For many, despite the understandable goodwill and support that followed David Moyes in his early days at Manchester United, the tragicomic ending ten months later seemed upsettingly inevitable.
Beyond his trophyless decade at Everton, lack of top-level experience and transfer market shambles over the summer, the most glaring problem with Moyes, without question, appears to be his lack of tactical purism.
For a Manchester United manager, this can be the most heinous of crimes. Far from being a long-ball merchant, Moyes had shown in brief glimpses, that he was capable, particularly in his final season, of gleaning attractive, appealing performances from his Everton charges.
Yet he has been, for his entire managerial career, been considered entirely a pragmatist, a man who is concerned more with countering his opponents play than instilling any deep tactical philosophy on is own club.
As Everton manager, he was often accused of being happy with a 1-0 defeat against the Premier League frontrunners. Indeed, his appalling record against the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City, both as Everton and United manager, is obvious evidence that he does not have the confidence or tactical ambition to squarely face down those considered his superiors.
It is this ambition, allied to clear tactical ideas and a long-term strategy, which has led to the successes of Brendan Rodgers and Roberto Martinez over the past season. And you can guarantee that both have long careers ahead at their current clubs because of their clear commitments.
Whilst Rodgers may have benefited from Liverpool’s appalling decline over the past few years, allowing him more time and less pressure to rebuild, it was obvious that, gradually, a distinctive and laudable style of play was coming to the fore.
No such coherence has ever been apparent over the past year at Old Trafford. £64 million has been spent on two players who both thrive in the number 10 role, whilst the current undisputed number 10 has been rewarded for years of petulance and lack of progression with a bumper new contract.
Ageing squad members were simultaneously retained yet alienated; Rio Ferdinand, so inculcated to the ways of Sir Alex Ferguson, spoke out about his frustrations under Moyes, but was still expected to muster his 35-year-old body to deliver big performances in crucial games at the drop of a hat in often patched-up defences.
Ryan Giggs and Nemanja Vidic also faced similar, inevitable problems in adapting to the new regime that never felt entirely sure of itself. Similarly, the younger players expected to carry United forward were burdened by tactical reticence and a clear lack of faith.
Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, long touted as England’s future defensive partnership, have played only two games together in the centre of defence in their entire United careers. Whilst injury and suspension partly explains this, Moyes’ continued use of both at right-back, at the expense of the once titanic Rafael, has severely hampered United’s attempts to develop into a competitive side in the post-Ferguson era.
Up front, Danny Welbeck and Shinji Kagawa have both been left frustrated and drained by Moyes’ inability to channel their immense abilities on the pitch. Using the likes of Ashley Young, Nani and Antonio Valenica, who have failed to consistently reach a standard acceptable for a United player, demonstrates further not only Moyes lack of ambition, but also the sorry state of affairs left by Sir Alex.
Therefore, it is obvious that the incoming manager must be bold and ambitious, no matter the cost. Ryan Giggs and his Class of ’92 support staff, unanimously popular and promising in their only game so far, could most definitely restore the intangible sense of “United” that was absent throughout Myes’ ill-fated tenure, but should more experience be required, then the only candidate that should be considered is Jurgen Klopp.
Four years younger than Moyes, and only six older than Giggs, this is a man who has taken the almost insolvent Borussia Dortmund to unscald heights. Although he has professed reluctance to abandon what he stills sees as a project in progress, United would be incredibly foolish to not pursue a man who would bring a definite philosophy and character to United that meek Moyes roundly failed to do.
Klopp would also act as a great mentor to the likes of Giggs, Nicky Butt and Phil Neville, and can be seen as more reliable long-term appointment than the undeniably successful but less identifiable 62-year-old Louis Van Gaal.
A stellar record at Barcelona and with Holland perhaps glosses over the aloofness that can harm his team; already, it has been reported that he has insisted on appointing five of his own staff, suggesting a lack of understanding of what makes a club like United different.
Short term success he may bring, but for another long-term period of dominance, only Jurgen Klopp can truly be considered a safe bet.
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