It is May, 2013 and we are in England. Practically every European league has ended on a limp note due to the fact that one team had led comfortably all the way through. Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United, Juventus, PSG, Celtic and numerous others across the continent are all crowned Champions by many long before the season is done with. This is unacceptable. It is clear that the changes would be rung across Europe with numerous big name managers forced to leave their posts to be replaced by other, ironically, big name managers. This is the way it has been since the cash stakes at football clubs became this high so no one is surprised. Real Madrid and Chelsea in particular have been rotating managers with a speed so blinding, it’s worrying no one has decided to attach a turbine to their managerial seat. In the same vein, in English football, there has always been a constant . . . an unchanging force, an omnipresent one of sorts. If you needed to conquer England, then you knew you had to first subdue this power located in Manchester. Alex Ferguson. Red nose, Scottish, annoying, excellent, efficient, bad tempered, domineering, capable of unimaginable feats of ‘hair drying’, Alex Ferguson has become an ever present in the Premier League.
However, the horizon is changing. Sir Alex has just announced that he would be leaving after ‘knocking Liverpool off their perch’ and getting United their twentieth league trophy. This has plunged numerous United supporters to the depths of despair and alcoholism(ok, maybe not that many) while the rest of them are left hoping and praying that the club can find similarly stable hands to take their beloved club forward. Pep, Jose, Rafa, Manuel and many other names are thrown into the hat as potential replacements. David Moyes, nevertheless is the Chosen One. Alex Ferguson has chosen David as his replacement and with that thrust the ultimate challenge onto the lean, Scottish shoulders of David Moyes.
Fast forward by two months, and the ultimate challenge has kicked up a notch in difficulty without a ball being kicked in anger. Sir Alex Ferguson by any definition, in the football world is a great man. His achievements-so many, his feats-so dizzying, his scowl-so severe. There is a reason why Robert Greene’s 41st Law of Power clearly warns it’s power-seeking readers to ‘avoid stepping into a great man’s shoes’. By accepting this job, David Moyes, who by the way has never won a major trophy, has accepted the most thankless job of any manager in England and probably the world. ‘How does one begin to replace Sir Alex Ferguson?’ is the question. It seems a herculean task at best, one that very few people believe David Moyes is capable of. This is his first challenge.
David Moyes has to convince United that he has the skill set and mentality necessary to manage a team as big as Manchester United successfully. United in the last twenty years have been able to consistently lift trophies even when it seemed impossible (the 1999 Champion’s League Final is a very adequate example). However, in more recent times, Alex Ferguson’s teams have become much more apt at the art of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat despite his teams becoming progressively worse/less glamorous/more Welbeck-y(delete as appropriate). You’ll find very few people seriously arguing that a midfield of Beckham, Giggs, Keane and Scholes was not on a-whole-nother level to Carrick, Ashley Young, Valencia and a 37 year old Scholes. Yet Sir Alex was a few defeats away from breaking the record points tally with the latter midfield line-up! Astonishing, right? The man had been able to instill an unshakeable belief in his arguably average players motivating these mere mortals to produce performances gods would be proud of. David Moyes has been able to do something vaguely resembling this at Everton but without the pressure of expectancy to win every trophy in sight. He will have to repeat the trick on a much larger scale, to a much larger audience and with infinitely more pressure.
Now however, in addition to the pressure of expectancy, he also has to face the rejuvenated challenge from London in the form of a Jose Mourinho-led Chelsea, a now cash-rich Arsenal(let’s believe them this time while marveling at their soon-to-be-announced capture of Gonzalo Higuain) and a Tottenham team off the back of its highest points tally, possessing Bale and who are a top striker away from becoming a real force to reckon with. One then goes on to factor in the worsening state of the United team, the talent pool of their cross town neighbours (which is about to get even more terrifying with the addition of Jesus!!!, Manuel Pellegrini and Jovetic) and lest I forget, the renewed threat from the classic Suarez-Sturridge-Mkhitaryan(he was signed, right?) axis over at Liverpool (Apologies, these lists are never complete without a joke). It is at this point that it becomes clear that David Moyes faces a challenge which is probably as difficult if not more difficult than any Ferguson faced during his time at United.
As if his task wasn’t arduous enough, he has to contend with the loss of Thiago-their prime transfer target- to Bayern Munich and the ‘delicate situation’ with Wayne Rooney and his much publicized wish to leave the club as soon as possible. The Rooney situation in particular appears like a lose-lose one(A story for another day). The player is apparently ‘angry and confused’ at his new role in the club and David Moyes will need the wisdom of Solomon and the tact of . . . well . . . anybody you know who is really tactful. These two ‘sagas’ as well as the apparent rebuttal by Fabregas has got numerous fans wondering whether the relatively austere David Moyes will be able to attract Europe’s top talent to Old Trafford especially now that it has become clearer that United need reinforcements especially in midfield.
David Moyes will have trying times ahead for sure. One cannot overstate the enormity of the challenge he faces. He has stepped into a great man’s shoes, he doesn’t have any stand-out attributes that will make the supporters naturally gravitate towards him, he has very little experience at the deep end of the football spectrum and has never worked under as much pressure as he is likely to face in Manchester. He needs to rebuild an ageing team, he needs to handle volatile transfer situations and he needs to do all these while in competition with some of the toughest fishes in the football sea. The only two things that seem to be going for him are the fact that Sir Alex Ferguson endorsed him and he signed a six-year deal meaning the indebted club will be a tad reluctant to let him go. This means he will be afforded a degree of time to perform. David Moyes needs to rise to the occasion superbly, else his Ultimate Challenge could very easily turn out to be his Ultimate Failure and subsequently, his Ultimate Nightmare.
By I.V Okata . . . an avid football lover
Follow him on Twitter @Izutadgaffer
Picture Sources –
liverpoolecho.co.uk, huffingtonpost.co.uk, dailyrecord.co.uk, www1.skysports.co.uk