There’s no getting away from it. David Moyes didn’t even have the medals to rival Tom Cleverley, let alone Rio Ferdinand. It matters. A squad are far likelier to believe in a manager — particularly if they suffer poor results at first — if he has a proven record of long-term success. Stand-out achievements also genuinely dazzle players as much as fans. You only have to look at the way Zlatan Ibrahimovic, of all people, is in awe of Jurgen Klopp.
It may sound pretentious but it is pertinent. All of the major European clubs who have recently succeeded — from Bayern Munich to Liverpool to Barcelona — have a very obvious philosophy running right through the team. While that means there is a clear ideal to strive for that ensures peak performance is even higher than usual, it also gives teams something to revert to and hold steady when not at their best. It has been sorely lacking at United.
Tied in with that philosophy are the methods that bring it to fruition. When Brendan Rodgers pitched for the Liverpool job, he sent the club’s owners a detailed document outlining the coaching ideas that would take the team forward. Two years on, they have clearly had an effect. All who have witnessed Rodgers’s work at both Swansea and Liverpool speak glowingly of the sophistication of the training drills. The same applies for Roberto Martinez. Not only that, such an approach obviously improves the level of existing squad-members. Playing catch-up again as a club, United need to be at the forefront of every other detail.
When watching some of United’s attacking play this season, one of the most galling aspects is that there is no reason creative talents like Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Shinji Kagawa, Adnan Januzaj and Juan Mata should not be able to link up in devastating fashion. While recruitment is obviously a key part of any manager’s progress, he should clearly be capable of bringing much more to the table than just spending money. With the right framework, and the right additions, this United side can still flourish.
Much has been made of the apparent poor attitude of many United players this season but that is essentially looking at it from the wrong side. The first job of any manager is to inspire a response in his squad and, if he can’t do that, regardless of the circumstances, he is in trouble. It is especially why United needed a huge personality immediately after Ferguson.
Moyes is known to have had problems with many senior players; Ferguson’s very presence could pose even more of an issue for any replacement he has not selected. How candidates answer this would be revealing.
United pride themselves on the tradition youth production. That must continue, but a new coach could go even deeper, and incorporate the academy sides into any overall playing philosophy.
Moyes struggled with his media appearances almost as much as the opposition. He continuously struck the wrong tone and thereby created more doubt, which was a world away from the utter assurance Ferguson displayed even in defeat. It is important in the modern game, emphasising the nature of a manager’s control and mindset.
This has become increasingly crucial, as emphasised by the recurring injury crises both Moyes and Arsene Wenger have suffered throughout their recent careers, as well as the effect of Atletico Madrid’s supreme fitness under Diego Simeone. None of it is coincidence or the consequence of luck that many like to make out. The elite level requires elite approaches.