Rod Liddle

David Moyes was a victim of the pomposity of Manchester United

The egos at the club are off the scale

26 April 2014

9:00 AM

26 April 2014

9:00 AM

I took my youngest son to a football match on Easter Monday. It used to be something I wryly called a ‘treat’ when the kids were younger, but we usually lost in such depressing circumstances each time that I would then feel the need to give them another treat immediately afterwards, to alleviate the misery. Bowling or pizza or something. Not any more. They are old enough to know what they’re likely to be in for and conscious that their allegiance to the team, Millwall, is inescapable and probably genetic, like ginger hair or a susceptibility to Parkinson’s Disease.

Actually, I say inescapable — the older one escaped by insisting that he had revision to do for his GCSEs. I begged and cajoled, told him the exams don’t really matter and that this was a six-pointer, a crucial game, and I heard him sort of waver for a moment. ‘Who are we playing again?’ he asked. ‘Doncaster Rovers,’ I replied, with great allure.

‘Um. Well, exciting as that sounds, I really must do more French revision, Dad, the exam is only a couple of weeks away.’

I ranted and raved for a while, lamented how he was letting down not just me and Millwall, but letting down himself too, and that if I told people about this revision-obsession business, they would almost certainly think he was gay or something. But he was quite immovable. What can you do with a kid like that?

Do you know, a few months back both boys were meant to be going to a party at some schoolfriend’s place, but at the last moment they decided not to because they feared that ‘alcohol might be present’. To utilise teenage language for a moment — I’m like WTF?

Anyway, I went to the game with the younger one, who sat there, as he always does, with his head in his hands, occasionally giving out a bitter cackle of mirth at our team’s ineptitude. He likes watching Millwall, even though he knows he is being prepared for an adult life of frustration, crushed aspirations and misery. I once said to him, after we’d lost 0-1 at home to Scunthorpe or someone — at least with supporting Millwall you get to go to lots of games, unlike all your Chelsea and Manchester United supporting friends. ‘Yes,’ he said rather grimly, ‘yes indeed. Lots of games. Hurrah.’ But it is good for him, I think. He doesn’t expect too much. And nor does he live his life vicariously through a football team, because if he did he’d be self-harming every day.

They are probably self-harming right now up in Manchester, the red half of Manchester. The famous United have kicked out their newish manager, a man called David Moyes, because he was not able to deliver to them the untrammelled success which they believe is their absolute right and should be guaranteed under the law. The sports journalists, all of whom — without exception — applauded the appointment of this Moyes chap back in the summer of 2013, are now similarly unanimous that he has been a complete disaster, utterly useless, anybody could have seen that he wasn’t the right man, etc. I sometimes think that even financial journalists are more astute than sports journalists, and less short-termist in their outlooks.

Among the crimes committed by Moyes were a failure to suck up sufficiently to Manchester United’s star player, a Dutchman called Robin Van Persie who resembles, facially, a smug weasel. He may also have estranged another genius, Ryan Giggs, a sharp-faced little Welshman with an overly active penis, allegedly. Oh, and Moyes was ‘out of his depth’ and did not appreciate the scale of the task involved in managing a team whose supporters seem to have no particular interest in football, just in winning stuff. Manchester United are likely to finish seventh in the top division this season, which is, according to their fans and now, apparently, the board, nowhere near good enough.

It is hard not to feel sorry for Moyes. The truth is he probably thought he knew how to deal with inflated egos during his previous tenure as manager of a less successful and less fashionable but still considerable club, Everton. But he was wrong. The egos at Manchester United are of a different scale altogether, which is why they presumably played this season with a despondent and distracted air, disinclined to run about very much, apparently unable to concentrate on what was happening right there in front of them on the pitch.

Football at the very top level has become so horribly precious, so pretentious and pompous these days, that I am glad I have nothing to do with it. So many egos to be massaged, including those of the fans who, to be fair, pay extortionate amounts of money to have their desolate lives lifted by the acquisition of trophies by other people. They had a banner over one end of Old Trafford reading ‘The Chosen One’, a reference to David Moyes; now they are not merely going to take it down but have offered to donate it to a museum. Such hubris, such narcissism. Roll the banner up tightly and insert it into your collective bottoms, please.

