Deadline day ends David Moyes’s honeymoon at Manchester United

6 Comments

If David Moyes wasn’t so respected, people would be talking about his team’s last two performances.  After 11 years at Goodison, though, Moyes had earned most people’s benefit of the doubt. Others may have been assuaged by his role as Alex Ferguson’s hand-picked successor. Regardless, Moyes had enough cachet to defuse debate. Only a handful of people wondered aloud whether Ferguson would have found a way to get full points last Monday or if Manchester United would have been held at arm’s length at Anfield were Ferguson still coaching.

But United’s first three games, as a whole, have been underwhelming, particularly considering only Paul Scholes is absent from the squad that won last year’s Premier League. The opening night victory at Swansea was impressive in totality, questionable in parts, but followup performances against Chelsea and Liverpool were uninspiring. If it wasn’t for what now seems like a honeymoon period, people would be openly debating whether the conservative tendencies that served Moyes so well at Everton have already cost him points at Manchester United.

It’s not exactly a fireable offense. Far from it. Throughout the corse of a season, most managers make decisions that cost their teams points. The best eventually make up for it with their good calls. Regardless, we discuss those performances, particularly when the manager in questions is running the most famous club in England. And while there have been some critiques of Moyes’s first three games, they’ve been meek. If he hasn’t gotten an outright pass, he’s at least received the benefit of the doubt.

That’s the context for Monday’s debacle. Given how disappointed Manchester United fans will be, it’s difficult to see that benefit of the doubt lasting, even if Ed Woodward (United’s executive vice chairman) deserves some of the blame. In the face of the Ander Herrera embarrassment, the inability to get Fabio Coentrao’s paperwork sorted out, having to pay over Marouane Fellaini’s original buyout, as well as the failed fixations on Cesc Fábregas and Leighton Baines, United’s transfer window reads like a list of failures neophyte management would make at their first clubs. It’s certainly not the type window fans are used to.

source: APManchester United, at a minimum, is well-run. They’re usually decisive. They’re usually effective. When they decide to do something, it usually gets done. Question their years without buying a midfielder, wonder why they paid too much for Dimitar Berbatov, or what they’re doing buying players like Bebe. Their judgment wasn’t always impeccable, but under Ferguson and David Gill, they were able to do what they wanted.

Sometimes it was unfair, almost to the point of being ruthless. The price they paid for Robin van Persie was so cheap opposing teams’ fans complained the system was biased. When they sold Cristiano Ronaldo, they got 41.3 percent more than the previous world transfer record – a huge, almost inexplicable leap. They even got under Daniel Levy’s skin in the Berbatov deal, frustrating the Spurs chairman with a last-minute (albeit expensive) swoop. Add in their 13 titles in 21 seasons, and at least within the British Isles, United tends to get what they want.

Now, in their first transfer window without Gill and Ferguson, that’s all changed. Now the club’s negotiating with phantom agents in Spain. They’re getting played by Bill Kenwright. They spend most of the summer drooling over a midfielder who’s only two years into his tenure at his hometown club, and given the chance to get a Portuguese international who wants away from Real Madrid, they’re undone by administrative errors. Though United eventually landed Fellaini, Woodward and Moyes’s first window is destined to be defined by their failures.

This is not what United fans are used to. They’re not used to seeing Arsenal land Mesut Ozil and Spurs spend around $150 million while they’re left frustrated. They’re not used to being out-foxed by Everton or being undone or seeing the type of paperwork errors that befall clubs embarrass their team. That these are new management’s first major decisions leaves fans right to wonder whether the last three weeks are the aberration or the rule.

The razor-thin silver lining to this mess: Manchester United’s last two, tepid results are now an afterthought. But when the team returns to the field on Sept. 14, the honeymoon will be over. The frustration, embarrassment, and lack of confidence emanating from Monday’s failures mean the benefit of the doubt is gone. On field performance and off field decisions are entirely different things, but with United fans thrown into a new, unfamiliar state of doubt, they won’t give their new manager pass. Not anymore.

Between fake agents, paper work problems, and being forced to pay above a player’s buyout, Manchester United had one of the most memorable deadline days of all time. Don’t expect Red Devils’ fans to forget it any time soon.

La Liga: Real Madrid win wild one, now just 17 points behind Barca

Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images
Leave a comment

A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: Barcelona ties club-record 31-game unbeaten run ]

Real Betis 3-5 Real Madrid

So long as they manage to hold off Sevilla for fourth place (Champions League qualification), Real Madrid will quickly move on from their disastrous 2017-18 season, spend a half-billion dollars in the summer and pretend like the 12 preceding months never even happened.

For a brief period on Saturday — nearly 30 minutes including the halftime intermission — that plan appeared fatally flawed and at risk. After going 1-0 up away to Real Betis courtesy of Marco Asensio’s 11th-minute opener, Los Blancos found themselves in big trouble after Aissa Mandi leveled things up in the 33rd minute, followed by a Nacho own goal four minutes later.

Five minutes into the second half, Sergio Ramos drew the visitors level, followed by another from Asensio in the 59th minute. Cristiano Ronaldo made it 4-2 six minutes later, at which point Madrid appeared home free.

