just wasn't happening," the source said. "The kind of performances that are the DNA of the club in terms of what the fans love about the way we play football were not there."

The club hoped, after the home defeats against Everton and Newcastle United at the end of last year, that they would turn a corner in January. But United started 2014 by losing against Spurs and were knocked out of the FA Cup by Swansea City.

Things did not pick up and the club began to write off the season and concentrate on a summer overhaul. For a while they believed the players were to blame but the realisation dawned that the problem was Moyes and the pressure became too great.


Sitting in the lobby restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel in Bangkok, at the start of Manchester United's pre-season tour to the Far East and Australia, Moyes gave his first in-depth briefing over a three-hour lunch to a group of journalists.

The first question was about Wayne Rooney, his future and what role he had to play. This was Moyes' answer in full: "I think he's got a major role to play because we need to try and get him as many goals as we possibly can. I think Wayne can play up top, I think he can play dropped in. Overall my thought on Wayne is that if for any reason we had an injury to Robin [van Persie] we are going to need him.

"I want to be able to play the two of them at times, I want to be able to play Danny Welbeck, Chicharito [Javier Hernandez] as well. I want to try and give myself as many options as possible. If anything it's going to take me time to see how I work with them."

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We knew what Moyes meant but his language was unclear. His point was that Rooney could play in a number of roles. But the lack of clarity in his language led to headlines in some newspapers that Rooney would be nothing more than Van Persie's understudy – a player who was only needed when the Dutchman was injured. Rooney was furious, and so was his manager.

Communication is key, especially at a club like United, where the spotlight is particularly intense.

Moyes spoke about United needing "five or six world-class players" to win the Champions League and that he did not possess that number; of his fear of the fans and media reaction had he substituted a half-fit Van Persie against Newcastle; of Liverpool coming to Old Trafford as "favourites" and of Manchester City being of the "standard and level" United had to "aspire to". Moyes tried to be honest but was either unclear or defeatist and his constant use of words such as "hopefully" betrayed an inner fretfulness.


Moyes turned training into a joyless, turgid affair for some disgruntled players. Much has been written about his decision to completely change the backroom staff, which he was urged not to do by friends and advisers including Alex Ferguson. Although he argued he offered Rene Meulensteen a job it did appear to be in a diminished role.

But disaffection also stemmed from the training itself: the long sessions, relentless drills and unremitting focus on fitness work.

There was a feeling that Moyes worried too much about stopping the opposition rather than setting up his own team and would talk about them more than his own: a legacy, perhaps, of his Everton days.

It is understood that the mood at United's Carrington training complex lifted immediately after Moyes's departure last Tuesday. It was like the release of a valve, which can be an inevitable consequence of any sacking. One source said: "There is a different air around the place."

Another sign of the unhappiness were the leaks around the club, with stories filtering through to the media on team selection, player discontent and rows behind the scenes. The story last Sunday claiming that Welbeck was considering his future did not go unnoticed by the club's hierarchy. It had to stop.

The appointment of Ryan Giggs, albeit temporarily, was always going to provide an uplift, but the extent of it has also taken club executives by surprise.


At Everton, Moyes acquired the most unwanted of nicknames – 'Dithering Dave' – because of the inordinate length of time he often took to make a decision, especially when it came to transfers. Moyes continued his policy of making personal checks on players when he moved to United, regularly being photographed at foreign stadiums. That was fine in the club's eyes, but he also continued to delay making decisions.

Last summer was a write-off, despite the club refusing to bow to pressure to sell Rooney, and the signing of Marouane Fellaini for £27m, it was a grim portent of things to come. As was Moyes's decision to pull the plug on an advanced negotiation for Barcelona's Thiago Alcantara, who was allowed to then join Bayern Munich.

Moyes was not even sure he wanted Fellaini: in the event, the Belgium midfielder was acquired as a last resort and the unedifying deadline day scramble did not do him or the club any favours. United wanted a marquee signing, a player who would prove that there was life beyond Ferguson and knew if they acquired one, such as Gareth Bale, it would be a huge statement of intent. The Bale negotiations were left ridiculously late.

That a big name signing did not materialise was not entirely Moyes' fault: other senior figures at the club also need to accept responsibility. Moyes spent much of his time at the club overhauling antiquated scouting systems and providing a huge and thoroughly modern database on players which will still be used.


Moyes was chosen as United's manager by Ferguson and there were sound, if romantic, reasons behind the decision. But he never liked the 'Chosen One' banner at Old Trafford because it served as a continual reminder that he was gifted the job rather than having earned it.

Moyes was caught in a bind. He took over the champions, and used phrases such as "this machine is not broken", but he essentially knew that a huge overhaul was needed.

He was initially too polite and deferential, privately admitting that he could not move players on who had won the league. He vowed to give the whole squad, including the likes of Anderson, a chance.

However, he must have also known this was flawed. Changes had to be made. Moyes needed to stamp his authority immediately and the easiest way to do that was to move some players on.

Moyes spoke to Ferguson frequently but also found himself being forced to speak about him, especially in those early months. He was too deferential at times and the identity of his predecessor did not allow him to be himself. Eventually rumours circulated that Ferguson's own faith in his successor was shaken, although when he did come to acknowledge that the sacking was justified, it was with a heavy heart.

Moyes is hard-working, honest and ethical and undoubtedly has integrity – a rare thing in football.

He talked about being 'gallus', a Glaswegian phrase, indicating that he had been through a lot. His biggest regret, though, will be this: he may have been Ferguson's Chosen One but he was never truly himself.


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