Monday 22 January 2018

Moyes was out of his depth and the players knew it

'It's not the players' job to get behind mediocrity or to stay silent if things are going wrong.'. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images
'It's not the players' job to get behind mediocrity or to stay silent if things are going wrong.'. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images
Richard Sadlier

Richard Sadlier

When did it become clear to the Manchester United hierarchy that David Moyes was not up to it?

It was hardly the FA Cup third round defeat to Swansea at Old Trafford in January. It may well have been the Olympiakos defeat in February as reports have suggested. It could also have been the back-to-back 3-0 debacles at home to their two fiercest rivals in March. The result last weekend at Everton ensured Manchester United would finish outside the top four but it was by no means their worst display since he took over.

When exactly was the fatal blow landed?

The case for his dismissal certainly wasn't limited to performances and results. He probably didn't endear himself to many when he said United aspired to reach Manchester City's level following their second heavy derby defeat of the season.

To claim that even Alex Ferguson would have struggled with this squad this season wasn't the wisest thing to have done either. There are several other signs that he was the wrong man for the job but I can't think of any that suggested he was the right one.

I can't recall one phase of Moyes' short reign when he looked capable of meeting the expectations of the job. He never looked like he could handle the role or that he would succeed if given time and money. And if that was clear from the outside looking in, you can imagine how obvious it was for those who worked there. But from listening to people talk about player power last week, you would think the squad were the only ones not allowed to realise it.

Reports of player unrest were being leaked well before Moyes' departure on Tuesday. Further details have since emerged of how little support he had among the squad and it was telling that Moyes did not thank the players in his statement last week. Various anecdotes have been circulating which would help to explain why he didn't, but I can't see why anyone would criticise the players for not being behind him.

You don't get support and respect in football simply by being in the job. In a football dressing room, a ruthless environment at the best of times, you have got to continually justify your right to be there. Given the standard of management those players are used to, why would they be impressed by what they saw in Moyes? He was out of his depth and they knew it. They shouldn't be criticised if they communicated this to Ferguson or anyone else.

Player power is rarely put forward as a sign of good health in a dressing room. It usually indicates a poisonous element comprised of brattish millionaires who can't accept they have responsibilities of their own. It generally refers to players overstepping the mark or involving themselves in issues which should be none of their concern. If only they did their jobs correctly in the first place.

But that cannot be aimed at this United squad. They have underperformed to the standards set under Alex Ferguson but they are no longer guided by him. They have looked at times this season like they lacked motivation and direction, but that's the inevitable consequence of putting them in the hands of a manager like Moyes. If players were expected to perform at their best no matter who is in charge, managers wouldn't be sacked as often as they are. And the transition to life after Ferguson wouldn't be such a big deal.

The premise for all managerial changes is that players respond in different ways to different methods. It's based on the notion that input from the boss is the essential ingredient once a squad is assembled. It's why this squad

performed so badly this season and it's why great care should be taken to choose Moyes' successor.

The notion that these players should be ashamed of themselves, as was suggested last week, is populist nonsense. It fails to appreciate the input of a manager in how a team performs. It ignores the impact of employing a manager who is not up to the job. If a team's success was based on the abilities of the players then so much fuss wouldn't be made of who United should appoint next.

The players are not to blame for the season United have had or the brevity of Moyes' time in charge. It's not their job to get behind mediocrity or to stay silent when their experience tells them something is seriously wrong. As a result of finishing outside the top four, many of them will now see their wages reduced by 25 per cent and there's obviously no Champions League for them next season. And people wonder why none of them tweeted their thanks to Moyes.

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