Liverpool cult hero Luis Garcia is returning to Anfield on Easter Monday to take part in the 'Celebration of the 96' charity match. Jon Holmes caught up with him...
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It takes a significant stretch of the imagination when you're a Huddersfield Town fan, but if I supported a club with Premier League and Champions League trophy ambitions and I was given the choice between David Moyes and Manuel Pellegrini as my club's new manager this summer, I would choose Mark Robins. And then Jose Mourinho. But if they weren't available, I would opt for the silver-haired Chilean without hesitation. Not convinced? Let me give you five good reasons...
1) European experience
When outgoing Manchester United chief executive David Gill decreed that Sir Alex Ferguson's successor "has to have the requisite football experience, both in terms of domestic and European experience", it appeared to rule out manager-elect David Moyes, who has presided over four underwhelming UEFA Cup/Europa League campaigns in which Everton have never progressed beyond the last 16. Unless we're confused about the definition of the word 'requisite', Moyes falls way, way short on this requirement.
Pellegrini, on the other hand, is the only manager to have taken two Champions League debutants as far as the quarter-final stage, with Villarreal coming within a penalty kick of reaching the final in 2006. Two years ago, United failed to get out of the Champions League group stage; this year Manchester City failed for the second successive season; Pellegrini seems far better placed than Moyes to prevent a repeat in 2013/14.
2) Actually winning things
To be absolutely fair to Moyes, he did win the Football League Second Division title with Preston in 1999/2000. But by that juncture, Pellegrini already had three trophies from managerial spells in his native Chile and Ecuador. He later added two Argentine league titles with two different clubs before making the move to Europe. The trophies have dried up in the last ten years (barring an Intertoto Cup with Villarreal), as the Daily Mail's Martin Samuel eagerly highlighted when he described Pellegrini as 'a coach who has won nothing in Europe, not even in the season when he spent £200million on four players at Real Madrid'. What Samuel did not mention is that Pellegrini's Real amassed a record-breaking 96 points that season but were pipped at the post by a Barcelona side for which the word 'phenomenon' is no exaggeration.
Doesn't that record sound a tad better than Moyes' achievements of no trophies (and no away wins at Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool or Chelsea) in 11 years at a club established in the top half of the Premier League table?
3) Tactical flexibility
While Pellegrini has variously played a 4-2-2-2, a 4-4-2, a 4-3-1-2, a 4-2-3-1 and, thankfully for the vision of Txiki Begiristain, a 4-3-3, Moyes has pretty much always fielded a conservative 4-4-1-1 which has - at times - looked rather more like a 4-6-0. It has worked rather well for the Scot at a club where draws against big clubs are to be celebrated, but he will have to be rather more malleable when Manchester United are facing domestic and continental opposition with the expectation that they will win rather more than they lose (or draw).
We assume that Moyes has ideas that he has not felt at liberty to implement at Everton (a brief experiment with a three-man defence this season suggested as much), where his willing but often limited players have been most comfortable with two banks of four, but we don't have to assume with Pellegrini - we saw in this season's Champions League the difference between his gung-ho tactics when chasing the game against Porto and his rather more pragmatic set-up against the counter-attacking danger of Dortmund. Pellegrini's former Malaga striker Ruud van Nistelrooy has described him as 'a big strategist' and we're pretty sure the same has never been said of Moyes.
4) Ability to attract players
Manchester United will clearly still be a magnet for elite footballers under Moyes but - aside from those he coached at Everton - it will be the lure of the club rather than the manager that now attracts players to Old Trafford. While Phil Jagielka would presumably "relish the opportunity to work with the gaffer again", we doubt Robert Lewandowski would choose Moyes over Pep Guardiola or Cesc Fabregas would opt to work under the Scot rather than be reunited with Arsene Wenger.
Pellegrini's standing in Europe is rather higher, with Guardiola one of his biggest fans and fallen giants like Juan Roman Riquelme and Javier Saviola crediting the Chilean with the rejuvenation of their careers. While Moyes may bring Leighton Baines and Jagielka from his old club, a City side managed by Pellegrini can perhaps look forward to signing one of Spain's golden boys in the electrifying Isco. City's money is likely to be the biggest contributing factor in the possible arrivals of Jesus Navas and Edinson Cavani but the name of their manager will also carry some considerable weight.
5) Breadth of knowledge and experience
United may have been attracted to Moyes' capacity for longevity and loyalty but an 11-year stint at the same club with the same ambitions also narrows his experience. Aside from those rare forays into Europe, Moyes has almost exclusively managed in English domestic football and has largely bought players from English domestic football. There have been exceptions - Marouane Fellaini is probably the best example - but several attempts to shop in a different market (Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, Per Kroldrup, Andy van der Meyde) have ended in disaster.
Moyes has the significant advantage of understanding the Premier League (he will know far, far more about Stoke and Sunderland) but his likely cross-city rival will be managing in his fifth country, can speak English along with his native Spanish and - as detailed above - has extensive experience in European competition. While it seems unlikely that Moyes could surprise us over the next two/three years, you suspect that Pellegrini has a trick or two up his sleeve. Or maybe we just like his fulsome hair.