Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Uncertainty reigns during Moyes & Manchester United's troubled transition

The suspicion and concern surrounding the club is reflected within the walls of Old Trafford, with question marks over the new manager and the coaches he brought from Everton

By Liam Twomey

Tuning in to watch their team take on Shakhtar Donetsk at the fortress-like Donbass Arena on Wednesday evening, few Manchester United fans will be expecting a positive result.

A farcical summer in the transfer market and the club’s worst start to a top-flight season in 20 years – punctuated by derby humiliation against Manchester City – have eroded the cautious optimism with which David Moyes embarked on his maiden campaign in charge at Old Trafford.

Supporters have been stripped of the certainty of competence and purpose they previously took for granted during Sir Alex Ferguson’s peerlessly long and successful reign. More worryingly, so have the players.

David Moyes' opening results
Aug 17 Won 4-1 v Swansea
Aug 26 Drew 0-0 v Chelsea
Sep 1 Lost 1-0 v Liverpool
Sep 14 Won 2-0 v Crystal Palace
Sep 17 Won 4-2 v Leverkusen
Sep 22 Lost 4-1 v Man City
Sep 28 Lost 2-1 v West Brom
Moyes, while still enjoying the pre-eminence afforded by his status as Ferguson’s chosen heir, is somewhat understandably still to win the same level of respect in the dressing room. The sense is he has not decided on his best team, and it is this indecision – coupled with the apparently devilish machinations of the Premier League’s fixture computer – which has caused problems.

In spite of his seemingly cold treatment of Shinji Kagawa, the new man wants to be seen as giving everyone a fair crack of the whip. But there is a growing feeling that he would make more friends by getting nasty with those who continue to underperform in a United shirt.

Most at the club expected a difficult transition to the post-Ferguson era. Moyes’ succession was hurried through in a summer which also saw chief executive David Gill and chief scout Martin Ferguson depart. The old power structure, ruthlessly effective and relentlessly successful, was swept away in a matter of weeks and the process of replacing it is still ongoing.

In the meantime, many of those tasked with new responsibilities appear to be winging it a little as they try to find a system that works.

Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward continues to make key club decisions from a plush office in Mayfair, and administrative powers previously wielded by Ferguson have been more widely delegated, with one insider claiming it is a case of "too many chiefs, not enough Indians" at United these days.

Having elected to sanction £6 million in payouts to Ferguson’s backroom team in order to make way for his own men, Moyes has surrounded himself with individuals lacking in coaching experience at a club of United’s stature. The Scot’s hands-on approach to training also means the likes of Phil Neville and Ryan Giggs have so far contributed little more than pointing and shouting.

Among the players the jury is still out on the capability of their new coaches, especially since the likes of Rene Meulensteen and Mike Phelan were such popular and respected figures. Giggs, who still straddles the player/coach divide, does at least possess a vast bank of European experience to share with the manager during weeks like this one - should he feature against Shakhtar he will have made the most Champions League appearances of any player.

Nicky Butt, meanwhile, was the man tasked with travelling to Germany to watch the Bayer Leverkusen first team ahead of United’s clash with the Bundesliga side in September – a surprising extension to his remit as coach of the Under-19 side that is competing in the inaugural Uefa Youth League this season.

It is, in every department, a transitional period. There is no cause for panic just yet, though a win or even a draw against Shakhtar would be a very welcome boost.

Whatever the result, however, United fans will draw little solace from the knowledge that their uncertainty and concern surrounding the club is reflected within the walls of Old Trafford. ----------------------

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