Friday, July 5, 2013

Moyes' new era at Manchester United starts in the back room

And so ends David Moyes' first week at Manchester United. The seven days has seen him prove his ruthlessness far more quickly than anyone had calculated.  Multiple bids have been made for former charge Leighton Baines to the disquiet of his erstwhile employers, and gone are stalwart and respected coaches Eric Steele, Rene Meulensteen and Mike Phelan.

The replacements for this back-room trio are Moyes' associates from Everton: Steve Round, Chris Woods, Jimmy Lumsden and Phil Neville, plus the understated figure that attempts to link to Ferguson's pomp, Ryan Giggs.  That the exiting trio  - especially Steele, given his work with PFA Goalkeeper of the Year David De Gea - were dispensed with so quickly is a matter for unease by many Manchester United fans.

It is common practice - because it's usually common sense - for a manager to bring in his own back-room brethren; for example, coaches Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki might be nicknamed "American Express", because Mark Hughes never leaves home without them.  He is not alone. That Moyes has brought his men with him will have astonished precisely no-one.

However, to bring in (gifted) buddies carte blanche and despite the obvious qualities of the incumbent staff could be construed as being a little counterproductive.  While the "new" coaches are undoubtedly intimately aware of Moyes' tendencies and techniques, sages like Phelan and Steele are far more in-tune with how to communicate with - and thereby get the most from - established egos figures within the Manchester United framework.  It is Moyes' imperative - his job - to select the coaches he thinks will most benefit his team; what is most confusing is that none of his cadre of high-profile coaches have worked under Ferguson.

This is hardly a criticism of the incoming staff.  Moyes' team has squeezed blood from stones like Yakubu, Leon Osman, Tim Cahill and former United 'keeper Tim Howard.  But the near-summary dismissal of experienced and talented didactic foundations of a successful side seems a sign of the new manager utterly determined to kick-start a new age at Old Trafford.

One one hand, this seems wise: no figure could possibly replace Sir Alex Ferguson, so why try?  Better to make a clean break and move into a new future using new methods.  However, with Ferguson - and now Phelan, Meulensteen and Steele - departs much of the culture and continuity built up over the past twenty years of success at Manchester United.  And this might be behind the appointment of Neville and Giggs, where two of the Fledglings are left to bequeath the legacy of the most dominant manager of all time.

In releasing these links to the recent past, Moyes has committed to creating a new identity for the Red Devils.  In fairness, that's probably what needed to happen.  However, by not giving any of these learned men the chance to be a part of this new era, entry into the new future may be a little rocky.

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