Moyes is one of a handful of managers to be sacked by the Glazer family recently

David Moyes has joined a list of sports coaches to be sacked by the Glazer family in recent years.

The Scot, who lasted just 10 months in the Old Trafford hot seat, can take some comfort that Jon Gruden, Raheem Morris and Greg Schiano, have all suffered a similar fate to him – but as coaches of Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Buccaneers, owned by the Glazers, play American Football in the NFL at their stadium in Tampa, Florida.

Three of the club’s coaches have been sacked in the last four years.

Jon Gruden won the historic Super Bowl during seven successful seasons at the helm but was axed when the Bucs, as they are known, failed to make the play-offs in 2009.

According to the American press, the breaking point in his reign came after four straight losses.

Defensive Bucs coach Raheem Morris took over from Gruden but only lasted two seasons – again because neither campaign resulted in the team making the play-offs.

The bullet was fired at him in January 2012 which led to the appointment of Greg Schiano.

The Glazer family needed Schiano - just like they needed Moyes to secure United’s passage into next season’s Champions League – to gain entry into the play-offs.

He failed amid speculation that he had lost the faith of his players during a two season spell in charge.

More telling though, was the fact Schiano spent $140 million to buy three new players, and things still didn’t work the way the Glazers expected.

It is hard to compare two different clubs playing two different sports.

But it is easier to compare them when both businesses have the same owners.

David Moyes’s first purchase as Manchester United manager was an 11th hour close to £30m deal for Marouane Fellaini.

It has been a seriously sub-standard buy and has coincided with a season were every target required of Moyes and his players have been missed.

So with money on the table to bolster United’s squad this summer, it is maybe Schiano’s recent failings coupled with a number of below par United performances, that has led to the Glazers not being able to trust Moyes with more of their hard earned millions.

Pies, peas and Potter: My day as a football scout

IT started with a text message.

At a loss for something to do on Saturday afternoon after Oldham had called off their recent match against MK Dons (yes, we do have three internationals) I thought I’d ask the manager, Lee Johnson, which game he thought would be a good one to go and watch given that he was responsible for my predicament.

I was half-joking so you can imagine my surprise when the reply came back: “You can do some scouting for us if you want.”

After enquiring as to whether he was serious I was told that I would be sent to a nearby non-league game along with a member of club staff to watch a player he had been monitoring.

In true, Football Manager-style, I would be given a list of things to look out for and report back on. I won’t disclose the formula here but let’s just say it was a lot to take in.

What followed was one of the best football experiences I have had in a very long time.

Imagine if the Phoenix Club, in Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights, had it’s own team and you’ll get the idea.

The ground itself was worthy of its own story. Nestled behind stone cottages and a pub amid a gloomy backdrop of Pennine hills it featured one turnstile, a covered stand for about 100 and it’s own social pub (Wales v Argentina on the telly – no Sky).

The perimeter boards advertised local takeaways and taxi firms rather than McDonald’s and Emirates and a tiny kitchen dispensed steaming trays of pie and peas while plenty of the couple of hundred who had gathered clutched pints of cask ale in full view of the pitch.

As if that wasn’t enough to make a Premier League safety officer drop his (or her) clipboard an old dear with a foldaway Zimmer Frame sparked up a fag shortly before kick-off and chain-smoked their way through the next 90 minutes.

Nobody said a word.

In keeping with the Phoenix Nights theme the star of the show was the home side’s very own Brian Potter-alike number one fan. An outstanding gentleman who pulled up his electric wheelchair at the front of the stand and then held court with a hilariously scathing running commentary.

His acerbic wit knew no bounds. A visiting striker, unfortunate enough to take a legitimate tumble in front of our man, got the brunt of it. “Tom Daley you,” he roared, before referring to him as the teen diver for the rest of the game.

The man in the middle also copped his fair share. His first questionable decision was greeted with “Minus five for you, ref”. By the time the match had ended it was up to minus 120.

International weekend had bolstered the gate to double its normal size and at half-time I was told I would have to wait for my pie because they had run out. I took a stroll around to the tiny terrace (there were no fences blocking my path) to behind the goal where youth team players stood abusing the substitutes as they pinged shots desperately wide. 

