David Moyes’ first match in charge of Manchester United ended in a 1-0 loss to Singha All Star XI. The club’s official website got to work a few hours later. The match report on the site talked about the ‘stifling conditions’ in Bangkok,where the pre-season friendly was played,and more pointedly, stuck in a reminder that United started off their warm-ups last season,under Alex Ferguson,with a loss too.
Since Ferguson’s departure last season,there has been an understandable effort from within United to ease some of the pressure off the new manager. Ferguson ruled himself out of anything but a shadow role in the goings on at United,fearing his presence would undermine Moyes’ authority. The appointments of Phil Neville (386 games for United) and Ryan Giggs (941 games) in coaching capacities is also an attempt to reaffirm United’s belief in tradition and continuity.
Beyond all of this though,the minders at Old Trafford know that it is results on the field and trophies that will help with the transition. The 26 league goals that came with Van Persie,brought for GBP 24 mn from Arsenal,pretty much handed the team the 2012-13 league title. Another statement signing,a Cristiano Ronaldo or a Gareth Bale,could do the same for Moyes and United this season. The deals would necessitate some traffic out of United (Rooney,the likely departure) to generate the funding,but even with it,appear unlikely. Barcelonas rising star Thiago Alcantara,after baiting United for weeks and being talked up as the long term Paul Scholes replacement,is all set to join European Champions Bayern Munich instead.
With primary rivals Manchester City and Chelsea having already begun re-tooling themselves since the last campaign,United will have to run to stay where they are and Moyes is having to do the running a good month before the seasons starts.
Raakesh is a principal correspondent based in Delhi.