London – Devotees of the American drama Breaking Bad can, if they wish, show their esteem for its charismatic lead character by buying T-shirts asking: ‘What would Walter White do?’
In Manchester they have their own twist this season. What would Sir Alex Ferguson do?
They asked it at half time on Sunday as Manchester United rolled over in their neighbours’ backyard. They asked it in regard to David Moyes’ team selection ahead of this game. No doubt they will keep asking it until Moyes has the team he inherited from the first knight of Govan sitting back on top of the Barclays Premier League.
Early in the season, United’s core support even had a song, belted out to the tune of Slade’s 1973 standard Cum on Feel the Noize. ‘Come on David Moyes, Play like Fergie’s boys’ was how it went.
That one seems to have faded from the repertoire already and perhaps it’s just as well. Persistent references to Ferguson and his glories will not help the new United manager as he attempts to impose his identity on his club and his team.
It is pointless asking the question anyway really, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter what Ferguson would have done. He is already part of United’s past.
Moyes has been appropriately respectful when asked about his predecessor. The first question landed early in his introductory press conference in July. The latest came on Tuesday when Moyes was asked if he had spoken to Ferguson since Sunday’s disaster across town.
Interestingly, Moyes said he hadn’t. Ferguson was at his bolt hole in New York over the weekend and wasn’t at Old Trafford on Wednesday night. Perhaps that, for now, is for the best. Previous managers at both clubs playing on Wednesday have suffered from life in the shadows of their predecessors. They can be devilishly difficult to escape.
Last week Ferguson appeared on United’s in-house TV station to speak about Wayne Rooney – a ploy to give Moyes a helpful nudge or an act of vanity by a man not used to weeks out of the spotlight? The likelihood is that it was the former but whether it was as helpful as Ferguson would have imagined is very much open to question.
In a month, there will be a book. Ferguson’s second autobiography is arguably the most eagerly awaited piece of sports literature since his first 13 years ago – and with good reason.
When it appears, Ferguson will be writ large in newsprint once again. There is a press conference on publication day and there is a theatre tour. Once again, comparisons with Moyes will be sought and made.
Until then, Moyes must be allowed to manage his way.
Hanging between the upper and lower tier of the Stretford End last night was a banner depicting an image of Moyes and the words ‘The Chosen One’.
Even that has connotations of Ferguson, given it was he who effectively chose him. But we will let that slide for now. It is a nice touch and one that Moyes perhaps will have appreciated as he looked out at some pretty persistent Liverpool attacking at that end during the first half.
There were only derogatory songs from the Liverpool end about Moyes until belated chants of “David Moyes’ red and white army” rang out.
Apart from an opening day win at Swansea and last week’s Champions League disposal of Bayer Leverkusen, United’s performances have left some fans twitchy. Hence the increased significance of this game in the eyes of many.
By rights, United should have been behind at half time. Moyes, as it happens, picked exactly the kind of team Ferguson would have picked (apologies for that), considerably below full strength but still strong enough to deal with an improved Liverpool team that can still look a little one-dimensional.
Asking Rooney not only to play but also to captain the team was a shrewd move by his manager. Since his return from injury, the United striker – handled brilliantly by Moyes in the summer – has been United’s only consistently impressive player.
Even he couldn’t infuse his team-mates with any real zest for large parts of last night, however. Against an energetic Liverpool side, United were lacking in shape and ideas until Javier Hernandez was allowed to score unmarked in the first minute of the second half.
Moyes had been honest on Tuesday in suggesting his team are a little short of quality. Although that rather contradicted what he had said pre-season, it was nevertheless a sign of a manager finding his feet and the confidence to be starkly honest. It was a good sign.
On the field, things are moving slowly. on Wednesday night United benefited from opposition who proved hopeless in front of goal. It is not surprising, therefore, that some anxiety hangs in the Stretford air at the moment.
But they are a club who need to look only forwards, no matter what happens. What would Sir Alex do? Frankly, who cares? – Daily Mail