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Monday Moan: Moyes, Cats, smoke bombs

Mark Holmes has criticism for David Moyes, the Sunderland board, assistant referees and the Spurs smoke bomb thrower in his latest Monday Moan.

Last Updated: 21/10/13 at 13:12 Post Comment

David Moyes: Plenty to ponder for Manchester United boss

David Moyes: Plenty to ponder for Manchester United boss

Moyes criticism won't go away

It was inevitable that fingers would be pointed at David Moyes after every dropped point for Manchester United, certainly in this first season as he seeks to defend the title won by Sir Alex Ferguson.

Anyone with a heart is likely to find said finger pointing a little harsh - Moyes couldn't realistically be expected to maintain the levels set by Ferguson in his first ever four months in a job of this size - but it says a lot about the appointment in the first place that you're tempted to feel sorry for a man that looks overawed by his surroundings.

The other inevitable thing about every United slip up this season is that sports writers will be rushing to point out, 'I told you so'.

That will no doubt grate with supporters of the club, but I never could understand the logic in looking for the best man rather than the best manager to lead the club.

There was much talk about the class of the Moyes and the stability he would bring, but it seemed to be completely overlooked that he would not be able to provide that long-term stability unless he achieved success in the short term.

He may yet do that - it is too early to make any rash judgements after only eight games of the Premier League season - but all the signs so far are that United will not only fail to defend their title but face a fight to even make the top four.

Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City seem certain to do so and with Liverpool and Tottenham also getting off to good starts, United look the least assured of all the big six clubs.

Not even the biggest critic of Moyes' appointment thought he could fail to lead the reigning champions to a Champions League place, but it now has to be considered a realistic prospect.

The question is, why? I suggested at the end of last month that United's players had to take a large portion of the blame, and I stand by that, but Moyes' decision to replace Wayne Rooney with Chris Smalling just before Southampton's equaliser on Saturday sums up the defensive-minded attitude that United fans feared and loath, that sports writers warned Moyes he must avoid, and that Moyes himself must have known he would be panned for if it ended in disaster.

Regardless of how early in the season it is, he seems to be doing everything he can to prove the naysayers right. As well as the defensive substitutions, the addition of Marouane Fellaini has made the midfield worse, not better, while the fact that Moyes has handed starts to more players than any other Premier League manager suggests he has little clue about what his best team is.

Moyes may well have been the right man for Manchester United, but every passing week reaffirms the belief that he has got a lot of improving to do before he can ever be considered the right manager.

Sunderland board to blame most of all

Talking of bad decisions, the Sunderland board must still be ruing the backing they gave to Paolo Di Canio over the summer.

They will hope that Gus Poyet can somehow clean up the mess made by his predecessor, but the truth is that the mess had started to build even prior to Di Canio's arrival.

After all, the Italian was only appointed in the first place because Sunderland looked to be heading to the Championship under Martin O'Neill.

O'Neill favoured experienced, hard-working Premier League campaigners but the team had become stale and lacking in ideas. The players lost faith in the manager's methods.

Di Canio came in and gave the squad an initial lift which kept them in the Premier League, and supporters - and, crucially, the board - backed his decision to replace experienced heads with younger players that it was hoped would provide more energy, enthusiasm and effort.

Unfortunately, as the vast majority of non-Sunderland supporters commented at the time, Di Canio went too far, with only five of his 14 summer signings boasting any Premier League experience.

Di Canio deserves a large portion of the blame, of course, but so too does the board that got so well behind the policy and appointed Italian duo Roberto De Fanti and Valentino Angeloni as their new director of football and chief scout respectively. The transfer policy was certainly not dreamt up by Di Canio alone.

It was player power that led to his demise, but the fact that both Kevin Ball and then Poyet on Saturday called upon a number of the experienced players overlooked by Di Canio suggests that everybody associated with the club recognises the mistake of trying to overhaul the team to such an extent in such a short space of time.

The big problem is, of course, that the experienced players that are being asked to get the team out of trouble are the same experienced players that led the team into trouble in the first place under O'Neill.

John O'Shea, Phil Bardsley, Craig Gardner, Lee Cattermole and co. might have plenty of Premier League games under their belt, but they formed a poor team under O'Neill and were in the main deemed to have a poor attitude under Di Canio.

The chances of them suddenly being good enough on either count under Poyet are extremely slim - and it may already be too late by January to rectify the critical mistakes that they above all else have made.

Assistant referees must improve

It is a moan I have had many times before, but there were at least another three incidents in the Premier League over the weekend that highlighted the desperately poor standard of assistant referees at the top level.

Referee Anthony Taylor has taken the brunt of the blame for allowing Chelsea's equaliser against Cardiff City to stand despite Samuel Eto'o's clear breach of the rules in kicking the ball away from David Marshall as he bounced the ball, but the likelihood - although he has said otherwise - is that he missed the incident.

That is somewhat understandable as he ran up the field to get into a position in the middle of the pitch, but what excuse does the assistant referee at that end have for not seeing the incident?

This is the same assistant that also failed to notice Marshall had clearly handled the ball outside of his area earlier in the same game.

In Stoke's game against West Brom, meanwhile, the assistant referee should have had a clear view of Charlie Adam's obvious foul on Youssuf Mulumbu in the penalty area, but again he was apparently oblivious.

It is easy to criticise referees but they are supposed to have the help of two assistants, and time and time again that is shown not to be the case.

They assist with very little at all and are, without doubt, of a far worse standard than the men in the middle. To give referees the help they need, it is a problem that needs solving.

Punish perpetrator, not club

Like most football fans that attend away games, I have witnessed flares and smoke bombs set off in close proximity this season.

I can't say it in any way upset me, but clearly fans should not under any circumstances be throwing them about stands and on to the pitch. To do so is idiotic, extremely dangerous, and should undoubtedly result in a stadium ban for the offender.

As always, though, it is difficult to know who else, aside from the individual fan or fans, should be punished.

There are suggestions that Tottenham could face a fine after a smoke bomb thrown from the away section at Villa Park on Sunday hit an assistant referee, but I fail to see how Spurs as a club are in any way responsible for the actions of one or two fans, particularly at an away ground.

Surely Aston Villa are more responsible - it was their stewards, after all, that allowed the fans to enter the stadium with the smoke bombs. But then it would be ridiculous for Villa to be fined for something Spurs fans had done.

The truth of the matter is that clubs can't be held responsible for the actions of an entire group of supporters. To fine Spurs over this incident would be ridiculous.

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