Final score: Millwall 0-0 Doncaster Rovers.

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  • transponder

    You’ve got two sons, haven’t you? So your youngest is really your younger, isn’t he? Unless you’re expecting more that no one else knows about.

    Your sons sound as though they have sense. On the one hand, that means even more frustration in life, and not just on account of some stupid ball game, either. On the other hand, they can free themselves from the stupid ball game. It’s a kind of evolution.

    • Keith D

      Football is part of the soul of this country. A bit more than a stupid ball game.

      • transponder

        But what would it mean to be part of the soul of a person? I shouldn’t have thought it was the sort of thing of which souls are made. My friend’s remark is pretty good, though: ‘Soccer is indeed a silly ball game when played by grown men for money but a harmless recreation when played for enjoyment’.

        • Keith D

          I’m no lover of the obscene amounts these guys at the top of the game make. Particularly when we take into account the income of the average attender. I dont mean it can be a part of one’s soul, but in a world where our values are constantly being attacked, I think the game still makes up an important part of the national psyche.

          I enjoyed playing as a younger man, now I enjoy watching my team, who are by no means over paid prima donnas.

          • transponder

            Gotcha. Good clean fun, really.

  • Keith D

    Davy Moyes made mistakes for sure, but it was a poisoned chalice left him by SAF and his indolent players didn’t help.

    It says a lot about United that Ryan Giggs, a guy who’s eaten his brothers porridge, gets the job.

    • DaHitman

      What Giggs does off the pitch (right or wrong) should have no bearing on his job and experience on & off the pitch

      • sandfly

        Really, it does to me…but then I grew up watching the Busby Babes and when legends like Tom Finney, Stan Matthews and Nat Lofthouse were playing.

  • Simon Turner

    Try supporting Northampton Town at the moment. I am bricking my pants thinking about how important our next two games are.

    • richardowsley

      Well good luck to your team today Simon, I would dearly love Bristol Rovers to have the best new stadium in the Conference.

    • Latimer Alder

      We’re looking forward to seeing you guys at the Recreation Ground, Aldershot once again.

  • Mark McIntyre

    Some mug had to be the fall guy after Fergie – and it was one of his own (Scottish, Glaswegian, Working Class, Liebore supporting…) !
    The last such mug – Wilf McGuinness (Manager 1969-70).
    The eventual result – relegation – 1973-4 season.

    • AndrewMelville

      Ferguson learned his football at Rangers FC, while Moyes his at Celtic FC. Success: failure. Blue: green. Ferguson: Moyes. Yin: Yang. Light: Dark. Good: Evil.

      The way forward is obvious if ManUre wish return to the side of goodness and light.

  • Mind you Rod, a supporter of a League 2 club could easily write the same article about Millwall’s spolit brats throwing a succession of games over Christmas because they didn’t like our new manager either.

  • The Blue Baron

    “A team whose supporters seem to have no particular interest in football, just in winning stuff.”

    Usually Rod, it seems that there is some kind of a connection between the two.

    • harebell

      Not really
      Most Man Utd/ Real Madrid etc supporters just look at the results and give a “yes, we won” if they indeed did win. How they or their opponent played, wjho was in the team and how they dealt with adversity never enters into it. The first sentence is the interest in winning, the second requires an interest in football.

  • SteveJ

    Moyes wasn’t up to it. Most football fans knew it from the moment he was first appointed though most if not all pundits & journalists thought Moyes was a great choice. Moyes got found out and the players figured out quite quickly he wasn’t up to it.

    Man Utd should have appointed some one with a big personality to succeed Ferguson (Mourinho perhaps) not some timid mid-table manager who had never won anything.

    • John Drummond

      You must be joking, Moyes took a lowly and under financed team into potential Premier League challengers, as witnessed this season.
      He got a raw deal at Old Trafford. It never ceases to amaze me how it’s always the fault of the Manager never the players.

      • Cyril Sneer

        “It never ceases to amaze me how it’s always the fault of the Manager never the players.”

        Um for obvious reasons. So last season United won the league with pretty much the same players, this season United couldn’t even make a Champions League place.

        What has changed? The Manager.

  • David Lindsay

    I make no pretence to following football for its own sake. But I do believe in local patriotism.

