Unbearably smug at times and plain wrong at others, Savage has nonetheless raised an important point about the mediocrity that needs to be culled from Manchester United
If this morning’s reports are to be believed, Manchester United are lining up a bid to bring Paul Pogba back to the club he left in 2012, a decision that Real Madrid director Zinedine Zidane called Sir Alex Ferguson’s “biggest mistake as manager”. David Moyes, for his part, will be biting his nails over Pogba and praying that this January transfer window isn’t anywhere near as disastrous as the debacle over the summer when Manchester United signed only Marouane Fellaini and young Uruguayan Guillermo Varela.
If United were to prise Pogba back from Juventus, which certainly isn’t anywhere near guaranteed, it would immediately inject a level of talent currently completely absent from the Manchester United midfield. A midfield which was the main target of a typically confident piece from BBC pundit Robbie Savage, who included Nani, Anderson, Ryan Giggs, Tom Cleverley, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young in a list of 12 United players who he thinks shown be shown the door with immediate effect.
Much has been said about the extent to which Moyes is to blame for United’s poor season. Is he a poor manager of a poor squad, or a good manager of a poor squad? It’s been suggested that he has had little to work with left to him by Sir Alex Ferguson, with a squad that effectively won the title by default last season due to the aggressive mediocrity of the competition. But the towering performances of Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo at Manchester City, the emerging consistency of Eden Hazard and Oscar at Chelsea and the rebirth of Arsenal have shown that squad to be what it was – average at best.
Those young enough to remember will recall one of Alex Ferguson’s bravest decisions – the firesale in the summer of 1995 which saw club stalwarts Mark Hughes, Paul Ince and Andrei Kanchelskis cut loose from the club to make way for the emergence of the ‘Class of ’92’. No one is saying David Moyes has anything near that level of young talent ready to unseat the old timers of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand et al., but it is an idea that could perhaps be considered by Moyes. At the very least he needs to blow out the chaff that currently makes no contribution – Savage is right that Anderson and Nani should be the first names that spring to mind.
There are names on Savage’s list that should certainly not go anywhere – Javier Hernandez, for example, brings goals when needed, but might actually have to be convinced to stay before long – but he’s right when he says it’s time for a general overhaul. Moyes, who has a six-year contract, asked to be judged after two. If he really wants to free himself from Sir Alex Ferguson’s legacy, he should rid himself of the players who defined his predecessor’s last few years. The senior citzens (Patrice Evra included) are not the players they were two or three years ago. Adnan Januzaj on the other hand – that’s someone you can start to build a team around.
It’s about patience and a long term plan for Moyes. Ferguson was successful because he overhauled a dated and expiring culture at the club – there is another one now, albeit without the drinking. If the new manager wants to start building a new side after 26 years, and carve out a legacy for himself in the process, he needs to start by making some decisions that rival the bravery that heralded the coming of Fergie’s Fledgings.