What Can Moyes Do In These 12 Games?

If you believe the papers, David Moyes has 12 games to prove he's worthy of the Manchester United job, but what can he do in that time? A win this weekend would be a start...

Last Updated: 07/03/14 at 08:58 Post Comment

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Chelsea
If Chelsea went into the last game of the season nine points clear at the top and with their nearest rivals having to field their under-16s side after all of their other players were wiped out in a freak yachting accident, and their opponents on that day were Manchester United, he would still probably suck in his teeth and say Manchester City were favourites for the title.

He was at it again this week: "I prefer to have the destiny in my hands, and only City have destiny in their hands. If I win every game until the end of the season, all 10 - which we won't - maybe we are not champions.

"If they win all 12 games they have, they are champions. They have their destiny in their hands."

That's technically correct, but to bastardise an old cricket adage, it's much better for Chelsea to actually have the points on the board than to assume City will win all of their remaining 12 games.

Of course Mourinho cannot truly believe all the things he says about the relative strengths or otherwise of Chelsea and City, and we know exactly why he is downplaying his side's chances, for reasons both of his own ego and the team in general.

Meanwhile, Chelsea meander to a four-point lead at the top of the table, and have one of their few remaining tough games at the weekend as they host Spurs. After that it's a series of relatively straightforward affairs, punctuated by a home game against Arsenal and a trip to Liverpool which, even though this column is of the opinion that Brendan Rodgers' side won't win the league, is shaping up to be a stormer.


Tim Sherwood
Tottenham's 1-0 win over Cardiff last weekend was described in various quarters as one of the grimmest games of football you could hope to witness this season.

It's been a characteristic of Tim Sherwood's tenure at White Hart Lane - the terrible performances have been as frequent as the good ones, but with rumours growing stronger that Louis van Gaal is being lined up to replace him in the summer, Sherwood has until the end of the season to present an unanswerable case for his retention.

A win against Chelsea would go some way to building such a case, and indeed would set up Spurs rather nicely for a run of incredibly tough fixtures. After the trip to Stamford Bridge they face Arsenal, then Southampton, then Liverpool, with two legs of the Europa League tie against Benfica thrown in for fun as well.

Sherwood already has one 'big' win under his belt, the success at Old Trafford back on January 1, but if one were so inclined you could simply write that off as part of the great Manchester United shambles of this season. An away victory over league-leading Chelsea could not be so easily dismissed.


Roberto Soldado
Just a one-off, or the removal of a monkey from his back that will result in a free-scoring run that will send Spurs into the Champions League and Soldado to the World Cup?


West Brom
Still no win for Pepe Mel, and while that hasn't exactly resulted in West Brom tumbling down the table, they have been inching down, as single points collected here and there prove just enough to keep them from real trouble, but not enough to pull them clear.

The lack of wins is the reason for the suggestions in the press that Mel might not be much longer for this managerial world, suggestions that were not exactly emphatically dispelled by West Brom's 'Yeah, we totally support him, honest' statement put out in response.

Whatever their managerial situation, the Baggies need wins, and wins pretty bloody quickly too. Is it a good or a bad thing that their opponents on Saturday are Manchester United....?


Manchester United
You might think that, since they haven't actually played since last Tuesday, this time off has been a blessed relief for United and David Moyes, but that would be the most wishful of thinking.

If you believe the papers, Moyes has 12 games - the 11 remaining in the Premier League, and the return leg against Olympiakos - to prove he is worthy of his job next season. One wonders what Moyes has to do in those 12 games to convince the hierarchy of his worth. He isn't going to win a trophy, and it would take something approaching a miracle to even qualify for the Champions League.

Winning in Europe would obviously do nicely, but at the moment Moyes' biggest reason for optimism is that his United superiors clearly want him to succeed, if only because they would look pretty silly if the man they chose to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson (or perhaps more accurately the man Sir Alex Ferguson chose to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson) was binned after just one season. As has been said before, if they sack Moyes now, it looks like they messed up, but if he goes next season it looks like he messed up.