Sergio Leon pulled Betis to within one in the 85th minute, but Karim Benzema restored the two-goal lead in the 91st, less than two minutes after replacing Ronaldo.

Atletico Madrid 2-0 Athletic Bilbao

With Barcelona still unbeaten on the La Liga season, the title is all but decided with more than three months still to play. That hasn’t stopped Atleti, though, as Diego Simeone’s side, which has lost just once in the league, continues to pursue Lionel Messi and Co. Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao moved Los Rojiblancos back to within seven points of Barca with a dozen games, and one head-to-head matchup, still to play.

Kevin Gameiro scored what turned out to be the winner in the 67th minute, followed not long after by Diego Costa‘s second league goal of the season (fourth in all competitions) to make it 2-0.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Real Sociedad 3-0 Levante
Espanyol 1-1 Villarreal

VAR provider apologizes for wrong image of offside Man Utd goal

Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Whether or not you’re in favor of the use of video-assistant refereeing the world over — and, more specifically, English soccer — one thing on which we can all agree has become abundantly clear: VAR’s maiden voyage has been a chaotic, poorly conducted mess.

[ MORE: Jose Mourinho demands VAR calls be “perfect” ]

Any change to the game’s century-old rules and practices — especially of VAR’s monumental proportions — must be implemented and executed without a hitch. Any issues that had arisen prior to this weekend were minor in significance and import, but that all changed on Saturday, when Manchester United’s Juan Mata had a goal wiped away by VAR (WATCH HERE).

Mata appeared to have timed his run perfectly and been onside before slotting home to put Man United 2-0 ahead of Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup fifth round. After consulting the off-site video assistant, the goal was taken off the board. While the slightest bit of Mata’s knee appeared to have been in an offside position, the issue lies in the fact that the images provided to television broadcasters, by VAR provider Hawkeye, displayed a clearly crooked line of demarcation.

[ MORE: Man Utd draw Brighton in FA Cup QF; Chelsea get Leicester ]

Hawkeye issued a statement on Sunday, acknowledging and apologizing for the faulty image provided to broadcasters, but insisted that a correct version of the image was seen by the refereed:

“A technical error led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawkeye to BT Sport on Saturday. To confirm, the VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologize.”

In the end, by the most stringent interpretation of the law, VAR got the call correct. But that won’t matter one iota in the court of public opinion, as one mistake as simple as a crooked line gives the impression that the entire operation is haphazard and not fit for practice.

Juventus suffers blow with apparent Higuain injury

Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The back-and-forth battle at the top of Serie A continued on Sunday as Juventus topped Torino at the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino, however, the visitors suffered a big injury scare in the process.

[ MORE: Man United draws Brighton, Chelsea gets Leicester in FA Cup ]

Alex Sandro‘s winner came in the 33rd minute, but the focus of the match will leave all eyes on Gonzalo Higuain — who exited after just a quarter of an hour.

The Argentine international was looking to latch onto a through ball from Miralem Pjanic in the fifth minute, before jumping over an oncoming Salvatore Sirigu — goalkeeper for Torino.

Higuain appeared to land awkwardly on his ankle, though, and while he attempted to continue on in the match he was substituted off for Federico Bernardeschi 10 minutes later.

The extent of Higuain’s injury is unknown to this point, however, it comes at a very bad time for Juventus.

The Italian giants are heavily involved in the Serie A title race, holding a two-point lead over Napoli at the top of the table.

Additionally, Juve has important fixtures coming up in both the Coppa Italia and Champions League against Atalanta and Tottenham, respectively. Higuain and Co. are level at 2-2 with Spurs heading into their UCL second leg in early March, and Juve will surely need the striker’s presence to have a shot at advancing to the quarterfinals.

Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham: Davies stuns Spurs late

Twitter/@BBCSport
Leave a comment

A valiant effort from a League One side has rewarded the minnows with a replay set to be played at Wembley Stadium.

Tottenham Hotspur looked on its way towards the FA Cup sixth round on Sunday, but a late finish by Steven Davies gave Rochdale a 2-2 draw with the Premier League club at the Spotland Stadium.

[ MORE: Willian stars as Chelsea routs Hull in FA Cup ]

Harry Kane — who scored his 34th goal on the season in all competitions — converted from the penalty spot in the 88th minute, however, Davies had the final say deep into stoppage time to send the two sides towards a replay.

Ian Henderson’s finish in the 45th minute gave Rochdale a gift at the conclusion of the first stanza, after the hosts capitalized on a Spurs giveaway near midfield.

Meanwhile, Tottenham managed to level the match at 1-1 on the hour mark when Lucas Moura calmly slotted his close-range shot past goalkeeper Josh Lillis after a timely through ball from Moussa Sissoko picked out the former PSG man.

The visitors began pressing on in the second half, with Mauricio Pochettino‘s side having trailed at the halftime break.

The two sides will now meet on either Feb. 27 or 28 in the reverse fixture to decide which team advances. The winner will either meet Sheffield Wednesday or Swansea City in the quarterfinals.