Lessons to learn but Moyes will be back
When David Moyes walked into the Manchester United dressing room, he was inevitably going to face a similar problem to the one I faced at Preston; just on a completely different scale. My problem was tough enough. I inherited players who had achieved more than me in football and who had experience of situations that I didn’t have. Neil Mellor, for instance, had played a part in winning the Champions League at Liverpool.
I was coming in to teach lads like Mells. But I had no obvious basis of relevant success or expertise upon which to establish a respect to do that.Winning three promotions to reach League One was hardly comparable to Champions League experience.
This week, one or two United sources highlighted the lack of trust that existed in the squad to play the Moyes way. The sense was that it was David’s responsibility to learn the United way before imposing his own thoughts. It is easy to feel he should have listened more. But let’s be frank, he would probably have been run out of town for having no ideas of his own.
I will never forget the disdain shown to me by certain senior players from the moment I came through the door at Preston. Battle lines were drawn at my very first introductory meeting.
Rather naively, I saw their stance as their problem because ultimately I would decide their fate.
Actually, my decision not to more patiently engage them and slowly improve them as players, and to create their winning performance as a team would be a factor in deciding my fate. My failure to inspire certain key personnel left me light on top quality talent.
I sensed David was facing a similar struggle when he began talking about how long his contract was written for. The team’s performances and results were doing a lot of talking. He felt obliged to answer. But his answer was defensive. And that to me was telling.
Where then do I think that David could have done better based on my experience of a similar problem?
Firstly it pays to remember the quotes of two great men:‘I am not better than any other coach, but no one is better than me’ said Jose Mourinho.
‘I don’t think I am the best manager in the world but I am in the top one’ said Brian Clough.
Perhaps David is too humble for his own good? Too focused on ‘working hard’ for his own good? Perhaps a Manchester United manager needs to shed that type of skin.
Ryan Giggs talked about ‘expression’ coming from a team that ‘enjoys’ itself. An attacking and winning way has huge smiles involved in it. The balance between ‘work’ and ‘fun’ is a vital balance to find.
Secondly embrace the job: Manchester United were Premier League champions. Arguably, nothing needed changing. Perhaps David could have left more of the winning structure in place whilst he worked with his new team to work out how to become European champions, treble winners and even world club champions. Perhaps too much changed. Maybe too few friends were acquired.
Thirdly politics: There are key figures in every dressing room and they need to be pulling in the right and same direction.Whether the key players play smaller or bigger roles, they need to be given the right to their pride.
The environment has to provide everybody involved with a clear picture of the future. Look at Brendan Rogers’ magnificent handling of Jamie Carragher’s move out of Liverpool and into the media. Faultless.
That seems like a simple set of thoughts. But sometimes the answers get complicated in the midst of human change situations. Succeeding for David was not straightforward. I know I would adjust my approach in a similar situation in my future career. And I am sure that David will bounce back a much stronger manager too.
I KNOW HOW HE FELT: Former Manchester United boss David Moyes