Robbie Savage: Ten David Moyes mistakes at Manchester United
Manchester United will not win a trophy this season, and the man heralded as the "Chosen One" on a banner in the Stretford End has made too many poor choices of his own.
Since taking charge of a side that won last season's Premier League title by 11 points, David Moyes has endured a miserable eight months.
Clubs so often happy to leave United with a narrow defeat have boarded their respective team buses with landmark victories, domestic cup hopes have ended and, after midweek defeat at Olympiakos, the Red Devils' European dreams are on the same path.
Moyes put his head in his hands as Robin van Persie ballooned a late chance over the bar in Greece. In truth, supporters could be forgiven for having done the same at a far earlier stage, such was the latest bland offering in a season in which one disappointment has quickly followed another.
I still believe Moyes is the man to lead United in what would always be a tricky post-Sir Alex Ferguson era. What I did not expect was for so much to go wrong so quickly.
Here are 10 Moyes mistakes at Manchester United:
1. Not being himself
One moment which stood out to me was his admission he did not substitute Robin van Persie in the home defeat by Newcastle because of the potential reaction from supporters. So what? He would have made the change at Everton. He was once fearless, but suddenly fearful. Fearful of a backlash.
Moyes should not care about what others think because he is at United because of his ability. He is good enough. He was the man chosen and now he has to believe in himself.
I have spent time with him and he is a passionate, hard-working man, but that will count for little if he does not start believing in himself a bit more.
2. Bust in the big games
This, I thought, would change. He was criticised at Everton for not beating the big clubs and, this season, in the head-to-head table of the league's top seven clubs, United sit bottom.
They have just one win in nine games against those sides and five defeats. It just is not good enough for a United team.
Moyes carries an inferiority in the big games and it is a big question mark. You can also point at the players, but couple a failure in big matches with the fact United will not win a trophy and not much has changed for Moyes since moving from Goodison Park.
|Premier League top-seven head-to-head table|
3. No transfer tenacity
A lack of conviction in the transfer market has been costly. He spent £65m on Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata combined, but the big question mark is the failure to land Cesc Fabregas. He was the man Moyes wanted and would have gone some way to addressing the club's biggest on-field problem - midfield.
Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley, Darren Fletcher, Shinji Kagawa and Fellaini have only scored two league goals between them this season and, incredibly, do not boast one goal assist. That is absolutely bizarre for a Manchester United midfield.
Moyes must have more conviction and be able to say 'these are my targets, we have to get them'. Sir Alex even drove to collect Dimitar Berbatov from an airport, he left no stone unturned in getting his man. Moyes has to buy more ruthlessly than he has so far.
4. Why goodbye?
Nemanja Vidic has had such influence at United on the field. A captain and a leader, I cannot understand why it was announced halfway through a season that a player of such standing will leave in the summer. It is a bizarre way to manage the situation and could have been handled far better.
In the aftermath, Moyes was stern when fielding questions on the departing defender and felt Vidic's character would prevent any lapse in form as his time at Old Trafford draws to a close.
I think he was their best player against Olympiakos, but if Vidic has a couple of bad games, people will say his mind is elsewhere. Players in the dressing room may say he is not on it, while some fans and media definitely will.
5. No starting XI consistency
This is what baffles me with Moyes at United. At Everton, you could name the first XI most weeks. At United, he averages 3.5 changes each game - the most in the Premier League. That says to me he is still unsure of his first team and, so far into the season, that is not good.
He has to nail it down like he did at Everton because football players like the certainty that comes with knowing if and when they will play. Not knowing if you're going to be selected from one day to the next can be very unsettling.
6. A mixed-up mentality
I have played at Old Trafford and stood there as a red wave swarmed all over my team from the outset. Against United, you knew what was coming your way would be intense.
This year, United have rolled out the red carpet for some teams as West Brom won at the Theatre of Dreams for the first time in 35 years, Newcastle broke a 41-year-hoodoo, and Everton ended 21 years of winless visits.
