Man United crisis: the knives are being sharpened for Moyes
The ominous comparisons with Wilf McGuinness have begun as Moyes faces crucial Sunderland showdown
PERHAPS Alex Ferguson knew what would happen. Back in May, after his final game in charge at Old Trafford, the outgoing Manchester United manager addressed the fans, and told them: "I would like to remind you this club stood by me in bad times, the players and the staff. Your job now is to stand by the new manager."
But six months into the reign of David Moyes, and after four home defeats in six matches, that message is starting to wear thin. United were booed off, not for the first time this season, after Swansea dumped them out of the FA Cup on Sunday, and with tonight's crucial League Cup semi-final against Sunderland looming comes the unmistakable sound of knives being sharpened.
There have already been ominous comparisons with Wilf McGuinness, the unfortunate man who took over from Matt Busby in 1969 and lasted just 18 months in the job before Busby returned.
Damning Moyes with faint praise, Jim White in the Daily Telegraph insists that the only parallel between Moyes and McGuinness is a "joint failure immediately to fill oversized boots". But he adds that "despite the huge differences... for Moyes there is a lesson in McGuinness's history: only sustained victory will protect him from comparison with his predecessor".
That looks some way off and Ferguson, now a constant presence in the director’s box, is hardly making it easy for Moyes, says the Daily Mail. "Every time something goes wrong for David Moyes, the television cameras pan to the man who ruled United for more than a quarter of a century looking for a reaction.
"There are echoes of the problems United encountered after Sir Matt Busby stood down in 1969, staying on at the club as general manager and a director. Wilf McGuinness and Frank O'Farrell struggled to fill his shoes before United were relegated under Tommy Docherty in 1974."
But it is undeniable that the new man has failed to impress. "Right now Moyes looks like a mechanic staring at a broken Formula One car armed only with a lug wrench," says Matt Lawton also in the Mail. Perhaps he should bring back one of Ferguson's lieutenants. Lawton suggests drafting in former assistant Carlos Queiroz. "It might look like a desperate measure but for United, this is a desperate situation."
So, did United make a mistake in appointing Moyes? Daniel Taylor of The Guardian believes there may be some in the Old Trafford hierarchy who now regret not plumping for Jose Mourinho.
"Mourinho, with enough individual awards to fill a removals van, brings any employer a near-guarantee of success," he points out. "Moyes, with no silverware, Champions League record or background in high-end football, should probably just be grateful that United do not operate by the same cut-throat tendencies as their peers. Any other top European club that had fallen away from champions to seventh, playing prosaic, laboured football at a time when their major rivals were all on an upward trajectory – well, it is just a fact of modern football life the manager would probably have been fired already, with his belongings sent in the post."
The red tops are rather more blunt. The Sun carries an interview with former United defender Gary Pallister who claims Moyes has "yet to win the trust" of the players, and the paper says the side are in "disarray" after their latest defeat.
The next three weeks will be crucial to Moyes's future claims the Daily Star. He has funds and must sign reinforcements. "If United head into next month without some significant signings and continue to lose games, then the finger of blame will point at one man and it will be Moyes."