I caught snippets of conversations. One lad was describing in gleeful detail what he had got up to with a girl he had met at the pub the night before. Another group were talking about a scrap they’d seen. Without a barking police dog or a jobsworth steward in sight It was about as far removed from the sanitised, stale Premier League experience as you can get.

The highlight though, came in the second-half when Tom Daley went down again. Quick as a flash Potter, who moved his joystick to ensure his chair kept up with play, screeched: “It’s Strictly Come Diving this.” Five point nine for you, sir.

As for the target he faded after a bright start. Worth another look, I wrote, for fear my novice judgement might come back to bite me on the backside.

But if truth be told the real shining lights, on a faith-restoring afternoon, were those who who sat in the ramshackle stand and and stood on the crumbling terrace.

Their self-deprecating humour and willingness not to take anything too seriously showed me a side of football that refuses to die in this country – and that alone is as worthy of more credit than any pampered Prima Donna.

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Fellaini in centre midfield is a curse and Moyes must break the spell

“I feel sorry for him,” said Phil Jagielka, following Everton’s 1-0 win over Manchester United on Wednesday.

Jagielka was talking and almost comforting his former manager David Moyes, the man who’d just witnessed his United side undone late by a courageous and clinical Everton.

Following that crushing defeat a silence swept its way across Old Trafford and spread into a worried red half of Manchester.

But many have long been talking about the good, the bad and the ugly of Moyes’ time on the Old Trafford throne so far.

And I’m sure people firmly believe the job – handed to him by Sir Alex Ferguson – was going to be a curse of some kind. Because how could he better what his fellow Glasweigan had achieved.

But the job wasn’t and isn’t a curse. It’s an opportunity and one, for the most part, that Moyes looks to be enjoying and relishing, most notably during and after United’s 1-0 victory over table topping Arsenal.

However, I firmly believe the Scot has created his own curse, one that only he can break.

After his Everton backroom staff jumped aboard Moyes’ United ship in spring, a tricky summer in the transfer market, without the expertise of David Gill, followed.

Midfield talents were pursued, many of who could be associated with United’s greatness. But none came to pass. Not Moyes’ fault, certainly not.

On deadline day however, Moyes agreed to pay a seriously inflated price – one of the club’s most expensive ever player purchases - for Belgian footballer Marouane Fellaini.

‘That was strange, maybe a mistake’, many thought, but….  ’hey, maybe he’ll cause some trouble, and give United something different up top when and if he plays’.

Fellaini hasn’t played even close to the forward line as of yet. In fact, the curse of the purchase has only deepened.

Moyes has insisted on playing Fellaini in the pivotal central midfield role, asking the man he so often played at number 10 for Everton, to effectively be both an offensive play-maker and defensive guard in United’s ranks.

Anyone who knows about football will know that only a seriously good player can fulfil such expectations, especially consistently at a top club.

Sadly for United followers, the team has been exposed too often, with Fellaini neither attacking with purpose or defending with assurance. I’m all for giving people a chance, but it’s almost too late. More than anything Fellaini cuts a lost figure playing in the wrong position, surrounded by a circle of players who are in the right positions.

Fellaini’s inclusion in the first eleven, in the centre of midfield, has added up to draws and losses and only one win, against a timid Bayer Leverkusen at Old Trafford.

Against Everton on Wednesday evening, United were truly exposed, and at times desperately lacking control.

It resulted in Everton’s first win at Old  Trafford in more than 20 years and sent United plummeting to ninth in the table.

Of course, the points dropped while Fellaini has started games, can’t solely be down to him.

But patterns – especially losing ones – have to be spotted by Moyes and sorted rapidly.

With Fellaini being one of United’s biggest ever buys, maybe Moyes feels he has to play him.

Maybe he just believes Fellaini will come good.

Unfortunately I , like many no doubt, don’t believe Fellaini playing central midfield does, or will, improve United.

It sends the team in an opposite direction and the club’s current position in the Premiership reflects where the ship might head and dock, should action not be taken.

Essentially, unlike Jagielka, I don’t feel sorry for David Moyes. And I doubt many United fans and football followers do either.