Moyes has to be less cautious and send his side out to throttle teams from the off with the type of pressure that will get supporters off their seats - pressure they expect to see their side apply.
It has just not happened this year and 286 shots in the league - a lower tally than at this stage of any of the past five seasons - coupled with the fact they have fallen behind 13 times, underline the Red Devils' softer approach.
In his defence, Moyes has guided the side to 11 points from losing positions this term. Only Manchester City (14) boast more, so the never-say-die attitude is not dead yet.
|Man Utd in the Premier League (and rank)||2011-12||2012-13||2013-14|
|Data after 27 league games of each season (Source: Opta)|
|Shots||318 (6th)||312 (6th)||286 (6th)|
|Average possession||56.38% (5th)||56.32% (4th)||55.21% (6th)|
7. Not managing the media
"I didn't see it coming," is how Moyes responded to defeat at Olympiakos. Sir Alex Ferguson certainly saw the media coming when crisis loomed at Old Trafford and Moyes must learn the same media lessons as his predecessor, because there is no scrutiny like that at United.
"There's an art to not exposing the weaknesses of your team, which is always your first priority," said Ferguson. The former United boss would not "let a press conference become a torture chamber" - but Moyes has the look of a man who has.
His body language and demeanour is that of someone who wants to do interviews as quickly as he can and get out of there.
Sometimes he can be short and spiky, at other times he seems too honest. There is no consistency. Did he really need to say he did not want to take Van Persie off against Newcastle because of the possible reaction from fans? He has to put a game face on; the best managers can do that.
"I don't know what we have to do to win", said Moyes after the defeat at Stoke. He sounded like someone who has run out of answers. In my view, he does not have to convince anyone that he is good enough to be United manager, but managing the media is a skill he must improve.
8. Changes in the backroom
Mike Phelan, Rene Meulensteen and Eric Steele had accumulated more than 20 years' experience with United's first team between them but left when Moyes took over in a move which surely he must now regret.
They would have helped him a great deal, so to lose those three was a big thing. Was Phil Neville ready to take on such a prominent role as part of the coaching team? I'm not sure. Steele said that jumping from Everton to United was like moving from Marks and Spencer to Harrods. Moyes wanted to be his own man and it has backfired.
9. Tactical mish-mash
After his side's shock draw at Old Trafford, then-Fulham manager Rene Meulensteen said United's desire to deliver crosses from wide "can be easy to play against".
I think Moyes wants to change the way they play and needs to do so, but to make adjustments you need the necessary personnel.
He has three players in Wayne Rooney, Kagawa and Mata all best served in the number 10 position, so if he plays with two strikers as United did for the most part under Ferguson - even in Champions League finals - he has to move these central players out wide.
At the moment, personnel dictates the way they are playing, but with fewer shots and lower average possession than any time in the past five years, something has to change because, for a United team, it is just not good enough.
10. He is not Sir Alex
Who is? I don't think anyone ever will be. You cannot fill his shoes.
Despite his stature, I go against common opinion that no manager would want to follow him. Moyes was right to take the job. The chance may never have come around again.
Winning the Treble is often cited as Sir Alex's defining moment, but to take this team - perhaps only a top-six side - and win the league last season was incredible. Moyes is trying to fill the void of a champion with a side which, under anyone other than Ferguson, may not have even been contenders.
He will never be Sir Alex, but he needs one more summer to see if he can build the squad to get back into the Champions League.
I honestly believe he is the right man and his tenure at Old Trafford is not all doom and gloom. Where there was once uncertainty over Rooney's future, the opposite is now true. In blooding Adnan Januzaj, Moyes has shown courage and an eye for talent.
In a club used to winning, however, these are small victories and whether Moyes is around to mastermind long-term success will rest upon a World Cup summer.
Can he spend the necessary £200m on talent wisely? Can he tighten his tactics, master the media and find comfort in his own skin on the Old Trafford touchline?
These are questions he must answer. It will be, without doubt, the biggest summer of his career and of Manchester United's recent history.