    The grounds of football and other major sports clubs should be as they are in Italy, owned and run by their respective local councils.

    Both parties ought to be in no doubt as to who was in charge, as Newcastle City Council has singularly failed to be in recent years where the very name of St James’ Park has been concerned.

    While the clubs themselves should be as they are in Spain, proper clubs with the fans as their members who elect the board, and who can decline to re-elect it.

  • Minnooli

    Poor old Moyes only had ten months to make it all work. Poor sod.

    • Geoff

      True. But if he’s like the rest of us and only works so he can pay a load of bills then I don’t reckon he needs much sympathy.

  • JonBW

    Spot on.

    Unfortunately football has been stolen from us by people who think it’s about a) money, b) winning, and c) entertainment.

    It is really about a shared experience of grim monotony, interspersed with moments of ecstasy whose rarity accounts for the pleasure they generate. And it should be endured in a context of dereliction and discomfort sufficient to make us laugh at the stupidity we display in accepting it.

    But when you try to explain that to young people these days, they just don’t understand….

  • E Hart

    Well said. What is more, whoever happens to replace Moyes – and the list is thinning quicker Sir Bobby’s Charlton’s hair in gale on Turf Moor c.1963 – will still have to work with a squad and management that’s increasingly over the hill, deluded and presumptuous. The idea that Moyes is a mug is about to be disproved by his subsequent career and the next appointee to the poisoned chalice. If Sir Matt Busby was a hard act to follow, Sir Alex Ferguson will be well nigh impossible. Man Utd needs to temper expectation with realism.

    As an afterthought, one of the reasons why Moyes didn’t win anything at Everton was not because of his managerial capabilities. It came down to supply and demand. He hadn’t got the money to buy the players that could – and when they came up through the ranks (e.g. Wayne Rooney) – he couldn’t afford to keep them. Aside from the FA Cup, none of the smaller teams – unless there is a second coming of Cloughie or Ramsay – stands a chance of winning the Premiership. Even the Gooners, who think long term on players and finance (i.e. solvent), can’t afford to keep up with Man City, Chelsea, Man Utd and Liverpool.

  • rtj1211

    I guess you should invite all your rampantly gay media mates round to meet your academically minded son and they will tell you pretty clearly whether he has become gay to test your bigoted mind’s capability to love his son no matter what, eh??

  • Liz

    Football as news.

  • rtj1211

    Actually, it’s all the precious ponces in Asia who demand that Man Utd win every year. Apparently, they’ll all bugger off and support Liverpool now that they’re winning and Utd are shit. There’s apparently ‘only room for three clubs to support in Asia at any one time’ which makes having a league of 20 teams uniquely pointless, doesn’t it?!

    It’s all this shit about running football clubs as a profit-driven business, rather than a Community Asset or whatever the proper terminology is. Millwall was and presumably still is an excuse for one bunch of East London Yobs to beat up another lot (West Ham). Although beating up Leeds fans is probably more usual these days. I’m not quite sure who the violent ones will be if you end up in League One next year……

    To be fair to Man Utd fans (and Arsenal fans too), what they object to most are unaccountable owners making them pay £1bn for the privilege of the Glazers getting them to pay the bill for buying the club, not to mention Arsenal stockpiling £150m of cash in a high-inflation market, courtesy of charging Arsenal sky high prices to watch the side be a bunch of woofters against any team with top 6 pretensions (clearly Spurs didn’t match up to their own hype this years, did they?!) or designs on winning the champions league. Why the f*** should fans subsidise billionaire robber barons anyway?? I stopped doing that 3 years ago and am very happy that I did.

    • allymax bruce

      “Man Utd fans … what they object to
      most are unaccountable owners making them pay £1bn for the privilege of
      the Glazers getting them to pay the bill for buying the club,”

      About time the Man Utd fans wised-up to the usury-lot.

  • MikeF

    David Moyes was a fine manager for both Preston and Everton, but the fans of the former nevertheless became aware long ago that he could be somewhat hesitant in the transfer market – supposedly one of his key failings at Man Utd – and nicknamed him ‘dithering Dave’. As for Millwall they have never quite been the same since they moved from the claustrophobic surroundings of the old Den where their fans could create such an intimidating atmosphere to their new rather sterile ground – I once saw their fans start fighting each other at that former place in order to vent their frustration at the poor performance their team was putting in. Maybe Rod’s young lad would have enjoyed that rather more.