I support him, like Sir Alex urged fans too during that famous speech at the end of last season, but I can’t support what blatantly isn’t working. It’s become akin to a points dropping policy.

Yes, losing Carrick has been a big factor in the recent results downturn.

But I believe Moyes’ selection of Fellaini in central midfield is the main reason Moyes is currently wondering how to overturn a 12 point deficit with a third of the season almost gone.

Realise it now Mr Moyes and your United might starting pulling the tails of the teams in the top four.

Keep picking Fellaini in the centre and risk not breaking a curse that has already been so costly.

I’ll end by saying – what would Sir Alex think?

How will they cope without Carrick?

Michael Carrick has just signed a new contract with Manchester United Football Club which could keep him at Old Trafford until 2016.

If he adheres to the terms that required his signature Carrick will complete a decade as a first choice centre midfielder at an elite European club.

Yet still, even with the faith team mates and management have put in him, the 32-year-old continues to divide opinion.

Despite Carrick being central in five title triumphs in the last seven years, the doubters remain out in force.

If opinion of United’s number 16 is as split as we think, Carrick’s upcoming five-week absence with an achilles heel injury will have been greeted with a mixed reception.

Box to box, tough tackling and scoring goals isn’t associated with Carrick. And they never will be. He wasn’t going to duplicate Keane.

A friend of mine, a professional footballer, said: “What you get is a passing range, an ability to read football games, two good feet and a big steady presence to name a few.”

So maybe statistics can’t measure his true output as a footballer.

Wallsend born Carrick has made at least 28 appearances per season since joining the Old Trafford payroll.

His absence, during several tough upcoming domestic fixtures as well as crucial Champions League ties, could well make the Carrick non-believers realise what they have had and what they miss.

Yes, Carrick has played for the club in an era when many fans feel they have been sold short in terms of central midfield talent. But trophies are still consistently delivered.

The phrase ‘Achilles’ Heel’ is an ancient metaphor for vulnerability.

Ironic then, that Carrick’s achilles heel may leave United vulnerable, more vulnerable than they have been for some time.

No way, Jose – why Baxter to Blades is not the end of the world

Blades-bound: Baxter is heading over the hills

And so farewell, Jose. No more defence-splitting passes, outrageous flicks and cheeky penalties. No more Jose Baxter, Baby and no more funny stories about how his dad drives him to training.
I’ll miss him – and no doubt so will many others. In my humble opinion he has been the most talented player to pull on a blue shirt since Sir Andrew Ritchie and was always a nice lad to deal with. 
But the hysteria that has greeted his departure in some quarters and the sniping aimed at the club over the admittedly paltry-looking fee is misguided.
Yes, there were those moments of magic. The stunning, curling shot against Leyton Orient, the free-kick at Nottingham Forest during those nonsensical seven minutes and the vital winner against Portsmouth.
But for all of those highs were lows we quickly forget.
Frustrated at home to Swindon Town and away at Notts County on that freezing cold January night he was part of a team that conspired to put together a miserable set of results that cost the previous manager his job.
While it is dangerous to rely on stats it is important to note that for all the gnashing of teeth over the move last season’s frustrating Latics side averaged 0.97 points per game with Jose in the side and 1.86ppg without.
On Saturday they went toe-to-toe with Port Vale and had it wrapped up before his late cameo. Dare I say it they even looked more balanced.
Perhaps it’s easier for me to come to terms with this move because I knew it was coming. When I was debating whether to do the Latics job on top of my proper one I asked a former incumbent, also a fan, for his opinion. “It can be like catching your mum and dad at it,” he said. “You love them but you see things you really don’t want to see.” He was right. After initially (disappointingly) being informed by someone at the club there was no release contract it emerged there was – and it wasn’t very high.
This made sense. Remember how shocked everyone was when he signed his two-and-a-half-year contract? I don’t think Jose’s advisors would have let him sign that for one second unless it contained that trigger fee and that’s why it is wrong to have a go at Simon Corney.
As such I regarded Jose as a luxury and enjoyed it while it lasted and so should others.
Lee Johnson, who impresses me more and more every week, privately knew this was going to happen. He’s a sharp cookie. That’s why he brought in the likes of Adam Rooney, Sidney Schmeltz, James Dayton and Jonson Clarke-Harris. That’s why there’s a new system that works without Jose, why we’re suddenly blessed with attacking options.
I may be wrong (it would not be the first time) but I think what has happened is in the club’s best interests.
Already Albert Rusnak is onboard and there may be further additions before Monday. Albert is rated highly at the Etihad and even if he isn’t another Jose there are now others who can step up.
So thanks, Jose, for the memories and good luck at a club currently nine places below us. Hopefully we’ll both end up in the Championship.
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Softly, softly approach working for Pellegrini

