Moyes under further pressure following Man Utd's defeat to Everton

Published December 6th, 2013 - 02:56 GMT

Another week, another crisis for the apparently hapless David Moyes. Of all the teams to lose at home to, Everton was perhaps the least one the beleagured Manchester United manager would have chosen. 

Right from the start of the game he was abused by the fans who once admired him. Fickle indeed, but the visitors are enjoying good form and attractive football. Visiting fans even brought out a 'School of Science: re-founded 3rd June 2013' banner. 

That represented a significant stylistic jibe at Moyes, although it was also a re-writing of history if anyone wants to suggest Everton were historically a team of fancy ball players; Every successful team to emerge from Goodison Park has relied on a big centre forward, players like Andy Gray, Joe Royle and Dixie Dean. Everton have one of those now - albeit on loan - in the form of Romelu Lukaku, but the past was all about a high-tempo, direct style, a classically English approach rather than the aesthetics of Roberto Martinez. 

Even so, the contrast between Everton's style and United's prosaic approach was marked, not least in midfield where an outnumbered central pairing of an ageing Giggs and lumbering Fellaini struggled through 90 minutes. That is not to say the game could not have finished differently, as United hit the woodwork three times when the score was 0-0. Nonetheless, the performance was unconvincing enough for a recent unbeaten run of 12 games to be swiftly forgotten. After all, Moyes never managed a win at Old Trafford as Everton boss in 11 years of trying.

This result may leave opinion even more deeply divided about Moyes, both among United supporters and elsewhere. 

Some believe that he is a man who has been found wanting, a cautious manager who prefers functional, unimaginative football and is out of his depth managing one of the game's superpowers. Others would say his predecessor faced similar criticisms in his early years and pre-empted the possibility of a tough start by using his final on-pitch address last May to tell fans: "Your job now is to stand by your new manager". That command - it was nothing less - has worn thin with some and is wearing thin with others, but many consider it reason enough to back what was, after all, an appointment based on Fergie's judgement.

Some fans argue that Moyes was given the legacy of a team of champions while Fergie inherited a bunch of injury prone heavy drinkers at the wrong end of the table. By contrast, critics have suggested that the current team is in decline and needs refreshing, in which case the judgement on Moyes should not be based on what he achieves with the current side, but with the one he builds - if he is given time. 

Another point of disagreement will be the very nature of Fergie's legacy and what it implies. One view is that the rapid succession of managers who came and went after Sir Matt Busby retired helped quicken the decline, culminating in the relegation of 1974. Such a fate may be highly unlikely in the current era, but the apparent lesson of history would be to maintain stability and stick with one man, accepting that he has a tough act to follow, and that anyone else who might have got the job instead would have struggled similarly.

The alternative to that is to suggest that, since being the man to follow Fergie is a poisoned chalice, the best job to have is to be the man who comes next. Instead of trying to maintain a place at the top, the job will be that of restoring the side's fortunes.

Fans who felt Moyes was not the best appointment would have looked around last summer and considered a number of alternatives. Ironically, Martinez was mentioned in despatches, but the candidate who was uppermost in people's thoughts was Jose Mourinho. 

To some, he is a loose cannon who does not stay at clubs for very long, thus disturbing the continuity. Yet this view, like all the others, has a flip side: Even a short-lived period of glory would mean success became something achieved by the club, not the triumphs of one Godfather-like figure. In other words, it would avoid the fiasco of the early 1970s repeating itself.

Whether Mourinho would have taken the job over a return to Chelsea is another matter. One version of events is that a return to Stamford Bridge was a done deal months before, hence the decision to confirm the "temporary" manager status of Rafa Benitez. The other, claimed in a book by Spanish journalist Diego Torres, is that he was desperate to come to Old Trafford and burst into tears when he learned he was being overlooked.  

A key point to bear in mind is that, whatever the truth about Mourinho or anyone else, the die is now cast. If Moyes were to be sacked during the season it is difficult to think who would be available to replace him. If he were to go in the summer - for instance, if United fail to qualify for the Champions League - his successor might have a problem attracting top players if they were unable to play in Europe's top competition. 

Jurgen Klopp - the Borussia Dortmund coach who plays an English style and might be attracted by the thought of working with Shinji Kagawa again - is one popular choice and is frequently linked in the press with a move to England. He has joked that he may indeed do so one day - but only when his English has improved.

A move for the German would not necessarily be fruitful, however; he is also said to be keener on the Arsenal job and there is some speculation in London that Arsene Wenger - who is much admired by Klopp - may retire at the end of the season when his contract runs out. 

Were Arsenal to win the Premier League this season, that scenario would provide a certain irony; a manager whose reign at a particular club has been so long it is hard to remember what it was like before going out on a high and leaving his successor an apparently golden legacy. Somehow, though, it does not always work out like that.

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