'The difference between Ole and me is he’s being given time' - David Moyes back at Old Trafford
West Ham manager says he would have done things differently if he had known he only had nine months at Manchester United
One of Manchester United’s worst performances this season came against West Ham in September. United lost 2-0, slid to 10th and seemed to have learned nothing from the previous season when they were equally dreadful at West Ham. Or even the season before that.
It is a quirk of the fixtures that three of the last four meetings between the two teams have been in London. But, thankfully for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who is desperate to reach the Champions League with a top-four finish, his club have a better home record.
The Hammers have not won at Old Trafford since 2007, when the title was already confirmed for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side. That surprise and controversial result meant Sheffield United were relegated rather than the East Londoners.
West Ham are safe this season partly because David Moyes, for the second time in three seasons, has come in when they have been in a perilous position and pulled them towards survival. In 2018, West Ham rewarded Moyes by not offering him a new contract. He was not exciting enough for them or their fans and they went for Manuel Pellegrini instead.
West Ham came back to Moyes in December 2019 with the team 17th and having dismissed Pellegrini. The Hammers slipped into a relegation spot but Moyes has again led them out of it.
“David is doing a fantastic job, he’s improved the team since the lockdown,” said Solskjaer ahead of their clash on Wednesday. “They’ve had some fantastic wins against Norwich, Watford and Chelsea to secure their place. We know their threats and how well they play.”
Moyes’ family home is still close to Manchester and he spent lockdown driving a van around delivering food to elderly neighbours. But his time at United did not go to plan. Charged with taking over from Ferguson, he was given a six-year contract.
Right from the start, he felt that there was much work to do but that he would get time to do it. He got nine months and was dismissed following consecutive 0-3 home defeats to rivals Manchester City and Liverpool.
Those results were not close enough to being good enough for the reigning champions. The axe fell after a defeat at his former club Everton meant United would not be playing Champions League football for the first time since 1995. Players arguably let Moyes down, but he did not always help himself and looked uneasy in front of the media as the pressure built.
Moyes feels that if he would have known he would get only nine months then, he would have done things differently. Ahead of his latest visit to Old Trafford, he said of his opposite number: “Ole had a difficult start but the difference between Ole and me is that he’s being given time.”
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Statistically, Solskjaer needs two points from the last two games to match the 64 achieved in what is known as "the Moyes season" – that remains United’s worst Premier League total as the team finished seventh and failed to qualify not only for the Champions League, but any European football for the first time since English clubs were allowed back into European competitions in 1990.
Solskjaer’s team started this season terribly but have improved in 2020 and are the only team unbeaten in the league since the restart – though Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final defeat against Chelsea was a blow to his chance of a first trophy,
“When you lose a game you are hurt and disappointed but a defeat isn’t the end of the world,” Solskjaer said. “It was the end of the FA Cup dream and the final but we’ve had so many set backs as a club.”
David de Gea was widely criticised for another glaring error. Solskjaer maintains that the Spaniard is mentally strong enough but did not want to be drawn more on De Gea in a pre-match press conference.
He prefers to defend his players publicly and deal with them in private but while he continues to back the world’s best-paid goalkeeper, Solskjaer knows de Gea is now costing him football matches.
Further mistakes could be extremely costly given Champions League qualification is vital for United and, when asked by The National, the Norwegian said: “Everyone can see we’re on a journey towards something better. It’s in our own hands. I don’t want to talk about how much it’ll mean financially or to attract people. We have to focus on these next two games and make sure we’re there.”
United have done well to be strongly fancied to be in the top four, somewhere they have not been since September. There is still a chance of cup success with the Europa League, too, but United really need to avenge that defeat against West Ham at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
Updated: July 21, 2020 06:21 PM