Watching new Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini in his first post-match Premier League press conference on Monday night, I was reminded of an old cricketing phrase.

“Soft hands” is the term, often drummed into slip fielders as they attempt to snaffle a rock hard cricket ball at nigh on 90mph.

Grabbing at the ball with hard hands will invariably result in a painful dropped catch and it’s a similar story with batting. When the ball is nipping around off the seam, shrewd players are ready to ease their grip pressure in an instant to prevent the ball catching a sharp edge and carrying to the slippers, waiting patiently with their soft hands.

Pellegrini, fielding a volley of deliveries from the assembled hacks in the bowels of the Etihad Stadium on Monday night, showcased his managerial version of the “soft hands” technique.

Questions about Vincent Kompany were met with a small shrug of the shoulders and minimal information imparted.
Was this a dream start for City? No, just a good one.

What’s your take on the opening games where United, Chelsea and City looked good? I don’t want to compare…

This isn’t to say that Pellegrini’s conference was dull, monotone or dismissive.

He gave insightful, considered responses to questions about Edin Dzeko and new boys Jesus Navas and Fernandinho. His repeated praise for players work without the ball gave a clue as to what he’ll be drilling into the players in training.

“I trust a lot in Edin Dzeko,” Pellegrini said. “It’s just a pity that he didn’t score a goal, he made a lot of chances, he played very well. With the ball we all know that he’s a very good player but today I think he played also without the ball. He worked hard to recover the ball in attack.

“I’m sure we are going to see this season the Edin Dzeko that Manchester City bought two years ago. He’s a very important player, I spoke with him the first day I arrived here and I’m sure we’ll see the Dzeko all of you are waiting for.”

Pellegrini added: “I think Navas and Fernandinho both played really well. They are different players, Navas is running the whole match and trying to put important passes inside the area and Fernandinho worked a lot the whole match without the ball.

“And I’m sure when Negredo plays 90 minutes and Jovetic they will give to our squad what we need.”

Of course it’s much easier to be in control when your side has just smashed the opposition off the park.

Poor old Newcastle manager Alan Pardew had the other end of things, his preparations torpedoed by Arsenal’s bid for Yohan Cabaye.

The difference between the managers on the touchline was clear for all to see – Pardew barking orders, corkscrewing his heel into the astro turf as he recoiled from the action, Pellegrini sauntering around and managing the odd fist pump when another goal went in.

In Roberto Mancini’s latter days at City there was often a brittleness to his press conference performances, you could almost sense the needle on his emotional compass twitching with each question.

It’s very early days for Pellegrini in terms of his management of City and his relationship with the press. Who knows, the Blues could lose at Cardiff and he could be clattering teacups off the dressing room wall.

But if first impressions are anything to go by, City are in very safe, soft hands with Pellegrini.

A bridge too far for Clarke’s Australia?

“I know a lot of people will laugh, but I honestly believe we can win the series,” said a relaxed Michael Clarke when I spoke with him yesterday.

At the time he called me, he was finally getting some down time at the Malmaison Hotel Manchester on the eve of today’s third Ashes sell-out Test Match at Old Trafford.

If Clarke’s side can win in Manchester, Durham and at the Oval – it would quite possibly rank as the greatest of all sporting comebacks. 

Manchester United, a team 32-year-old Clarke developed a liking for during his stay in Ramsbottom in the summer of 2002, famously claimed the Champions League in Barcelona with two late goals to stun footballing giants Bayern Munich.

