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Deadline day ends David Moyes’s honeymoon at Manchester United

Sep 3, 2013, 12:36 AM EDT

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If David Moyes wasn’t so respected, people would be talking about his team’s last two performances.  After 11 years at Goodison, though, Moyes had earned most people’s benefit of the doubt. Others may have been assuaged by his role as Alex Ferguson’s hand-picked successor. Regardless, Moyes had enough cachet to defuse debate. Only a handful of people wondered aloud whether Ferguson would have found a way to get full points last Monday or if Manchester United would have been held at arm’s length at Anfield were Ferguson still coaching.

But United’s first three games, as a whole, have been underwhelming, particularly considering only Paul Scholes is absent from the squad that won last year’s Premier League. The opening night victory at Swansea was impressive in totality, questionable in parts, but followup performances against Chelsea and Liverpool were uninspiring. If it wasn’t for what now seems like a honeymoon period, people would be openly debating whether the conservative tendencies that served Moyes so well at Everton have already cost him points at Manchester United.

It’s not exactly a fireable offense. Far from it. Throughout the corse of a season, most managers make decisions that cost their teams points. The best eventually make up for it with their good calls. Regardless, we discuss those performances, particularly when the manager in questions is running the most famous club in England. And while there have been some critiques of Moyes’s first three games, they’ve been meek. If he hasn’t gotten an outright pass, he’s at least received the benefit of the doubt.

That’s the context for Monday’s debacle. Given how disappointed Manchester United fans will be, it’s difficult to see that benefit of the doubt lasting, even if Ed Woodward (United’s executive vice chairman) deserves some of the blame. In the face of the Ander Herrera embarrassment, the inability to get Fabio Coentrao’s paperwork sorted out, having to pay over Marouane Fellaini‘s original buyout, as well as the failed fixations on Cesc Fábregas and Leighton Baines, United’s transfer window reads like a list of failures neophyte management would make at their first clubs. It’s certainly not the type window fans are used to.

source: APManchester United, at a minimum, is well-run. They’re usually decisive. They’re usually effective. When they decide to do something, it usually gets done. Question their years without buying a midfielder, wonder why they paid too much for Dimitar Berbatov, or what they’re doing buying players like Bebe. Their judgment wasn’t always impeccable, but under Ferguson and David Gill, they were able to do what they wanted.

Sometimes it was unfair, almost to the point of being ruthless. The price they paid for Robin van Persie was so cheap opposing teams’ fans complained the system was biased. When they sold Cristiano Ronaldo, they got 41.3 percent more than the previous world transfer record – a huge, almost inexplicable leap. They even got under Daniel Levy’s skin in the Berbatov deal, frustrating the Spurs chairman with a last-minute (albeit expensive) swoop. Add in their 13 titles in 21 seasons, and at least within the British Isles, United tends to get what they want.

Now, in their first transfer window without Gill and Ferguson, that’s all changed. Now the club’s negotiating with phantom agents in Spain. They’re getting played by Bill Kenwright. They spend most of the summer drooling over a midfielder who’s only two years into his tenure at his hometown club, and given the chance to get a Portuguese international who wants away from Real Madrid, they’re undone by administrative errors. Though United eventually landed Fellaini, Woodward and Moyes’s first window is destined to be defined by their failures.

This is not what United fans are used to. They’re not used to seeing Arsenal land Mesut Ozil and Spurs spend around $150 million while they’re left frustrated. They’re not used to being out-foxed by Everton or being undone or seeing the type of paperwork errors that befall clubs embarrass their team. That these are new management’s first major decisions leaves fans right to wonder whether the last three weeks are the aberration or the rule.

The razor-thin silver lining to this mess: Manchester United’s last two, tepid results are now an afterthought. But when the team returns to the field on Sept. 14, the honeymoon will be over. The frustration, embarrassment, and lack of confidence emanating from Monday’s failures mean the benefit of the doubt is gone. On field performance and off field decisions are entirely different things, but with United fans thrown into a new, unfamiliar state of doubt, they won’t give their new manager pass. Not anymore.

Between fake agents, paper work problems, and being forced to pay above a player’s buyout, Manchester United had one of the most memorable deadline days of all time. Don’t expect Red Devils’ fans to forget it any time soon.

  1. NtrlDipMOtl - Sep 3, 2013 at 2:51 AM

    everything went a bit pear-shaped when Utd confirmed Woodward left Australia for ‘urgent transfer business’ in July,only for nothing to come about.fellaini,a decent pick up; this summer,a PR embarrassment.

  2. hjworton46 - Sep 3, 2013 at 3:18 AM

    I’d love to have read the roasting Ferguson would’ve had if blogging on the www had been around when he took the Utd job. Most would’ve wanted him sacked after 6 months. Too much talk, try digesting what you’ve seen before immediate reaction.

    • Greg - Sep 3, 2013 at 9:36 AM

      THIS! I’m by no means a Man Utd fan, but four games in if you count the Charity Shield, two wins, a draw to a tough Chelsea team and a loss at Anfield to an unbeaten Liverpool team, not like they’ve stumbled on a rainy night in Stoke or at Selhurst Park. Give the man time, Liverpool fans wanted Brendan Rodgers head at the end of last August, it takes time for new coaching team to settle, and SAF ain’t walking through that door anytime soon

  3. bellerophon30 - Sep 3, 2013 at 8:20 AM

    I think MU will be fine, given that everyone is back from last year, save Scholes (who went 4 months without playing because of his knee), plus adding Fellani and Zaha……..that’s not bad. The big surprise for me is that Nani is still there, given that he’s out of contract next summer and largely marginalized. Keep the fingers crossed that Darren Fletcher can conquer his illness and come back to make a contribution.

    But the sneaky good move was where they loaned Powell: Wigan. Given that Wigan has at least six Europa games in the next few months, so he’ll get a of playing time either there or domestically (or both). Good experience for him, which will benefit him down the road.

  4. robeml - Sep 4, 2013 at 12:25 AM

    You should call out the Glazers before anyone – look at how much money they have taken from the club for their loan repayments. Seems to be the media blaming Moyes. Most fans are holding Woodward responsible. Moyes job is to identify the players Woodward’s is to go and get them.We all know Woodward is the Glazers’ creature if I didnt know better I would think he was trying to fail in all transfers. I’m confident that if David Gill was still in the job the outcome would have been different. Ed looks like a complete amateur. Didn’t agree with everything that Gill did but he was a United fan and mostly it showed. Plus if Moyes was not in place would Fellaini have given up th 4 million pound loyalty bonus. As for the games bringing on Nani and Hernandez at Liverpool sounds exactly like something Fergie would have done. Time has moved on but I can remember how Fergie started and trust me it wasnt great but the board backed him including money for transfers. I expect Ed the merchant banker to learn and do business early in January.

  5. bman0921 - Sep 6, 2013 at 12:58 AM

    OK yeah I’m a little late on this but I’m just seeing this post now. So apparently, according to Grantland, the “imposters” or “fake agents” you speak of were actually lawyers acting on Hererra’s behalf trying to push the deal through, which makes a hell of a lot more sense. And as far as Fabio Coentrao, Real Madrid had a deal in place for defender Gilherme Siqueria from Granada, but Benfica hijacked it in the last minute, so Real pulled the plug on Fabio’s loan deal with United. That’s not paperwork problems; that’s Real Madrid pulling the plug. I’m not exactly thrilled with United’s transfer dealings myself but no need to pile on with misinformation.

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