Actually, Winning Isn't Everything...

The contrast between David Moyes and Manuel Pellegrini's beginnings in big jobs is telling. One focused on the long term, the other was consumed by immediate pressure...

Last Updated: 09/01/14 at 09:52 Post Comment

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As journalists probed the reasons for Manchester United's FA Cup defeat to Swansea, a defiant David Moyes responded: "My job is to find a way of winning. It doesn't matter what style, you have to find a way of winning." It was a defining moment in the manager's United reign, which can now be considered a self-fulfilling prophecy as he allows himself to be consumed by the mantra that winning is everything.

Results are important, of course, but after replacing Sir Alex Ferguson in the summer, Moyes was presented with the enviable opportunity to shape his own narrative. At first he pursued the line that gradual transition is required at Old Trafford but, perhaps lacking the tactical nous to evidence this change in the team's playing style, he has since lurched towards the short-term, constantly seeking salvation in each passing fixture. At full-time on Sunday he arrived at a fork in the road; one path led to leniency, the other - Moyes' chosen route - has ensured that results are now the only barometer by which to judge his performance.

Perhaps Moyes was always destined to struggle as he tried to implement the limited principles that served him so well at Everton, assisted by his coaching entourage. However, it is likely that he would have gained more patience from supporters and the media had he been his own man and sacrificed short-term necessity for long-term improvement. Gary Neville may have argued that United 'stand against the immediacy of modern life' in his defence of Moyes' poor start, but thus far the manager's reign has only served to contradict that opinion.

The contrast with Manuel Pellegrini's early success at Manchester City is telling. When the Chilean was appointed in the summer, he spoke in depth about his intention to bring attacking football to the Etihad and how he would achieve those aims. Obsequious soundbites, perhaps, but there was a clear message about his desired approach that has been reinforced by City's free-scoring performances in the first half of the campaign.

Unlike Moyes, whose consistent tactical approach was fortified during his 12 years at Everton, Pellegrini has honed a more convincing style through his experiences at Real Madrid, Malaga and Villarreal. This is now at the heart of everything he does as a manager, emphasised by his quotes ahead of City's League Cup semi-final against West Ham. "It's not my first thought to win a trophy," said Pellegrini. "It's to play the way I think is the best way to win a trophy."

In following his personal doctrine, Pellegrini has not only enabled City to play with such wonderful freedom this season, but he has also secured himself a valuable safety net. When there were doubts over the team's away form following shock defeats to Cardiff, Aston Villa and Sunderland, the manager remained focused on the long term, certain that the results would soon correct themselves. This confidence clearly rubbed off on the players and the corner has now been turned.

Moyes, on the other hand, has imbued a feeling of desperation at United as he seeks immediate tangible reward for his efforts in order to justify his position. "My record in the FA Cup is not too bad," he said before the third-round exit to Swansea. "But it's not enough. I need a trophy." By placing such importance on gaining results, the manager has abandoned all possible defences when United suffer defeat. There is no comfort in the performance, despite his claims that the team are playing well, because Moyes has already made it clear that winning is the only thing that matters.

It is for this reason that United appear destined to continuously follow every two steps forward with another backward. A 13-match unbeaten run in the autumn was followed by back-to-back home defeats to Everton and Newcastle while the positive vibes of the five-match winning run in December have now been thoroughly extinguished by three consecutive defeats and the worst start to a new year for 82 years. Performances haven't improved, and without the manager switching his sights to the bigger picture, it is inevitable that such setbacks will continue.

The problem is that the requirements of the role seem to have run away from Moyes. With reports surfacing that several members of the squad are unhappy with his methods, it may be too late for the manager to re-write his script. A six-year contract counts for little in the face of mutiny, and supporters should not be too surprised should promises of stability suffer the same fate as previous claims of continuity. 'Believe in yourself Moyes, The rest will follow,' reads one iconic banner at Old Trafford this season. That Moyes allowed others to decide his narrative while he focused solely on results is the mistake that could ultimately ensure his downfall.

Matt Stanger - he's on the Twitter.

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