I know what David Moyes is going through trying to live up to big expectations in Manchester as I have been in that position myself. It was, admittedly, at a somewhat lower-profile club, but at least David does not have to clear dog mess off the training pitches at Carrington as I had to before working with Bury’s players on the local park in 1998.
Most managers are hired because their predecessor failed. You come in with a brief to sort out the squad, bring some shape to the team, and improve results. It can be tough, but sometimes following success is harder because fans expect more success, but circumstances may have changed.
It happened to me at Bury. Stan Ternent had won successive promotions taking them to what is now the Championship. He had backing from a benefactor but it was still an achievement – look where Bury are now.
Stan then went to Burnley - he knew there was only one direction Bury could go. It was an impossible job, but when Terry Robinson, the chairman, asked me I took it. I was living in the area and Terry was a good friend.
The players were a genuine bunch but we had no chance. Stan poached a couple of good players, then the benefactor’s money ran out – it turned out it wasn’t his to spend.
But as soon as we lost a couple of games the fans were on our backs. I remember when we played Bradford City they started chanting “Warnock out”. I’d been at Huddersfield not long before so wasn’t too popular in Bradford either and the visitors joined in. Soon all four sides of the ground were chanting. I knew then it was just a matter of time. Incredibly, we only went down on goals scored – if it had been goal difference we’d have stayed up – but when the chance came to go to Sheffield United it was like winning the pools.
In some ways David’s task is easier as United are not out of their depth like Bury, but the level of scrutiny is so much higher. He won’t have expected the job to be easy but various factors have made it a lot harder than he must have anticipated.
One is the loss of Robin van Persie, and now Wayne Rooney to injury. They scored 46 goals last year. Even Manchester City, with their resources, would find it difficult if Negredo and Aguero were both injured, as would Liverpool without Suarez and Sturridge, and Chelsea if Torres and Eto’o were out – actually, Chelsea may be the exception to the rule.
David has also discovered the hard way that the players he has inherited are nowhere near as good as he was told. He now knows he needs to buy quality at centre-half and in central midfield – though I don’t think he’ll rush into it like he did with Marouane Fellaini. I feel sorry for David. Sir Alex must have known midfield was a problem when he pleaded with Paul Scholes to come out of retirement and continued with Ryan Giggs, at 40, in midfield. That shows recruitment has not been what it should have been.
It hasn’t helped having David Gill step down as chief executive the same time as Sir Alex. That was a hospital pass for Moyes. The club should have tried harder to get Gill to stay six months to help David settle. I’m convinced they’d have got one or two summer targets if he had, but Edward Woodward was thrown in at the deep end as well. Now they have to ride out the storm.
At the moment David is obviously not enjoying it as everything is hard work, but, like Arsenal, United have to ignore the minority who are calling for the manager’s head. It is the easiest thing in the world to listen to them but you have to be very careful what you wish for. Every club has a minority who want rid of the manager. At Sheffield there were 3,000-4,000 always wanting me out. They got their wish in the end, and now look where they are.
I do believe the majority of Manchester United fans think, like me, that David Moyes will be a good manager for the club and he has to have at least until this time next year, and two transfer windows behind him, before people can start judging him.
One problem David can’t overcome is he’s not Sir Alex and referees know it. You can’t tell me Sunderland’s first goal in midweek would have been allowed with Fergie on the touchline. Andre Marriner would have blown for half-time as soon as the one minute of added time was up and the free-kick would never have been taken. And there is no way a young linesman would have guessed a nonsense penalty like the one that led to the second goal if Sir Alex was still on the bench. Unfortunately for David, I don’t think officials are going to give Manchester United anything now Fergie has left.
Ollie can enjoy a happy marriage at Millwall while Mel gets lucky
There were two interesting appointments this week. Congratulations to Ian Holloway, Millwall is made to measure for him. When he left Crystal Palace in October he was low, as the job consumed him last summer, and some of the new players’ attitudes left a lot to be desired. I had a similar experience at QPR and know how much it drains you. He looks revitalised and it could be a good marriage.
It also gives all managers hope when Pepe Mel gets the West Bromwich Albion job despite being sacked several times in the last dozen years. It is a great opportunity as with the squad they have Albion will be fine. I expect Dean Kiely and Keith Downing will be a big help to Mel.
Last week the FA Cup showed the best and worst of managing. Nigel Clough will have loved winning at Villa Park in front of 6,000 Sheffield United fans, but it was tough for Brian McDermott and Sam Allardyce.
Brian said it was the worst day of his career when Leeds lost at Rochdale. He got dog’s abuse from the away fans and I can sympathise, having had it last year when Leeds lost 4-0 at Man City. I thought it was unfair, given who we were playing and having beaten Spurs in the previous round. Hopefully, signing Cameron Stewart and Jimmy Kébé will give Leeds the pace they’ve missed, though it’ll be interesting to see what position that leaves Ross McCormack in.
I also felt for Sam, standing in pouring rain watching his injury-hit Hammers taken apart at City in the League Cup. He will have been very disappointed that four or five players did not seem to want to contribute to keeping the score respectable. He must feel everything is against him and needs his players to stand up and be counted at Cardiff today.