After their 5-0 thumping victory away at Bayer Leverkusen Wednesday night, United proved they have returned to being a team of two personalities, a bi-polar squad, two-faced if you will. Come the weekend, the ‘League’ persona will be shown, which will infuriate and exasperate their faithful as their performance lacks the conviction it used to under Sir Alex. Even more frustrating for every Red Devils supporter, as Arsenal and Liverpool edge further ahead. Come mid-week, the ‘cup’ character appears, which plays entertaining, following and exciting football, reminiscent of seasons of United teams of the past. I can’t help thinking, have Manchester United returned to the way they were in the seventies and eighties?
Sir Alex managed to get the best out of his side, week in, week out, regardless who the opposition were, regardless of which competition his team were engaged within – Fergie’s trophy haul proves his cunning, guile and the love it or hate it in your face motivation style. Some might call it ‘bullying’, in hindsight. Moyes, meanwhile more resembles my mathematics teacher from comprehensive school some twenty-five years ago. Mr MacAuley was a likeable fellow from Dundee, who wanted to be fierce and did scare the be-jesus out of the more timid children, but was definitely a ‘bark is worse than his bite’ sort. David Moyes strikes me as exactly the same.
There is something in that twinkle within Sir Alex’s eyes that says do not trifle with me, and all the fine players he had at his disposal throughout his management career saw it, and above all knew it. Another comparison is the actors cast to play Cardinal Richelieu in different ‘Three Musketeers’ movies. Charlton Heston played the role in the early seventies alongside Oliver Reed and Christopher Lee, making the character quite fearsome, very sinister and a tad frightening. Tim Curry resurrected the part in the nineties Disney remake, but his Richelieu was more dastardly of ‘Wacky Races’ and Terry Thomas standard. The difference between the two being same as that between Ferguson and Moyes.
The disparity between the two compatriots is all the more apparent, as save for Paul Scholes entering retirement for the second time, Moyes has the same squad of players to call upon as his illustrious predecessor - plus the additions of Wilfried Zaha and Marouane Fellaini. United, under his stewardship, are not what they used to be (league results are showing this all too clearly). In fact, the red team from Manchester perform and occupy a very similar place to his former Merseyside employers. Dare I say it, but is this the maximum of the likable Scot’s ability?
Talk within the media is Moyes may well raid his former club again by bringing Leighton Baines to Old Trafford, and this will certainly shore up the defence, but does little to enhance the team’s attacking options. So it all reverts back to the immortal ‘M’ word – motivation, as I’ve already mentioned the one thing that Sir Alex excelled at. Remember, he took a good Aberdeen side, managed to make it punch above its weight consistently to become the best in Scotland, at the expense of the more successful Old Firm clubs. Moyes improved an average Everton team to make them a regular top six club, but failed to take them back to the level of sustained success they had under Howard Kendall in the eighties. Maybe the United board should have courted Mr Mouriniho a little harder...