After day, night. After dark, light. After a managerial sacking, newspapers stories of his players being unhappy with this, that and the other. Here is a round-up, then, of the various indignities that Manchester United's squad are reported to have inflicted upon/suffered at the hands of David Moyes over the course of his short, disastrous tenure.
A couple of papers are reporting that Moyes, on the plane back to Manchester from Olympiacos, was noted reading a managerial self-help book entitled Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap ... and Others Don't. Not a fantastic look for a manager under pressure, and according to Ian Ladyman in the Daily Mail at least one player was thoroughly unimpressed:
'We are the Premier League champions,' said one source from that flight. 'Why on earth did our manager need to read a book to learn how to manage us?'
Ladyman also suggests that Shinji Kagawa, having turned up late for a flight, walked though fast-tracked security with "a fixed smile on his face hinting that he did not really care". Another story emerging from that doomed trip to Athens is recounted not only in the Mail but also by James Ducker in the Times [£]. As time wound down, and as United drifted to a 2-0 loss:
David Moyes began remonstrating with the fourth official. Out of the United manager's earshot, but loud enough it seemed for Steve Round, Moyes's assistant, to hear, came a shout from a disgruntled player - "Send him off, we'd be better off". On the substitutes' bench, there were astonished glances. Had they really just heard that?
All the papers are in general agreement that Moyes's training sessions were found to be uninspiring, and stories of endless defensive drills have emerged throughout the season. Ducker states that the mood improved noticeably in the first post-Moyes session, led by Giggs and Nicky Butt, and recounts that the players were unhappy with the way the squad was rotated, inconsistencies in club discipline, and the fact that they were not informed of the team until three hours before kick-off. He quotes Rio Ferdinand:
You spend a lot of nervous energy thinking, ‘Am I playing, am I not playing?' Keep just going round in circles in your head, enough to turn you into a madman.
The Independent, meanwhile, suggests that three unused substitutes were overheard placing bets on when his dismissal would come, and various outlets have noted that the departing coaching team will not be missed by the players or the Old Trafford ground staff. We can, undoubtedly, expect more stories to come. Oliver Kay, in the Times [£] again:
A club revered for their values and unique spirit have deteriorated, post-Ferguson, into the type of place where players drop their shoulders and where we in the media can hardly believe our luck at how many self-serving leaks, whether from dressing room or boardroom, have meant that information has flown more freely than since the 1990s.
TBB would urge the taking of everything with healthy pinches of salt. In many cases these are the versions of events presented by players, or players' agents, or players' friends, many of whom never took to Moyes in the first place. There are doubtless many and varied criticisms to be made of the departed man, but plenty of those doing the leaking have their fair share of blame to absorb.
Interestingly, a couple of places are suggesting that there are concerns among United's players that Louis van Gaal's notoriously tyrannical stylings might not be to their taste. Poor lambs. Doesn't your heart just bleed?