Talking points are not necessarily always generated by what happens on the pitch. Sometimes, what transpires, or rather what is said, post match can often be more fascinating than what goes on for the ninety minutes. Sunday, after Cardiff City and Manchester United played out a two all draw, was one such occasion.
Yes, we could discuss the wrong of Wayne Rooney still being on the field to influence the game in the manner he did despite the fact he should have been sent off. And the game clearly highlighted (to nobody’s great surprise) that Manchester United’s midfield is a barren wasteland, which is only exacerbated by the absence of Michael Carrick. We could discuss the likelihood of an Alex Ferguson team throwing away a lead in the last minute via a set piece or the inspirational will to persist in their pursuit of an equaliser that Cardiff displayed. But it was actually a couple of sound bites emanating from the United dressing room after the match that piqued even greater interest.
Firstly, David Moyes claimed that this was a result he would have taken prior to kick off. For Manchester United fans this is an attitude verging on defeatist. United are the current league champions, visiting a newly promoted side. Yes, results like this do and will happen. And sure, there are times when a point is even considered a good result. But having been brought up on a Ferguson diet of ‘we expect to win every match’ (even if this wasn’t always borne out by his team selections and tactics), for United fans this was a bizarre and frankly worrying admission from Moyes. It was all the more surprising given that United had only surrendered the lead so late in the day.
Simply put, this is a mentality that will not endear him to United supporters. It is far too early in his tenure to make any concrete conclusions and judgements regarding his management style, but Moyes needs to keep the supporters onside. At the moment he has their backing, by and large. But courtesy of a cocktail of poor results, questionable team selections, substitutions that could be interpreted as being negative, and a lacklustre (at best) start by his lone summer signing, Moyes has enough to deal with at the moment without making statements that can only frustrate the natives.
Of course, there is always the possibility that Moyes was more calculating in his comments than first appears. Perhaps his aim was to deflect attention away from a desperately flat performance. It’s debatable, however, whether this tactic could possibly work in the first place given that any conversation about settling for a point before kick-off merely serves to highlight the indifferent start that United have made to the season.
The second interesting point of discussion came from Patrice Evra. The French left back is no shrinking violet and tends to speak his mind regardless of the consequences. Evra claimed that “we didn’t show enough of Manchester United. We didn’t deserve more than a draw”. He also pointed out the obvious in that United barely created a chance all game. There is no disputing any of what he said. The poor performance was there for all to see. (Arguably, Evra’s comments could also be construed as a veiled attack on the manager and his tactics, a manager who wanted to replace him during the summer. More likely though, they were merely heat of the moment remarks borne out of frustration).
Importantly, his statements convey a mindset that is fundamentally different to that of his manager. While Moyes claimed he would have settled for a point before a ball was kicked, Evra effectively said that while United only deserved a draw, it was because they did not play to the required standard of a Manchester United team (and therefore if they had, they would have won). Surely at some level Moyes has to agree that a Manchester United team performing anywhere near its full capability is more than capable of beating Cardiff City. If he does not, he shouldn’t be anywhere near the Old Trafford hotseat.
While Moyes could probably never have been as forthright as Evra was in his comments, perhaps a little more positivity would not have gone astray. Ultimately, the fans want nothing more than to see United be successful. A little of the fear factor that once surrounded the club has evaporated in recent months, there is no need for the United manager to erode it still further.