As children, we learn very quickly that a blame shared is a blame halved – but in the long-term, the ruse works only with the co-operation of the co-opted. This is a lesson that must have escaped David Moyes, whose public pronouncements regularly identified unwilling conspirators, illustrating precisely why he failed at Manchester United.
Which is not to say that liability resides solely with him. Most obviously, Moyes was let down by his players; their performances were his ultimate responsibility – not excusing the indolence, indignation and entitlement that defined them.
Also at fault is Alex Ferguson, who bequeathed Moyes a midfieldless squad – a partial consequence of a takeover he welcomed. As such and with his consent, roughly £680m has left the club, its competitive status preserved only by his genius. And, before leaving, he anointed as his successor an underqualified non-genius, who, by complete coincidence, was both the cheapest candidate and one most likely to seek guidance.
Then, before the start of the season, Moyes was asked about a tricky opening month, and rather than accept the challenge, he challenged the integrity of the system. It was, apparently, ‘hard to believe that’s the way the balls came out of the bag’, deflecting accountability even for the sentiment by citing the authority of his predecessor, who had told him that ‘those sort of things happened’. But that authoritarian predecessor infused accusations with purpose, aiming to influence results, rather than quell criticism of their poverty in advance.
The gripe evidenced a lacking confidence, not just in his ability, but that of players used to overcoming obstacles far more significant. In any managerial context, workers desire the trust of their boss – particularly in sport, where confidence is paramount, and all the more so in football, a simple game shaped principally by attitude, not tactics.
Only last week, Brendan Rodgers acclaimed Steven Gerrard as Europe’s best midfielder in a ‘controlling role’ – a sentiment beyond the credulity of all but the only man needing to believe it.