DAVID Moyes has taken on an “impossible job” at Manchester United, Alan Stubbs said yesterday, but the Everton coach has not given up hope of his former manager negotiating a path through the minefield in which he finds himself.
It is only natural to feel sympathy for Moyes. The offer of managing Manchester United was not one that any right-thinking individual would turn down, and if the Glaswegian has made mistakes after stepping up to work in an environment where serial success is anticipated, he is not the first to have done so.
Stubbs, who played under Moyes at Everton before he appointed him reserve-team manager, has such admiration for his capabilities that he believes any critic who has labelled Moyes unfit for Old Trafford is an unqualified judge. Even after a 3-0 home defeat by Liverpool. “David Moyes is a top manager,” said Stubbs, who was at The Carrick on Loch Lomond for the John Hartson Foundation golf day. “People who want to question him are doing it because they don’t know what they’re talking about. He’s having a tough time at the moment and he’s just got to try and ride this storm. “Whenever things like this go wrong it’s very easy to point the finger at one person, but there’s a squad of 25, 26 people at the club who have to take blame for it as well. It’s not just David Moyes’s fault. United are in transition whether people like that or not.
“I know they won the league last year and people will look to that fact, but this was inevitable, what’s happening now. David Moyes unfortunately for him is the one who has been tasked with turning it around. To replace someone like Alex Ferguson is the impossible job. He’s just got to keep his head down, hopefully this will turn, bring in new players and hopefully turn this into a David Moyes team.”
Moyes’ task looks like it will only get tougher over the next week with next Tuesday’s Manchester derby at Old Trafford following tonight’s Champions League return against Olympiakos, who come to Manchester holding a 2-0 advantage, and Saturday’s trip to West Ham.
Asked how long he expected United’s patience with Ferguson’s elected successor to last, the former Celtic defender said: “That’s not my decision. I’m sure the press will have a part to play in that. Obviously the board are going to have to be strong and ultimately it will be their decision.
“When you have a club that’s as big as Manchester United and is dictated to by stock markets, that has a bearing on it as well. But for me he’s got to be given time. He’s got to have another transfer window in August and then time to see how those new players settle in. Then I think you can judge him. But you know and I know what football’s like. It can be a very ruthless game and I hope he’s given time.
“I look at what people are saying – that the next three games are going to be the defining moments. But if it it’s going to be a battle, he’s the right person because David Moyes isn’t going to run away from this. He’s going to meet it head on. He’s not going to duck any situation. That’s David Moyes. What you see is what you get.”
Yesterday’s event was flush with football celebrities, with Old Firm managers Neil Lennon and Ally McCoist joined on the course by Martin O’Neill, Ian Wright, Frank McAvennie and a host of retired former team-mates and friends of Hartson. Stubbs, having won his own battle with testicular cancer, was not just part of the supporting cast but a living embodiment of why the “ruthless” disease must be tackled.
But he also spent time talking about the professional challenge that confronts him now. “I’m looking now for the right opportunity,” said Stubbs, whose progress at Everton may have been compromised by Duncan Ferguson being fast-tracked to the role of first-team coach. “I could have gone in before now but didn’t feel as if it was the right job because I’m very conscious of my first job not being my last. It has got to be right.
“You see a lot of ex-managers and ex-players, who jump in very quickly and it goes wrong. I’ve tried to make sure I’ve done it right, I’ve done all my badges and I’ve had five years as a reserve-team coach. I feel as if I’m ready now to take the step to the next stage.”