The sight of a forlorn, almost apologetic David Moyes taking part in a post-match interview has been seen far too often for Manchester United fans’ liking already this season.
There was, however, something which stood out about the Scot’s thoughts following the 1-0 defeat at home to Newcastle last weekend, something which made this particular interview a little more memorable than the one conducted with the same stony, downbeat demeanour following the Everton loss four days earlier.
After Yohan Cabaye had scored the only goal of the game to give Newcastle a first win at Old Trafford in 42 years, Moyes claimed that he had to leave an unfit Robin van Persie on the pitch in the pursuit of an equaliser “because everyone would have asked what I was doing” if he took the Dutchman off.
Could you imagine Sir Alex Ferguson saying that?
The previous United boss didn’t give a damn about what people thought of him, and didn’t we know it. For Moyes to come out and claim that he was effectively scared of the public’s reaction to substituting his forward was staggering, especially given United’s poor start to the Premier League season.
Of course he didn’t have it easy on Saturday what with Wayne Rooney’s suspension and Danny Welbeck’s lack of match fitness, but assuming that United fans wouldn’t understand his need to protect Van Persie for future assignments is downright insulting to those supporters. Moyes, who has his fair share of critics amongst the Old Trafford faithful, seemed desperate not to antagonise them more.
It was a decision which prompted an outburst from the former Wales coach Raymond Verheijen, a compatriot of Van Persie and a vocal critic of plenty of club’s fitness regimes.
Moyes will have many more important people than Verheijen that he needs to keep onside, but a simple look at the Premier League table indicates all that you need to know about his tenure so far.
Currently sitting in ninth, it would make more sense for the manager to focus on getting closer to the top four than it would to make wild and desperate claims that they can still win the league title – as he did following the Newcastle loss.
Such proclamations of greatness seem a long way away from the truth when you consider that, with eight goals in eight home league games this season, United are currently being vastly outscored on their home patch by the likes of Manchester City (29 in seven games at the Etihad), Liverpool (22 in eight at Anfield) and indeed Luis Suarez, who has a staggering 11 goals in five home games this season.
Champions League progress was already assured before last night’s clash with Shakhtar Donetsk at Old Trafford, but it is Premier League points that they need to get on the board now.
Sunday’s trip to Aston Villa is one that United fans love making due to their domination there under Ferguson – they are unbeaten at Villa Park in 19 matches dating back to the infamous “you can’t win anything with kids” game in 1995 – but right now they can hardly feel in a confident mood.
As evidenced by the Van Persie decision, Moyes seems to be struggling to impose himself on such a big club in the manner that he did at Everton.
This isn’t meant as a slight on the Merseysiders – who have improved since Moyes left – but they and United exist in different stratospheres when it comes to worldwide support and scrutiny of a manager’s actions.
Moyes seemed to be afraid of that at the weekend.
And when they appointed him to such a big job in the summer, United wouldn’t have expected their manager to be scared of anything.
Loan rangers can have huge impact
It is ironic that, in the week that Jose Mourinho appeared to be boasting that Romelu Lukaku was Chelsea’s “secret agent” in the Premier League title race – a player capable of hurting his club’s rivals whilst he was out on loan at Everton – it was an unheralded Liverpool loanee who shot down Mourinho’s club at Stoke.
Oussama Assaidi, a Moroccan international who played just 77 minutes in the Premier League for the Reds last season, popped up with easily his most important contribution in his Liverpool career so far with the winner against Chelsea at the Britannia Stadium, a strike that ensured his parent club could leap above the Blues into second.
It ensured that his, and not Luis Suarez’s, was the name on the lips of many leaving Anfield after Liverpool’s 4-1 win over West Ham, and left many wondering just what damage some other loan stars could do for their clubs this season.
A Victor Moses winner for Liverpool at Tottenham this weekend, for example, would have both Brendan Rodgers and Mourinho cheering.
Manchester City to outgun Arsenal
Given their stellar record at home, anything approaching evens is a terrific price for Manchester City to beat Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
Bet McLean are offering one of the standout prices on a City win at a hugely tempting 20/21.