  • Cornelius Bonkers

    I’m with you on all of this Rod, but you failed to mention ex-players. I’m thinking especially of that tw.t with the blond rinse Robbie Savage. He was predicting the Giggs/Butt/etc takeover 3 weeks ago so I assume the knives were out for Moyes then and it was common knowledge “in the game”. It’s a bit like teachers trying to get down with the kids and failing, except that Moyes probably didn’t want to try hard enough. I saw Giggs on the TV tonight. What a smug little f..k.r. I know Moyes walks away with a wedge so we shouldn’t be too sorry for him. But who should we believe? I have no idea does anyone else?

  • DaHitman

    Moyes was no victim, the supporters were the victims because we knew Moyes was only good enough to keep a second rate Everton in the Premiership yet he was given the job of running the biggest sporting club in the world

    • Terry Field

      Surely you meant to say

      “Moyes weren’t no victim”
      The rest of you mindless tribal codswallop was not worth reading.
      Do TRY and get the english wrong – it adds to the football atmosphere of stupidity.

      • DaHitman

        We played our usual style last night without your boyfriend Moyes, the result speaks for itself numb nuts

        • Terry Field

          Thank you for your cretinous response – you prove my point about the stupidity of football types. ‘You’ played nobody last night – eleven little ‘warriors’ did – you sat and watched, belched, farted, ate junk food, swore with your ‘mates’, drank beer (one does, does one not), probably kicked the ‘partner’ (not wives anymore, now a lower form of life predominates )and undoubtedly pissed on the loo seat afterwards.
          Your silly sexualised comment puts you into the ineffective testosterone class (I bet you are fat and squat in an office and the office girls laugh at your bum crack).
          And your tiny little grey matter associates a ‘win’ with the ‘new manager’
          You are truly dead from the neck up.

          • DaHitman

            Well thank you for showing everyone that you are nothing more than an obtuse little schoolboy that knows nothing.

            The fact is Giggs does know more than Moyes, he was under Fergie for 25yrs and last nights match seen the old United back, cretin

          • Terry Field

            I note you are not capable of a reply that contains wit, humour or relevance.
            What you and your little friends do with your little ball is, really , of little consequence.
            I do not care about your silly tribal world; it is a front for a natural inadequate.

          • DaHitman

            If you want wit I’d suggest you look in the mirror. You need to get a life instead of trolling

  • Terry Field

    Interviews with footballers and their ‘managers’ is always good fun. The interview starts with ‘What is your plan for the match’, and the answer is usually along the lines of ‘we are going to kick the ball’; then the interviewer will ask about ‘strategy’ – he likes the word, it makes the interview sound of enhanced value. The question of ‘what is the strategy to be employed in the game’ is then answered by the player or manager with the response ‘we are going to kick the ball HARD’
    Why is it like this every saturday morning on the telly?
    These people are not the sharpest knives in the draw.
    A visit to the hallowed boxes and dining venues of the top football clubs is to dive into a particular subset of male, testosterone-encrusted, simple-minded and ‘cadre- formed mutually-supoorting ‘good-old-boys’ who like
    Nattering about balls
    Feeling significant
    Thinking only slightly.
    Following the ‘tribal warriors’
    Betting on when the ‘manager’ will be fired.

    And what does a football ‘manager’ do?

    Tells the warriors to ‘kick the ball’
    The tells them to ‘kick it hard’


    WHo knows or cares; makes not a blind bit of difference..

    And all those children who traipse onto the pitch in the hands of the ‘warriors’
    What the hell is that all about?
    Sophisicated marketing to the next generation, obviously.

    Deep stuff.

    Ah yes Moyes; He had to go; stands to reason.


    He’s for us!

    More beer, chaps (chaps?!?, what is this Cricket?)

  • Cyril Sneer

    Moyes inherited a league winning team albeit getting somewhat long in the tooth.

    He spent over 70m on two players, neither of which have made much impact.

    We play badly, he fails to achieve a CL place.

    United was right to sack, and wrong to appoint him in the first place. The man has no big club track records, minimal CL experience.

    Moyes was simply under qualified and not good enough to manage a big club.