How might David Moyes fit at Manchester United?

Alex Livesey

At Everton, David Moyes is pragmatic and reactive and this perhaps is due to the relative financial constraints there. If he were to come to Manchester United, a club with considerable more resources, he would need to display more range in his tactical arsenal.

According to a plethora of reports, David Moyes is set to become the next manager at Manchester United Football Club. Nothing has been confirmed, though, as the Scot is still the manager of Everton Football Club at the time of this writing. Nonetheless, United chief executive David Gill has indicated that the club will move 'relatively quickly' in announcing Ferguson's successor. If Moyes were to be that man, it would be hardly shocking as he's been speculated for quite some time as a logical candidate to take over the managerial duties when Ferguson finally decided to retire.

My guess is that most of you reading this piece are regular viewers of the Premier League -- whether that be by attending matches in person and/or by watching on television. Therefore, Moyes is probably a familiar figure for many since he's been at Everton since 2002. The general acceptance seems to be that his time at Goodison Park has been successful, despite him having not won a single trophy there in 12 seasons.

Everton is one of the more successful football clubs in the history of English football. However, financial restrictions have hampered them from ever contending for the title in the Premier League era and only once have they finished in the top four under Moyes. It's debatable whether his trophyless reign is an indictment on his time with the Toffees, but there is no doubt that the club improved under his managerial control -- in the decade prior to Moyes' arrival, only once did Everton finish in the top half of the table while they've only failed to do this twice since his 2002 arrival.

There are some obvious qualities -- even if they are general and perhaps cliches to an extent -- about Moyes that should be appealing to United supporters: by many accounts, he's a man of tremendous character and he has a tireless work ethic, he's efficient in the transfer market, and he's shown a willingness to develop and work with youth (albeit out of necessity due to the previously mentioned financial predicament). Furthermore, Moyes' longevity at Everton and his willingless to be involved in all levels of that club, and not just with first-team matters, is something that obviously would be enticing for Gill and the rest of those involved in finding Ferguson's successor:


"The qualities [needed in the new manager] are the ones that have been inherent in Manchester United for many years. If you look at what has happened with the two most successful eras - Sir Matt Busby and Alex - they are managers who got involved in the whole aspect of the club, whether it be from the youth team up to the first team. All aspects of it, plus that degree of loyalty and the understanding of the football club that it's not just what happens on the first-team pitch, is crucial to the success of Manchester United. Those are the sort of things we'll be looking at. Clearly he has to have the requisite football experience, both in terms of domestic and European experience, so I think it's a small pool but we'll move forward."



- David Gill


There are, though, some obvious concerns about Moyes as well: he never won anything at Everton (again, whether this is a fair cristicism is open for debate) and he's never even qualified for the group stages of the UEFA Champions League (his one top four finish resulted in Everton failing to win their two-legged qualifier in order to advance to the group stages). As a result, he doesn't necessarily have the 'requisite' European experience that Gill seeks.

Most would agree that Moyes has mostly punched above his weight while at Goodison Park. Even for those who disagree with that, no one could reasonably tell you that the Scot failed during his time there. He will be -- if he indeed does leave for United or eventually for somewhere else -- be fondly remembered by most of the Everton faithful. Could he, though, with the considerable more resources that United would offer him, and with the strong foundation that Ferguson has laid and left behind, achieve tangible success at the Theatre of Dreams? Or might he get caught in the shadow of the recently retired legendary manager -- one who is to stay on at the club as a director and an ambassador -- as the club descends like it did with the retirement of Sir Matt Busby? These would be the fundamental questions most will be asking if Moyes takes over.

Another thing that many will be pondering is what sort of playing style would Moyes bring to Old Trafford? For other often mentioned candidates to possibly replace Ferguson in recent months, there are some clear identities: Pep Guardiorla has his extreme possession-based football and pressing, Jose Mourinho has his lightning-quick transitions from deep, while Jurgen Klopp emphasizes pressing high up the pitch and quick transitions toward goal. As for Moyes, he's tended to be a pragmatic and reactive manager that looks to opportunistically attack down the flanks in a 4-4-1-1 shape. This has allowed Everton to be formidable foes against some of England's top sides. However, they've tended to struggle picking up three points on a consistent basis against lesser opponents. Results wise, this has been Everton's general undoing in their attempts to qualify for the Champions League. Ferguson, while at United, has always done well to efficiently pick up three points when expected. Moyes will have to learn to do the same if he is ever to win a Premier League title as a United manager.

In Everton's 4-4-1-1 shape, the deep-lying central-midfielders typically look to swing the ball from side-to-side while continually switching the point of attack. The goal is to probe for overloads on the flanks -- more specifically, 2 v 1 or 3 v 2 advantages near the touchline -- before surging into attack. An example of this is when left-back Leighton Baines gets forward to combine with left-winger Steven Pienaar -- when Pienaar makes a typically inward cut towards goal in the attacking third, it's often because he's trying to combine with Marouane Fellaini, after the big-haired Belgian has drifted slightly left and brought down an aerial ball from his chest, and in turn, this creates space near the touchline for Baines to make an overlapping run. From here, Pienaar either maneuvers towards goal or the ball is swung out wide for the left-back -- the Englishman's left-foot is a can-opener and he's clinical in finding Fellaini with a cross when the big-man spins off and darts toward goal with a relatively late-arriving run into the area.

To an extent, this is something that Moyes would probably be able to drill into this current United side. For the past quarter-century, Ferguson has shown a fondness for attacking with width and much of the success (not counting this season) has stemmed from the clever partnerships of wingers and full-backs. In addition, the central-midfielders are already well-trained in swinging passes out wide for the wingers or for the full-backs getting forward to join the attack. The one major difference between Ferguson and Moyes though, in their typical 4-4-1-1 shapes, is the role of the withdrawn forward or No.10. For the former manager, this has been the role of a playmaker in the mold of an Eric Cantona, Paul Scholes (in the early 2000s), and Wayne Rooney while for the latter manager, it has been a physical aerial threat in the mold of Fellaini or Tim Cahill. Moyes, being pragmatic, would likely just find a way to use what he's got -- although, I wouldn't be against him brining Fellaini (or Baines) with him to Old Trafford...

Moyes' pragmatic and reactive ways would likely make United formidable foes against England's elite and possibly in Europe -- Ferguson himself tended to be this way in 'big games'. Against lesser sides though, Moyes would have to learn to use the high-level talent at his disposal so that he could consistently take the game to them. Mourinho is inherently reactive as well. However, the two-time European Cup winning manager knows when to step on the pedal against smaller clubs so that his side can consistently pick up the maximum points throughout a league campaign. This is something Moyes would have to do at United. At Everton, he was mostly reactive and this was perhaps due to the already mentioned constraints there. At United, he would have (relative) riches -- would he find a way to express himself like he rarely has at Everton?

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