Moyes must be careful

David Moyes is in danger of being accused of double standards over his attempts to sign Marouane Fellaini from his former club, Everton. Moyes seems to be growing increasingly frustrated in his attempt to pull off a double deal for midfielder Fellaini and left-back Leighton Baines, but he must be careful not to let his impatience leave him wide open to criticism from the Goodison club. New Manchester United manager Moyes is a friend of mine and I have nothing but respect for the way he managed Everton for 12 years. However, I must take issue with him over his remarks regarding Everton’s refusal to do business at £28million.
David has suggested that Everton are standing in the way of their players’ career progress by playing hardball over the proposed deal, with Goodison chairman Bill Kenwright making it plain he considers United’s offer unrealistic. And the fact is that David Moyes knows full well why Kenwright is taking such a firm stand because, as the manager who signed Fellaini in the first place, Moyes agreed with Kenwright on a ‘golden handcuffs’ valuation on the Belgian international of £24 million. Now, when he is trying to sign the player for a second time, it seems David is conveniently overlooking that valuation. United made an original offer of £12 million for Baines, upping that figure to £28million to include Fellaini, thus suggesting a £16million price for the latter. No wonder Kenwright is not inclined to do business!
The Goodison supremo is a lifelong Evertonian, as true a Blue as you could ever meet, and he has, and always will, do all he can to ensure that he does right by his beloved club. No-one knows that better than Moyes, who worked so closely with Bill for all those years – and who agreed that £24million valuation! So, David is hardly in a position to start suggesting Everton are the bad guys. If he wants Fellaini badly enough – and it would seem that he does – then he and United will have to pay the price, or something closer to it. The biggest clubs complain, often with justification, that the selling clubs try to rip them off in the transfer market because they are richer. That’s a fact of life. You always have the option of pulling out of a deal you think is becoming unrealistic. On the other hand, if you want a player badly enough and you have the wealth, then you simply have to pay the price. United, Real Madrid and Barcelona are the biggest clubs in the world and, as such, they must expect to pay top dollar in the transfer market. You could argue that United paid over the odds when they signed Robin van Persie, from Arsenal, for £24.5million 14 months ago.
But Sir Alex Ferguson knew Van Persie was the striker who could shoot United to the title – and enable him to retire as a winner. And that is precisely what happened.
I am on record as stating I am not convinced Fellaini is a Manchester United-style player, whereas I can fully understand why Baines’s crossing ability is coveted by Moyes, who can probably envisage even more goals for the prolific Van Persie from such a supply line. But Moyes clearly believes that Fellaini, who cost Everton a club record £12.4million, is the man to fill a void that undoubtedly exists in the United midfield. That being the case, then Moyes must surely acknowledge the facts of the situation. Moyes could not lure the gifted Cesc Fabregas from Barcelona and it might be he is feeling the pressure of failing to clinch a big signing, with the transfer window closing on September 2nd. However, trying to pressurise Everton, while conveniently overlooking the detail of his previously agreed valuation of Fellaini, will not help his cause. And, if I know Bill Kenwright as well as I think I do, he will stick to his guns. With Fellaini valued at £24million and Baines at, say, £13million – Everton turned down United’s original £12million offer – that puts the package at a minimum £37million. Real Madrid, who paid United £80million for Cristiano Ronaldo, are about to smash that world record fee to land Gareth Bale, from Tottenham. United, like Madrid, may have to accept that, sometimes, you just have to pay the price.
My suspicion that Manchester City would have a weakness in central defence following the injury to Vincent Kompany was born out in their shock 3-2 defeat at promoted Cardiff City, where they were embarrassed by two close-range headed goals from Fraiser Campbell. Joleon Lescott was partnered at centre-back by the Spaniard Garcia, who is a midfielder. The problems are likely to continue when the injured Nastasic, who was on the bench in Cardiff, returns for both he and Lescott are natural left-sided players and, unlike two natural right siders, two lefties rarely combine well. The balance just doesn’t seem to be good. So, don’t be surprised if City splash out yet again in the transfer market. This defeat was a short, sharp shock to their system and Manuel Pellegrini will be well aware he cannot afford to slip behind the pacesetters early in the race.

Managerial mayhem

So, David Moyes made his first appearance at Manchester United on Monday, nearly six weeks before his official start date to succeed the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson. I predicted more than a week ago that Moyes would meet his new players before July 1st – many of them weren’t there on Monday but be sure he will see them all very soon – as he gets set to fill the biggest shoes in football management. David’s challenge at Old Trafford got me thinking about the ever-increasing pressure on top-flight managers. United will give their new man every possible chance to settle in and put his mark on team affairs. But that won’t be the case at many other Premier League clubs, where impatience and unrealistic expectation means the managerial casualty rate will go on rising.

Ferguson managed United for twenty-six and a half years, a feat that will never be matched. Arsene Wenger has been at Arsenal 17 years and David was at Everton 11 years. If anyone survives five years at any other Premier League club he will do well. A few poor results bring pressure from the fans, often fuelled by the media, and, unfortunately, club chairmen react. A big problem is that expectations become totally unrealistic. Rarely does a club outside of the top four or five win anything, yet this season Wigan claimed the FA Cup and Swansea the League Cup and both will play in Europe next season. Now, the fans of every team will expect their club to emulate these two unlikely trophy winners. In fact, these days, the biggest ‘mistake’ a manager at one of the fringe top-flight clubs can make is to raise expectation levels by winning something! It simply brings more pressure to do so again. I experienced the problem when I went to Everton in 1994 – after a 12-year stint at Oldham, by the way – and took the club from bottom to sixth, won the FA Cup and the Charity Shield and we went into the next season as outside favourite for the title. But a cruel list of injuries torpedoed our progress and I was bitterly disappointed to lose the job I had always craved.

