Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Moyes' Manchester United honesty both helps and hurts

So David Moyes thinks that the team that won the Premiership by eleven points last season doesn’t have enough top-class players.  He also apparently kens that things might get worse for his Manchester United mob before they get better.  And that qualifying for the knockout round of the Champions League is far from guaranteed.

What do you really think, Dave?

Blind Freddie on the trams could tell you that United haven’t started well – the club has three losses in six league matches, or sixty percent of all the club’s misses last season.  They’ve looked staid, boring and bored; the weekend loss to West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford a Picasso of listlessness.

Yet Moyes seems remarkably verbose.  In earlier times he’s bastardised the fixture list before in the past week publicly: searching for reasons for an apathetic derby performance, (understandably) finding the loss to WBA “a concern”, that Champions League progression wasn’t going to be easy, reinforcements were required at the club and – perhaps most gallingly – that the Red Devils face “more blows to come”.

All of the above statements are almost certainly entirely true.  In another situation, Moyes might be congratulated for his candor.  However, when the man who bosses a club with the size and repute of Manchester United makes such a concerted effort downplay expectation, he wields a blade that cuts both ways.  While he may temper fan demands or media speculation as to the quality of his side or the security of his position, what he also does is slowly erode his players’ confidence.  If the manager – their leader, the one with the brains, supposedly – isn’t convinced his team is good enough or able to calculate why they’re playing like crap, what are the grunts to believe?

Every United player will already be slightly down as a result of consecutive haphazard displays in Manchester; public statements that they might not be good enough to achieve what they did last year are hardly likely to inspire faith in a gaffer who’s still trying to win them over to playing his way.  Whether reasonable or not, the single-minded but brittle psyche of the professional athlete responds to someone who totally backs them, or for spite of them.  Moyes is shakily walking a very thin path alongside a steep drop; few are convinced he can navigate it successfully.

What should concern David Moyes, more even than a home loss to West Bromwich Albion, is sending out the wrong message to his players.  With every honest comment comes a certain amount of respect from one corner, accompanied by the opposite from the other.

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