Six months into the job and David Moyes should be swanning around Old Trafford as if he owns the place. Instead, he looks just as uncomfortable as he did on day one.
It can’t be easy. Convincing Sir Alex’s protégé’s that he can take them forward, improve them, and steer them towards even more honours than they’ve got stashed away already is, I suspect, proving to be a tricky task.
When you’ve reached the summit a certain way, so many times, being taught a different route kind of seems pointless doesn’t it? Convincing the players, and perhaps even himself, that his way can be a better way is a challenge. It hasn’t been remotely as testing for the new gaffers at Manchester City, Chelsea and Everton.
Down the road at the Etihad, City’s squad had grown to despise the arrogance of Roberto Mancini. Therefore, Manuel Pellegrini was on to a winner from the word go. In west London it was much the same. There the return of Jose Mourinho was not only comfortingly familiar, but also a reminder of better days.
While at Everton, Roberto Martinez’s fresh brand of self-expressive football was always going to be popular with a set of players who’d grown accustomed to a more rigid and structured regime. Enhancing the self-belief and collective unity of the champions, Manchester United, was mission impossible by comparison.
Overseeing the worst start to the season since 2001/02, and being taunted by Everton fans throughout last night’s humbling 1-0 defeat by his former club – surely has to wake Moyes from his stupor. If he wants to make it work, a reaction is required. That means it’s time to stop pussy-footing and tip-toeing around Fergie’s shadow, and start behaving like he’s the boss.
Standing upright and unusually still inside the technical area, with his arms tucked rigidly by his sides, the Scot’s eyes practically pop out of their sockets as they fix their gaze on the action. His body language is too stiff, too tense. His infamous will to win too constrained; it has to be unleashed. Rattling a few of his players’ cages would be a sensible place to start.
A mid-winter cull is also a must. There are simply too many players that aren’t his. To prevent bitching and constant reminders of how much better things used to be, the Manchester United dressing room needs to start looking and feeling different to the old days. While it stays the same, those who are unhappy with their lot, will continue to pine for the past.
His midfield needs urgent and dramatic attention. The balanced, cohesive and confident world class midfields of their top four rivals make United’s engine room look incredibly basic and beatable.
Michael Carrick aside, none of the current squad should be considered good enough to be first choice central midfielders for a club of that stature. Ryan Giggs is too old, Marouane Fellaini too ponderous, Tom Cleverley too limited, Anderson too chubby, Phil Jones too much of an asset in defence. Not only does the unit lack flair, it doesn’t even have much functionality either.
Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, the jewels in United’s crown, won’t want to stick around if they lose belief that the manager can address these issues and steer them back to the top. That much is obvious.
It’s a critical two months for Moyes. I think it’s high time he threw down his jacket, rolled up his sleeves and started letting people know that six wins from 14 matches isn’t good enough. It’s time to make the place his own.
Can Manchester United bounce back from defeat by Everton? They are 8.00 to beat Newcastle 2-0 this weekend.
Read more from Unibet columnist Adrian Clarke.