Perhaps the simple fact that he's still there now provides some optimism. If United haven't already sacked Moyes after a season that realistically couldn't have been much worse, then he only really needs to avoid complete disaster in these closing weeks to earn himself another chance.

The alternative is that he does brilliantly and after this rocky start he becomes Fergie Mk II. Of course, he has to actually stay in his job for long enough to do that, and a win at the Hawthorns on Saturday will be a start, at least.


Cardiff and Fulham
Technically this should be the biggest league game of the weekend. The bottom two sides, still in touch with survival, facing each other in a bloody dog-fight to stay in the Premier League.

The problem is that both Cardiff and Fulham already look doomed. It's not even quite so much that they're four and three points from safety, having played at least one game more than the three teams ahead of them, but more the manner in which they have performed in recent weeks.

Daniel Storey wrote here about how Cardiff seem to be sinking with a whimper, and while Felix Magath hasn't had nearly enough time yet to make a real difference at Fulham, there has been little in their recent showings to suggest that his impact will be enough.

Still, at least Scott Parker gave it the big sell this week: "When you get to this point in the season and you've got two teams at the bottom fighting for your lives, it's not going to be a classic.

"It's going to be one full of energy and desire. I'm not sure how much quality there will be."

Maybe just watch the highlights of this one.


Norwich
It was looking pretty good for Norwich last weekend until Christian Benteke unleashed an overhead kick of ridiculous quality, and an hour or so later Chris Hughton's side were on the wrong end of another hiding, leaving them six games to collect the points they need before their remarkable last four fixtures.

"It's a low point at the moment because we came into the game in good form, so this is a real hammer blow," said Hughton after the game, and it is perhaps symbolic of exactly how bad Norwich have been for the majority of this season that he regarded only losing two of their previous five as 'good form', particularly when those defeats came against West Ham and Cardiff.

Three points at home to Stoke on Saturday is an absolute must, otherwise it's very difficult to see where Norwich are going to find what they need to get out of this mess.


Glenn Murray
The emotional part of Glenn Murray's return to the Crystal Palace side, after missing the climax of last season and the first two-thirds of this with that knee injury, is done now. Murray scored his (admittedly slightly dubious) penalty against Swansea last week with something approaching aplomb, and you'd have to be a particularly cold-hearted Brighton fan not to have grinned with pleasure at the sight of him finding the net again as an Eagle.

Now though, Murray has the rather more prosaic task of trying to win his place back from Marouane Chamakh/Cameron Jerome. The curiously coiffeured Moroccan's time at Selhurst Park could probably be filed under 'Actually not too bad, considering everyone thought he was utterly terrible', but he only has one league goal since the middle of December, and is currently on Tony Pulis' naughty step after taking an intentional tumble against Swansea.

Palace are still a fair distance away from being safe, just three points off the relegation zone (with a game in hand), so need goals from somewhere to inch them up the table. Murray might be just the man to provide them.


Arsenal
This column usually deals with the Premier League, but while Arsenal are appearing in the FA Cup this weekend, it is worth mentioning them for the extra significance their quarter-final against Everton takes on, with recent results in mind.

It would take quite a collapse by Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea, plus Arsenal to be reliable for the remainder of the season, for Arsene Wenger's side to win the Premier League now. One of those things could very well happen. Two of them have a chance, if Gooners were being optimistic. All four though?

With a turnaround against Bayern in the Champions League unlikely - and should that happen the prospect of them then going on to win the whole thing even more in the realms of the fantastical - it seems relatively obvious that Arsenal's best chance of winning something this season lies in the FA Cup.

For a campaign to have started so optimistically, so freely and so umlauty to end with nothing would be a damn shame, and would make one wonder whether Arsene Wenger's Arsenal really have the stones to win anything at all in the foreseeable future.

Nick Miller - follow him on Twitter

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