I thought at the time of Moyes’ appointment it was the right decision, albeit possibly a little on the cautious side in that it looked like United were mainly concerned with trying to find someone of similar ilk to the man stepping down.
But, even with them now well off the pace at sixth in the Premier League, looking unlikely to get into the top four and staring down the barrel of elimination from this year’s Champions League, I still believe that David Moyes is the right man for the job. United didn’t want a ‘Galactico’ manager to take over in the summer as I think the Old Trafford hierarchy — and in particular Ferguson — felt they wanted it to remain more about the team and club, rather than have some potentially big ego waltz in and make it all about them.
That said, Jose Mourinho would, without doubt, have been my ideal choice to succeed Ferguson, as he has the necessary experience for managing big players, creating superb team spirit, playing in huge games and, on top of all that, is tactically very astute.
Moyes’ tactics have come in for severe scrutiny this season and, although I’m unsure when it comes to crunch games against his biggest managerial rivals if he will be able to match their tactical nous, I reckon it’s actually impossible to judge him on that yet, as players’ individual performances and the team in general have been so inconsistent. In short, I don’t think it’s tactics that have cost United this season.
And while I keep hearing that Moyes should be able to get the same set of players that won the league to at least compete for another title this time around, the reality is United won it last season by default, in my opinion, as other teams faltered badly and allowed them take advantage.
At the end of that campaign, United also had a number of key players all entering the twilight of their careers at roughly the same time, all of which leads me to conclude that Fergie drained the last good season out of this squad.
Look at how United used to dominate possession of games over the last four or five years to weaken the opposition’s energy and then capitalise. They would encourage both full-backs to join in attacks as they could trust one another not to lose the ball cheaply.
This would mean that, on occasions, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic would be left defending two against two at the back, but when these two were in their prime it wasn’t an issue. It’s all very different now, as time takes its toll on veteran performers.
There’s another important issue here too. For a lot of United’s players, they will only have ever experienced one manager at club level — a very different experience to players at other clubs who are used to managers coming and going.
Some of the United lads had even been nurtured by Ferguson and his staff from a young age through academy football, youth teams and all the way to first team, so to them it will be as if they have lost their comfort blanket.
That breeds insecurity and insecurity inevitably impacts on confidence. And, as the game in Athens this week confirmed, this United team is currently very low on self-belief.
I said at the time that the signing of Juan Mata from Chelsea was a good one, but only if there were going to be more following him through the door of similar quality.
But as things stand, he is the only addition who has improved the squad in the two transfer windows Moyes has had since his arrival.
But, again, I sympathise with the manager as he got the job relatively late in the day in terms of doing the necessary due diligence on player recruitment in the summer.
And since January is renowned as a tough window in which to attract genuine quality, I reckon it will be this coming summer which will really be make or break for Moyes as he looks to overhaul his jaded squad.
He has already let Anderson leave on loan, so the writing is on the wall for him. And he could be followed out the door by players such as Nani, Javier Hernandez, Fabio, Rafael, Tom Cleverley, Ferdinand and Patrice Evra.
Added to this, there is the club captain Vidic moving on as well as growing doubts now about Robin van Persie’s long-term future at Old Trafford.
Obviously, then, we’re talking a major overhaul at the club, but if they spend their money wisely then I’m convinced that, under Moyes, they can get back on track and start challenging for the title again
If reports of a move for Toni Kroos are true then that would be a magnificent signing and a real catalyst for them to kick on.
The Bayern Munich man is exactly the type of player that United need in central midfield, as he is the ultimate modern day midfielder who can do it all. If United can also add an experienced central defender to complement Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Johnny Evans then I think they are more than adequate in that department.
I even feel it was a blessing in disguise that they didn’t sign Leighton Baines from Everton because if they manage to snare Southampton’s Luke Shaw this summer they will have someone with the potential to develop into a really top left-back.
If I were Moyes, I would also go and get Seamus Coleman from his old club because then United would have two of the best attacking full-backs in the Premier League.
So, yes, the pressure is on Moyes and will clearly remain so until United, at a minimum, are cemented in the top four.
But since I very much doubt they’ll manage that this season, then it follows that more tough times are in store before Moyes gets the chance — and I believe he should — to properly stamp his authority on the team and, after his false start, belatedly usher in a new era at Old Trafford.