EPL: You're the soft one, Moyes

MAN UNITED 2 (Robin van Persie 78, Michael Carrick 80) 

FULHAM 2(Steve Sidwell 19, Darren Bent 90+4)

As Manchester United are proving with alarming speed, a manager's mentality makes or breaks a dressing room.

After the Fulham farce, David Moyes referred to "mental softness" as the kryptonite turning once Premier League supermen into bumbling, stumbling Clark Kents.

His assessment was an astute one, but only if a mirror was involved.

Last season, United's balletic artistry was often less important than bare-knuckled tenacity.

They were led by the coaching equivalent of a cold, steely knuckle duster.

In comparison, Moyes is a feather duster.

His claim that mental softness was the overriding factor against Fulham was interrupted by the pot calling the kettle black.

Moyes' recent handling of pivotal issues defined a vulnerable man struggling to stay afloat in a sea of uncertainty.

He was used to stormy weather on Merseyside. But Manchester is a tsunami.

In following the only act impossible to follow, the previously uncompromising Scotsman has started compromising, betraying his uncertainty.

The unshakeable self-confidence at Everton has been replaced by a more conciliatory tone. It's a weakness.


As Moyes tries to please everyone, he risks pleasing no one.

His new-age handling of Wayne Rooney and Nemanja Vidic could be construed as an antidote to Sir Alex Ferguson's style.

On Moyes' watch, the door would be open to discuss potential transfer targets and personal ambitions.

Ferguson's door was never open. Decisions were made within and stayed there until he decided the time was right to go public. Anyone who rocked the boat was thrown overboard.

Moyes' decision to share his transfer policy with Rooney didn't strengthen his hand; it undermined his position and revealed his mental softness.

He was still uncomfortable in the seat of power. Ferguson might have discussed the odd idea with Bryan Robson or Roy Keane, but only because he enjoyed their input occasionally - he wasn't massaging egos.

Similarly, Cristiano Ronaldo was allowed to join Real Madrid, but ordered to give United another season first and remain tight-lipped about the arrangement brokered by Ferguson.

Ronaldo complied.

The current captain couldn't keep his secret until Easter. Vidic's public admission that he seeks a fresh challenge elsewhere cripples dressing room confidence and belittles Moyes.

His announcement left no room for misinterpretation. Neither the manager nor the team's direction could motivate Vidic to stay.

That's if Moyes even tried. Vidic is still only 32 and will not want for lucrative suitors, but has been mismanaged almost as much as Rio Ferdinand.

Moyes has turned his back on the most formidable central defensive partnership of the last decade, suggesting Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans will fill the void seamlessly.


Not only is his claim insulting to a player who has contested three Champions League finals, but it is also plainly untrue.

The three younger men have time to progress further, but until then remain inferior facsimiles of Vidic.

There are distant echoes of Steve McClaren's disastrous England stint here; an uncertain manager utterly determined to make his mark on the squad by cutting all ties to the past.

McClaren dropped a still fit David Beckham, only to humiliatingly recall him later. Moyes seems equally eager to dispense with Fergie's old guard, allowing Vidic to announce his leaving date and relegating Ferdinand to chief tweeter on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Jose Mourinho defied sports data and common sense to somehow get John Terry - who is a year older than Vidic - to play every minute of Premier League football until last weekend.

Terry is a defender reborn. Vidic and Ferdinand are winners rejected.

On Thursday morning (Singapore time), the Red Devils head to Arsenal, with Moyes saying: "There will be very few teams desperate to play Manchester United, that's for sure."

The Gunners won't mind. After the Liverpool shellacking, they need an opportunity to prove their fortitude. Both sides have been accused of mental softness.

But Arsene Wenger doesn't share transfer strategies with disgruntled players or allow his captain to wear an "I'm quitting" sign in February.

He also offers a more varied game plan than pumping 81 crosses into the penalty box and hoping for the best (unless he's playing Liverpool, of course.)

Whatever else, Wenger wears his Arsenal club blazer like a second skin.

His judgment is not impaired by insecurity. Fergie's crown still lies uneasy on the head of the younger Scotsman.

Moyes is right to address the mental softness at United, perhaps beginning with the man in the mirror.

Get The New Paper for more stories.