Comment: A growing sense that David Moyes is a manager who is out of his depth at Manchester United

Moyes is getting close to a dangerous tipping point when Manchester United fans go from frustration to hostility

The online commentary would have made dispiriting reading, post upon post of outraged dissent suggesting a new and worrying development in the Manchester United experience of David Moyes. A feature of his tenure at Old Trafford has been the remarkable patience of the supporters, who had largely bought into his narrative of renewal, the idea that he had inherited a squad of numpties in need of radical overhaul despite claiming a record 20th title by 11 points last year.

That thread was OK when Robin van Persie was holed up in the Netherlands having his troublesome thigh massaged, when Wayne Rooney was exiled in Egypt resting shattered groins, when Michael Carrick was nursing ankle ligament damage and when Juan Mata was a Chelsea player. Moyes had all four on the pitch against Fulham on Sunday, plus junior superstar Adnan Januzaj, and still could not put away the Premier League’s bottom club.

As bad as it gets, was his assessment. Wrong. That would be when he loses the fans, and that turning point might just be upon him. The nascent boos heard around Old Trafford were amplified massively in the post-match chat rooms, suggesting that an anti-Moyes sentiment is taking hold. The discrepancy between what they had seen and the Scot’s account of events was wider than Cheddar Gorge. When trust between fan and manager has gone, a new phase, one of anger and hostility, begins. 

Moyes defended the crossing strategy he deployed against Fulham, arguing that wide men are a United staple, fundamental to the way the team plays. The Fulham manager, Rene Meulensteen, once of the Old Trafford parish, said it was predictable and way too easy to defend. Dan Burn, the 6ft 7in central defender, dismissed the tactic as Conference football.

The 2-2 draw bore him out. The fans were less diplomatic. Pathetic, ancient football, brainless and aimless were some of the politer terms bandied around.

Moyes has certainly been the victim of a few freak storms this season; in the previous game Charlie Adam’s wildly deflected goal in a hooley at Stoke, followed by the air-shot pass from Marko Arnautovic to Adam for the winner; Sunday’s comedy equaliser from Darren Bent four minutes into added time was the fifth time this season United had surrendered points or cups to last-minute interventions. Seven months into his reign this type of outcome begins to look less like bad luck and more like bad management.

Moyes is fundamentally a decent bloke and an honest, hard worker who cares deeply about what he does, but none of these qualities is a defence against the growing sense that he is a manager out of his depth at Old Trafford. He owed his appointment entirely to the patronage of Sir Alex Ferguson, a fellow Glaswegian and long-time sympathiser, who wanted to appoint him to his coaching staff when he was learning the trade at Preston North End.

Fergie loved his work ethic and his integrity. He saw a fellow traveller who shared his values and beliefs. On that basis, and the widely accepted understanding he had done a commendable job at Goodison Park, he was invited to take over at United. The warm glow about Moyes blunted critical thinking. It ignored the substantial point that Moyes did not leave behind at Everton a body of work that compelled on the basis of a recognisable footballing philosophy.

He was late to the passing game, during the majority of his reign at Everton opting for an attritional mix of grunt and punt, on the grounds that he did not have the players to develop a more expansive template. Isn’t that the job of the coach, to improve players, to get them organised and productive in a cohesive way?

Did Brendan Rodgers have a king’s ransom to turn Swansea into an approximation of Barcelona? Does Mauricio Pochettino have a bucketload of cash to throw at Southampton? Does Roberto Martinez have more than Moyes had to make Everton an aesthetic joy? Or did they impose a style of football that was not only pleasing on the eye, but gained results beyond expectation?

United’s discomfort must be exacerbated tenfold by events at Chelsea, where Jose Mourinho has demonstrated for the umpteenth time his credentials as a guru of the coaching art. He has ridden that “little horse” to the top of the Premier League, via the masterful emasculation of Manchester City at the Etihad eight days ago, despite inheriting a squad thought to be in need of attention almost as much as United’s.

He moved quickly to acquire André Schürrle, nicked Willian through a transfer window, reconstituted John Terry as England’s pre-eminent centre-half, made a centre-forward once more of Samuel Eto’o, eased England’s first-choice left-back into semi-retirement in favour of a right-footed Spaniard and flogged the club’s player of the year two seasons running to a major rival.

You wonder whether the United ownership still view  Mourinho as a corrosive, divisive figure, detrimental to the interests of a club. You suspect they would take him now were they able to rewind the clock to the days last spring when he had his hand in the air inviting a conversation. He was waving not drowning.

Because they have insufficient expertise in a game into which they bought more than a decade ago, the Glazers invested all in the judgement of Ferguson. But the Glazers do understand the bottom line. The Moyes regime is ultimately unsustainable on two levels should it continue along its present course. At the moment it is only points United are shipping.

Failure to qualify for the Champions League, as seems certain, will put an ugly dent in the balance sheet. It is understood the club might tolerate one bad year, but two? Moyes takes his sinking ship to the Emirates tomorrow needing a result. It is just his luck that he runs into an Arsenal team desperate to reassert their own title credentials.

The fixtures at Stoke and at home to Fulham were supposed to bring a reprieve. After Arsenal, United visit Crystal Palace, another match that on Fergie paper would have held zero fears. By the time Tony Pulis has done with United Moyes might be talking us through a 10th Premier League defeat. That’s West Bromwich Albion territory and they are in the bottom three. Fergie never saw that coming.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there