Friday 6th September 2013
Just three league games into the new season and the knives are already sharpened for David Moyes. Some have voiced concern over his side’s inability to yield a goal in their last two games, but the dissenting voices are mainly to do with his and Manchester United’s transfer activity. This is despite United’s first-team squad being arguably stronger than last season’s title winning one when you take into consideration that the only major loss since then has been the retirement of Paul Scholes, a man who wasn’t a first-team regular for his last few years, even if he did have a positive influence in the games he played.
The club have gained Wilfred Zaha (who yes, isn’t the finished article yet, but looks decent) and Marouane Fellaini. Moyes is right, the Belgian is unlike any other player. Some teams will not know how to handle him, and if he plays as well as last season then he’ll be a good signing (even if he does snidely headbutt people behind the referee’s back). The Red Devils are said to be the ‘‘laughing stock’’ of the Premiership because they only signed one ‘major’ player during the summer albeit for £4million more than they could have paid had Fellaini been acquired by July 31st and failed to attract ‘star’ players. But if this happened while Alex Ferguson was in charge, you can be sure that the press would not have painted the scenario this way. The thing is, this did happen while Ferguson was at the helm.
Okay, it was never so late in the window apart from the Dimitar Berbatov deal from Tottenham Hotspur in 2008, which was largely – or should I say all – to do with Daniel Levy’s hardball tactics, but in terms of signing ‘big’ time players, Ferguson rarely had it his way. He missed out on nearly every ‘big’ name going (Kanchelskis was his biggest acquisition I believe at 11 letters). If you go from the point that he established United as the premier de force in England, the club hardly signed players of international renown. In the summer of 1993, just after Ferguson’s first title win with the club, they broke the British transfer record for Roy Keane. He was highly sought after hence the fee paid, but he wasn’t quite the international big hitter that we now remember him for. January 1995 saw him break the British transfer record again for Andy Cole, but his biggest signings in the next few years were 31 year old Teddy Sheringham, Jaap Stam and Dwight Yorke, during a period that saw the likes of Alan Shearer, Ronaldo and Patrick Kluivert switch clubs.
Even as Champions League winners, not to mention the league and FA Cup in 1999, he and the club didn’t acquire the services of the football equivalent of the international jet set such as Gabriel Batistuta or Zinedine Zidane. Only a select few know for sure whether Ferguson tried to get all these players, although reluctance to pay the sky-high wages that other clubs would not think twice about did, and undoubtedly still does, play a massive part in not being able to acquire the already proven best. If you look at Manchester United’s transfer dealings in the last 15 years only Ruud van Nistelrooy, Juan Sebastian Veron, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney (and even he was only 18 with 77 appearances in all competitions under his shorts), Dimitar Berbatov and Robin van Persie are what you would call ‘marquee’ signings.
Unlike Everton’s stance over Leighton Baines and Barcelona’s and Cesc Fabregas’ respected intentions, the signing of Van Persie was less fraught despite Arsene Wenger’s obvious concerns about selling to a rival club. But with the Dutchman stating his desire to leave Arsenal and an extortionate fee being offered to the Gunners for their then 29 year old talisman, it was a relatively easy piece of business. People point to Thiago Alcantara’s snub, but this is a somewhat inexperienced 22 year old who was given the choice between Old Trafford or the treble winners of Bayern Munich under his old mentor, Pep Guardiola. There’s not much anyone could have done about that one.
As we should all know, the hacks in the press look for anything to drag someone down, particularly when it’s a person new into a job, whether it’s Manchester United or Colchester United. They like and need stories and comparing things with other things, and that is what is happening with David Moyes. It’s natural to do so, but to react the way that the majority in the football world have been doing since Monday has been nothing short of hysterical. This season and next may well turn out to be a disaster by Manchester United’s standards, but let’s see what happens. Over his 26 and a half years at the club Ferguson got his hands on many renowned big game players, but he didn’t always get them. This is Moyes’ first few months in the job, give him a break.
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