Freakish things happen in sport: Liverpool’s 2005 defeat of AC Milan, France’s “predictably unpredictable” side of 1999 which overcame the All Blacks in the 1999 Rugby World Cup and Botham’s 149 runs against Australia at Headingley in the 1981 Ashes, an innings now etched in English cricket folklore.

For Clarke’s team to pull off this comeback he will have to play miraculously from the front. If he does and his players follow their leader, anything can happen.

But England’s well oiled machine “has experience”, Clarke told me moments before Australia’s final team meeting last night on the eve of today’s play.

Clarke, averaging more than 51 runs per game in Test Cricket, is capable of extraordinary performance – something he has proved repeatedly as skipper of his country.

The question is whether his under pressure players can, with all odds stacked against them, step up, tackle and defeat an England side with no obvious weaknesses.

Pup, as he is known in cricketing circles, remembers how close his young side came to winning the first test match at Trent Bridge.

“We came very close to beating England in the first test and have belief,” said Clarke. “The mood in the camp is fantastic. I honestly think we can win the series.”

So yes, nothing is more exciting or nerve wracking than watching a sporting comeback unfold. There are few things that capture fans more than a victory snatched from the jaws of defeat.

England fans have seen teams bruised, battered and squashed by great Australia sides of the past.

The question now is whether Australia can rise from the ashes before it’s too late.

Can Australia do it or will England continue to dominate?

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For the team or for yourself?

Alex Bell

 

Is it more rewarding to play as part of a team or to play for yourself?

A professional footballer friend of mine recently told me contributing to a collective effort is what makes him happiest. He agreed there was scope for sports men and women to be ‘extremely’ single minded and unselfish. But he questioned how the best footballers and cricketers might cope in lonelier individual sports such as tennis and vice versa.

Wayne Rooney appears at the crossroads in his Manchester United career. The outcome to the will he won’t he remain at Old Trafford will surely be revealed soon.

Word has it though that Rooney was a promising young boxer who now loves the game of golf. I don’t know how he fares at snooker, tennis or table tennis.

These individual sports, unlike football which requires teamwork blended with moments of individual brilliance, are performed by one person.

Before a golfer takes to the tee, or a boxer steps into the ring, teamwork carried out happens in the preparation, behind the scenes – away from the eyes of the spectator.

But is operating as an individual lonelier than the apparent comfort of being around pals and colleagues people make in football and cricket?

Andy Murray is a man who met Britain’s expectation of winning Wimbledon this summer. In play he often looks up at the players’ box between points on Centre Court. But ultimately he operates within a one-on-one contest in pursuit of victory.

On the other hand Murray, like Mo Farah or Jessica Ennis-Hill, doesn’t let teammates down through performing poorly – just themselves.

Lancashire’s Jimmy Anderson, like many cricketers and team sports men and women, relies heavily on the team to help him fully execute his skills.

Yet a below par performance may make him dejected, so much so that he has failed his teammates, his captain and so on.

From shining the red cricket ball to catching wicket taking chances Anderson creates – Jimmy needs his team.

Like so many team sports cricket requires collective effort in abundance but a high degree of self to excel.

In regards to Rooney, he has yet to speak out on what he wants, which team he wants to be a part of.

And we are yet to hear which team really wants him most. Chelsea are interested but Rooney’s employers have repeatedly said he is not for sale.

Either way Rooney needs to be part of a team. And I for one hope he remains United’s number 10. The reason being is individual brilliance combined with extreme work ethic and an ability to regularly sacrifice his best position for the team to get results.

I’m not sure if he is ill informed by agents but Rooney needs to treat United’s staff and fans with respect and for that respect to then be reciprocated. The last thing needed is Rooney at the wrong club, or worse still – for him to take an early retirement on the golf course or end up in the boxing ring like his fellow Lancastrian Andrew Freddie Flintoff.

 

Apologies and public criticism

I often wonder why people say more than is necessary – especially when those in powerful positions are given the chance of forethought.

Take Michael Vaughan’s very public examination of Nick Compton as a batsman and person.

Vaughan, a former captain of his country, used his Daily Telegraph column to tell readers of Britain’s best-selling broadsheet that Compton was ‘too uptight’, ‘thinks about his batting 24/7′ before adding that he was a worrier who ‘retreats into his shell’.