Although David has left Everton in great shape, having finished above city rivals Liverpool in the table, it pains me to say that Liverpool, because of stronger financial backing, might have a better chance than Everton of gatecrashing the Platinum Five – Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham – than Everton. David, I’m sure, will be given the full six years of his United contract to stamp his authority at Old Trafford and I hope that his successor at Goodison Park will get similar loyalty. The sad fact is that, in this ‘instant’ world in which we live, few clubs seem to have learned the lesson from Ferguson’s reign: namely, the longer he was there, the more United were successful. The majority of top-line bosses are now nomads. When Mourinho returns to Chelsea it will be his seventh job since 2,000. Ancelotti, who is expected to succeed him at Real Madrid, will be taking up his sixth post since 1995. And what about Luis Felipe Scolari, manager of Brazil, who has had no less than 23 jobs! As I said, we’ll never see the likes of Ferguson again.

 

 

D-day looms for Rooney

Wayne Rooney, by far England’s most talented striker, is ending the season in no man’s land, with a parting slap from retiring Sir Alex Ferguson, who pointedly left Rooney out of the squad for his last home match in charge, against Swansea, on Sunday. Sir Alex says he has turned down a transfer request from the player, while admitting he can’t be sure Rooney will be at United next season, so it will be down to new boss David Moyes to decide how the situation is resolved.

One thing I do know is that Rooney remains by far this country’s best forward, still the only Englishman who guarantee 20 goals a season in the Premier League. And that is because, at his best, he is strong, aggressive, deceptively fast, good in the air for a man of average height, utterly fearless and possessed with a fierce will to win. That particular characteristic was clear for us to see when he was nine/ten years old and preparing to join Everton’s Academy, when I was manager in the mid-90′s. He is so good that he can operate with equal effectiveness either up front, wide or in central midfield. And it just might be that therein lies Rooney’s problem. I don’t know if he has a preferred position, but the fact that he has been played in different roles might be what is disillusioning him. Rooney likes to be the top dog and it might be that he feels his nose has been put out of joint by the arrival of Robin van Persie. Or the problem could be that Sir Alex is unhappy with Rooney’s physical condition and that he is trying to make a point by having him in and out of the side.

I must say, whether it is a physical or a mental issue, I feel Rooney hasn’t been at his sharpest this season. He and Moyes, who successfully sued Rooney over allegations in the player’s book that he was “overbearing” and “controlling” at Everton, clearly have had their differences. It will be interesting to see the outcome when the two men get together to thrash out the current impasse.

 

 

SIMPLY THE BEST

Only a few people become legends in their own lifetime. Sir Alex Ferguson is just such a person. The man who will, surely, be acknowledged as the greatest manager in history, certainly in the UK and, possibly, even the world, is leaving a massive hole for someone to fill at Manchester United.

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It is hard to see beyond the current bookies’ favourite David Moyes or the self-styled Special One Jose Mourinho. Where Everton boss Moyes shades it over Mourinho is with his long, unbroken run as a Premier League manager at Everton. On the debit side, David has never won a major trophy and has limited experience in Europe. Mourinho has won everything. David, of course, is a free agent from this summer, whereas Real Madrid are said to want £20m to buy out Mourinho’s contract. And the feeling is he’s headed back to Chelsea, anyway. One thing I am sure of, and I can’t see an obscure name coming out of left field, is that the chosen one will get both a fantastic job and an impossible job. For the harsh fact is that  Alex’s successor knows one thing for certain: He simply cannot do better than his predecessor. Alex bows out having won his 13th Premier League title and a staggering total of 38 trophies in 26 years at United. You have to re-read the stats to give them chance to sink in. He has been phenomenal, the master of the big decisions on and off the pitch, tactically and in the transfer market and unrivalled in his ability to know when to move players on. No manager gets his transfers 100 per cent right, but Alex has got more right than anyone else. Under his guidance, United have not only produced several major teams but also become the global brand they are today.

Men like Frank O’Farrell, Dave Sexton and Wilf McGuinness found the strain of trying to succeed the other Old Trafford managerial legend Sir Matt Busby too hard to bear. But the man who succeeds Ferguson faces an even bigger challenge! Put it this way, the new man had better target the Treble next season! Certainly, this is not a job for a novice, however promising he may be. Don’t forget, when Ferguson was brought in to start his United revolution, when he was in his mid-40s, he had already established himself as the major managerial force in Scotland where, with St Mirren then Aberdeen he won 10 trophies and, most significantly, broke the Celtic-Rangers domination.

Like many people in the game, I had my run-ins with Alex, who is as formidable as they come when arguing his corner. We fell out when, as Everton manager, I was signing winger Andrei Kanchelskis from United and Alex accused me of trying to fix the price, which wasn’t the case. Then, I had to take him to task for suggesting in his autobiography that my Everton side’s FA Cup victory against United in the 1995 FA Cup Final was the triumph of one ordinary team over another. But these are minor hiccups in an otherwise excellent relationship. Mind you, thank god we never argued about politics. I have been described as having views somewhere between Margaret Thatcher and Attila the Hun, while Alex is proud of his left wing upbringing on the working-class streets of Govan. Alex was kind enough to subsequently write the foreward to my autobiography, for which I am extremely grateful. Alex Ferguson is a remarkable man who has earned his place in football history. It’s an honour to have worked in his era and it’s one of life’s pleasures to share a glass or three of his favourite red wine with him.