This Looks Suspiciously Like Patience

This is weird. This isn't modern football. Where are the bloodthirsty calls for Moyes to be sacked? Perhaps it's because the idea he isn't good enough is the least interesting...

Last Updated: 09/01/14 at 10:34 Post Comment

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Anagrams, once upon a number of times, were held to have mystical powers. Alexander of Macedonia conquered Tyre in confidence, after his wisemen explained that a worrying dream could, with just a little rearrangement of letters, be considered a thoroughly encouraging one. Meanwhile, in the Bible, Pontius Pilate is supposed to have asked Jesus "Quid est veritas?" or "What is truth?" Jesus did not reply, but had Pilate taken the time to mess about with the letters of his own question, he might have realised the answer was literally staring him in the face. "Est vir qui adest," or "He is the man before you."

(Any complaints about the Latin translations should be directed to the internet.)

Talk of Jesus leads us neatly onto another Chosen One who has, after being invested with great power by an angry deity, found himself teetering on the edge of a public crucifixion. David Moyes is problematic when it comes to anagrams, because at first glance there doesn't appear to be any; at least, none of great significance. "Dove dismay"? "Voided yams?" Perhaps "Avoids my Ed" points to a difficult relationship with Manchester United's chief executive, Mr Woodward? But even that, while it certainly doesn't bode well for United's transfer window, doesn't really get to the heart of the matter.

To recap, Manchester United are currently seventh in the Premier League, 11 points off the top and five points off fourth. They have been knocked out of the FA Cup in the third round and are 2-1 down halfway through a League Cup semi-final against the worst team in the top flight. Their most exciting player is an 18-year-old who looks disturbingly like a Young Conservative. Their best player is injured. Ashley Young has been playing quite well. Even set against a relatively smooth passage through the Champions League, that's on the south side of disappointing, and apparently getting souther. And yet the noises emerging from the club, from the players, and even from most of the fans are, though not exactly happy, then certainly not as angry and bloodthirsty as might be expected.

This is weird. This isn't modern football. This looks suspiciously like patience. And the reason for this - the reason there aren't any anagrams promising triumph or warning of disaster - is because Manchester United, in its values and its wonderful fans, are infinitely superior to any other footballing institution. Oh wait, no. Hang on. Sorry, that's wrong. The reason for this is: of all the various convulsions that are happening and threatening to happen, and of all the theories as to what and who and why, the suggestion that 'David Moyes isn't good enough' is by far the least interesting.

It is, after all, so obvious that he was promoted beyond any proven ability that it's almost trite to point it out. This is not to say that he won't go on to be good enough; merely to point out that his was a supremely uncluttered mantelpiece. But why even think about that, when there's so much more exciting stuff to be getting into. Juicy stuff. Meaty stuff. Stuff like ...

... well, the obvious one is the owners, who have been sucking money out of the club ever since the FA cravenly permitted them to leverage the cost of the takeover onto the club itself, a business model that only avoided catastrophe thanks to the managerial abilities of Sir Alex Ferguson, who accepted the financial restraints while distracted by horse-spunk, though by doing so perhaps ensured that the purchase could go through, and who managed to keep on winning thanks to a mix of canny motivation, terror, and straight-up genius, but who left behind a squad wildly unbalanced in quality, members of which are underperforming noticeably, other members of which are looking distinctly creaky, the best of which is broken again, and plenty of which look to be in need of a slap round the face, a kick up the a*se, or a quick and bloodless flogging to somebody else, anybody else, though that of course raises the prospects of their replacements, and the fact that the responsibility for procuring said replacements sits with a man who has a long and proven record for signing sponsorship deals and a brief but worrying record for not signing footballers, unlike his predecessor who left at the same time as Ferguson, which brings us neatly onto the other of the great man's legacies, the decision, along with his fellow member of the Order of the Flatcaps, Sir Bobby Charlton, to nix the appointment of Jose Mourinho, the obvious super-coach, though whether he'd have consented to work under the relatively straitened circumstances tolerated by his successor is a question for conjecture, as is whether he could have got through a month in the job without punting Fred the Red right in the ...

... in to which mess steps Mr. "Avid Mod? Yes!"

Cold science (not to mention basic courtesy) dictates that if anybody's interested in obtaining a fair answer to the question of Moyes's fitness for purpose, then he needs to be given both money and time. Until then, however things go, there will always the wider sense that events, be they good or bad, are down not to him but to the peculiar context in which he is attempting to work, a club at once massive and powerful yet curiously flawed. Perhaps that is the proper sense for where Moyes finds himself: it's not that he definitely is or isn't good enough, yet, but that he doesn't feel big enough, yet. The club is happening to him. And that, if it continues, is a recipe for exactly one thing. The thing that deflates Kumho Tires. The thing that makes Mister Potato's moustache droop. Devoid Mays.

Andi Thomas - you can follow him on Twitter, you know, and you can read more of his work at SBNation

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