This season. This fucking season. As we reach the final couple of weeks it’s now become clear that Moyesageddon was only a precursor to the main kick in the bollocks: Liverpool are going to win the league. Shanks looking down, Stevie G, Suarez’s rebirth, Brendan Rodgers, class and dignity, justice at last, back on their perch… just switch off now and avoid contact with everyone and everything until August.
I’m not sure how this has happened. They finished 7th last season and Rodgers was something of a laughing stock to everyone outside of the red half of Merseyside. I predicted he’d get another year before being found out and hounded out of the place, Hodgson-style. Suarez was desperate to leave, Gerrard was creaking, Carragher had retired… they were just a mix of flop signings, average journeymen, a couple of promising kids and Suarez. A Champions League spot looked beyond them, never mind actually winning it.
Yet here we are. Rodgers has left his fat wife and had his teeth done, they’ve scored 96 goals (one for each angel) at the time of writing and won 11 league games on the bounce. Since the realisation dawned it was a possibility, I’ve been clinging to the hope that once the pressure of being in sight took hold, they might crack. Instead, Chelsea and City have been so generous in chucking points away that it looks like Liverpool are going to win it with games to spare. No nerves, no gut-wrenching fear, no fixture congestion – just a steady procession to the title.
Rather than endure any 1992-style heartbreak, it appears they’ve wisely fast forwarded to 1993. They’ve got that momentum United had back then, where everything has aligned and neatly fallen into place. Gerrard, whether you can stomach the comparison or not, is their Bryan Robson. Suarez, despite being a hateful shit, possesses the same potent mix of genius and lunacy as Eric Cantona. Obviously I can’t stand him, but he’s an absolutely brilliant footballer – the standout player in the league this year by a mile. I don’t rate Liverpool as a great side, but why should that bother them? United won it last season and we weren’t a great side either.
If Liverpool do win it, it’ll be richly deserved. Yes, Rodgers is a Brent-esque buffoon, but he’s absolutely perfect for them and knows exactly what buttons to press. He’s all sentimentality and syrupy rhetoric, referencing their past at every opportunity whilst bigging-up the fans and their knowledge and their sportsmanship and their influence and their humble nature etc etc. He’s clearly a skilled coach who knows his way round a training pitch, but he’s proving himself a skilled manager too. Rodgers understands the scousers’ love of self-aggrandising bullshit and their inherent sense of moral superiority – and he’s got the whole place in awe of him at present. It doesn’t really matter that he’s talking bollocks as long as everyone is listening and believing in him.
Which brings us to David Moyes… to whom people are still listening, although believers are becoming scarcer by the day. Indeed, as I’m writing this, news is breaking that his departure will likely be announced within hours. It comes as no great surprise. The last few weeks have just been a continuation of what we’ve witnessed all season – mostly miserable, punctuated with the odd decent performance when the opposition isn’t up to much. The Bayern tie ended up exactly as anticipated (soundly beaten) and his much heralded return to Goodison resulted in another predictably meek showing. We really can’t go on like this.
I’m not sure why the feeling in pubs or internet message boards or day-to-day conversations hasn’t led to vocal dissent at the match. Is it just pigheadedness or drunkeness or are people genuinely expecting things to improve over the next few months? The team don’t look like they’re improving, they look like they’re going backwards. Players don’t look like they are playing for the manager, they look like they are playing in spite of the manager. There’s no confidence and no belief. All this ’20 times, 20 times’ nonsense is really starting to grate too; we took the piss out of the scousers for years for their ‘we won it 5 times’ comfort blanket bleating – is that what we’ve been reduced to? ’20 times’ has become the soundtrack to our downfall. ‘Playing football the Matt Busby way’? Yeah right, if only.
I was never comfortable with the Moyes appointment and said as much in this column before he was handed the job. There were better options available and I didn’t agree with the reasons given against other key candidates – all proven winners who happened not to be Scottish. Looking back, it’s quite insane how (if we are to believe the account in his book) Ferguson was virtually given carte blanche in appointing his own successor. It’s absolutely crackers. Was anyone else even short listed? Why was no one else interviewed?
That said, I was quite prepared to give Moyes time. He said straight away that changes needed to be made, which at the time was really encouraging given that Fergie trotted out the “very happy with the squad” line every time the ongoing lack of investment was questioned. He was serious, grounded and clearly not versed in making extravagant claims or outlandish gestures. Okay, there was very little stardust there, or irreverence or mischief – qualities that Ferguson relied upon time and time again. Life under Moyes was always going to be a little more dour and methodical, that’s just his nature.
The hope was that in time, he would grow into the job and start to look and sound more like a Manchester United manager. The reality, however, is that the exact opposite has occurred. As I’ve said before, it’s not the results that have hurt so much this season, it’s the manager’s doleful reaction to them. As time has gone on, Moyes has appeared more and more defeatist in his media briefings – everything appears to be about lowering, as opposed to increasing expectations.
As supporters, we don’t need to be reminded that we’ve ‘enjoyed the Champions league experience’. Champions League football has been a minimum expectation here for the last 20 years. A successful campaign is not qualifying for the Champions League, it’s WINNING the Champions League… and the Premier League. That is the benchmark and what we should be looking towards doing every single season. We are not Newcastle, or Aston Villa or Everton. Failing to qualify this year shouldn’t be seen as a disappointment, it should be seen as a complete fucking catastrophe.
Nobody is demanding that we win every single game or win titles every year – we’re not stupid and we know football doesn’t work like that. What we should demand is a manager who has the ability to confound, inspire and bring people together – and we’ve not seen anything like that from Moyes over the last 9 months. Something needs to change. By the time you read this, it probably already has.
Enjoy the hibernation period, it’s going to be a long summer…
Copyright Red News – April 2014