Days after that column Australia batsman David Warner used public speaking and took the word ‘apologetic’ into overdrive.

In front of the world’s media Warner apologised for punching tiny Joe Root in a Birmingham bar hours after he and his Australia team mates suffered defeat by England in the ICC Champions Trophy.

His presentation of regret bumped him up the public apology league.

Like some of the top sporting apologisers – Tiger Woods and Ben Johnson to name two – Warner said too much, and it sounded insincere.

Almost as if reading from an autocue, or like he was practicing for a future, “I’m so sorry” press conference, Warner told journalists packed in a hotel room:

“I’m here today to put my hand up and apologise publicly to him (Root).

“I’m owning up and I’m responsible for my actions. I’m extremely remorseful. I’ve let not just my team-mates down, but Cricket Australia, the fans, the support staff, myself, my family. I’m sincerely apologetic.”

Warner wasn’t finished though.

“I’m sincerely apologetic and I’d just like to put my hand up and apologise,” said Warner.

“The other night wasn’t a good time to go out and have a beer. We had lost the game. And even though we had a day off the next day we had still lost. We don’t have curfews but looking back I shouldn’t have been in that situation.”

A player attacking a fellow international is of course serious business, especially when the victim was wearing a wig on his chin.

But the tone and length of Warner’s admission only heightened the embarrassment for Warner, ‘his family, the fans, Cricket Australia’ and yes – ‘the support staff’.

Joe Root, who was reported as accepting a Warner apology by text, said nothing and came out on top.

In the aftermath of Vaughan, and Sir Geoffrey Boycott publically criticising a fellow professional, I, along with many others, wondered if Compton was going to reply privately or more openly.

After all, in nine test matches opening the batting for England, Compton has so far struck two hundreds.

Having answered critics on the field – with a second County Championship century of the season – Compton took a light swipe at Vaughan and Boycott.

“I take these columns with a pinch of salt,” said a composed Compton.

“One thing I will say, is, that the likes of Vaughan and Boycott know a huge amount about cricket. What they don’t know, is a huge amount about me.

“You are never as good as they say you are and you are never as bad as they say you are. You are somewhere in between.”

The Somerset and England man is averaging around 31 runs per game at Test level. And it remains to be seen whether he will remain in the side.

In the situation he found himself in I’m sure Compton could have stayed silent and continued talking on the pitch.

But with forethought Compton delivered his public comments with integrity and without any untoward offence.

Above all, what he said and what Joe Root didn’t say, seemed necessary – the perfect responses to the punch, the public examination and the apology.

A very English Rose

Justin Rose became the first English major champion since Nick Faldo when he won the US Open – and what a very English winner he is.

Okay, he was born in Johannesburg, but everything else about the 32-year-old smacks of England.

Golfers very often tend to be cool customers, carrying themselves with a slow swagger. The whole grace of movement goes with the territory of the game, smooth swing and all that.

But not Rose. His upright gait and awkward crowd acknowledgement look forced despite well over a decade on tour.

He has been playing on the PGA Tour for a while and the language has got to him a touch, but again he doesn’t often carry it off in interviews. He sounds like an Englishman speaking American. And well done to him for that!

There’s nothing awkward about his swing by the way. He’s no Ernie Els but the technique is probably the best out there, demonstrated amply by his two impeccable long shots down the 18th.

Another point to not about his performance at 17 and 18 is that he focused his way through the nerves. People sometimes accuse players of bottling key moments and ascribe the failure to nerves. I often think the failure is a lack of concentration allowing nerves to influence. True, pure concentration, what is often described as being “in the zone”, can dispense with negative nerve influence. That to me is the state Rose was in on those two closing holes.

But back to the English-ness of Rose, his reaction in the dressing room after Phil Mickelson’s chip missed was a very honest picture of the guy. Elated to have achieved a life’s goal, but also a touch of I don’t know where to put myself and general awkwardness. Again, excellent.

I don’t know if he had time to think about his acceptance speech but I don’t think I’ve ever heard a wiser one.

If he came up with this off the cuff then fair play to him – a career in politics beckons: ”A lot of us come from great men and we have a responsibility to our children to show what a great man can be.”