Cliffhanger Moyes Needs Time

That grand dame of English football, the FA Cup, may have lost her looks but she’s still capable of turning heads from time to time. Swansea’s third round victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford was another twinkle of the old girl’s eye, coming as it did hot on the stiletto heels of West Ham’s annihilation at Nottingham Forest. It’s at such times you look at the cup and remember why we all fancied her so much in the old days.

David Moyes may take a slightly dimmer view of course. Half a season into the impossible job and he’s finding out first hand just how much the British love destroying those who get above their station. At times you can’t make out where the greater hostility is being directed – towards him (Evertonians, who once called him the ‘Moyssiah’ – they should know, they’ve followed a few – now hate his guts), or his club (never particularly popular outside of the home counties). Many happily delight in the discomfort of both.

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Yes the FA Cup still has a lingering power to seduce and humiliate, albeit we’ve had to get used to a general diminution of her potency and numerous name changes over recent years. The introduction of sponsorship in the mid 1990s has seen the face of the nation’s darling change as often as Doctor Who regenerates but she’s still big enough to be known simply as ‘the cup’ and I’m not going to start typing The FA Cup with Budweiser as the corporate suits would have it.

But the woes at Old Trafford go far deeper than falling victim to a one-off attack of the femme fatales. It has to be said that David Moyes, the man who stepped into the fabled shoes of Sir Alex Ferguson, the footballing Time Lord himself, is looking less and less like David Tennant and more like Sylvester McCoy (Sylvester McMoyes?). United have even fallen victim to numerous last minute goals this season – a kind of reverse polarity Fergie-time if you will. Perhaps Moyes needs to get his sonic screwdriver out? They’ve now lost five times at home this season, an unthinkable statistic, but with a place in the last sixteen of the Champions League to come perhaps things are not so grim? Well, only if they continue to progress. With such abject domestic form, being knocked out before the European semi-finals will represent dismal failure all round.

Much effort is made to pointing out that Ferguson himself endured a difficult first few seasons at the helm back in the 1980s but this misses a more telling point. Ferguson was taking United from a far lowlier position. Moyes, in contrast, has inherited a team of champions. However, it would be instructive to recall that Liverpool’s Bob Paisley faced similarly impossible odds when he took charge of the Reds in 1974 following Bill Shankly’s resignation. Nothing was won in that first season though the fans and the board kept faith with their man and the rest is history.

Perhaps United fans should remember that Moyes was the suggested appointment of Sir Alex, as Paisley was the recommendation of Shankly. Patience is surely required. In the meantime and if you don’t mind, the rest of the country will enjoy the fall from grace, as United’s new time lord grapples with the controls of the Old Trafford tardis and gets bitch slapped in the cup. It’s going to be a cliffhanger for David Moyes. Saturday evenings haven’t been so entertaining in years.

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