Some are still suggesting that he should have been given more time. I must admit, there is still a sliver within me that agrees with this sentiment but the greater portion of my thoughts on the issue go with the stance that he was never the right man to begin with so if you’re going to give anyone more time then give it to the right man.
However, where I do disagree most strongly with this “more time” argument is when people point at what Brendan Rodgers has achieved at Liverpool after being given more time following a disappointing first season.
First of all, you need to look at the position of the two teams when the respective managers took charge.
When Rodgers was installed in the summer of 2012, Liverpool had just finished the previous season in eighth position – a massive 37 points behind ourselves and the goal-difference winners Manchester City.
Whilst this might have been a particularly bad season for Liverpool, it wasn’t freakishly bad – previous seasons had seen them finish 6th in 2011 (22 points behind the winners) and 7th in 2010 (23 points behind the winners).
In short, they hadn’t even been troubling the top four for a couple of years and the days of them being regarded amongst “The Big Four” were rapidly disappearing.
Compare this to where United had been when David Moyes took over – 1st in 2013 (11 points ahead of second), 2nd in 2012 (level on points with the winner), 1st in 2011 (9 points ahead of second), 2nd in 2010 (1 point behind the winners) and 1st in 2009 (4 points ahead of 2nd placed Liverpool).
In short, that is almost as close as it possible to get to winning the league five years on the bounce whilst having to settle for “just” the three.
Moyes took over a team that had been hitting the bullseye with stunning regularity for five years whilst Rodgers took over a team that had peaked three years previously, had spent the intervening period languishing in the doldrums and were seemingly going nowhere fast.
Then there is the first season of the two managers.
I must admit that I do remember seeing Rodgers in a press conference not long after he started at Liverpool and things weren’t going too well. He spoke well but I did wonder if he was starting to regret leaving Swansea and was perhaps beginning to feel that he had bitten off more than he could chew with a club such as Liverpool.
The first five matches of that season saw Liverpool pick up just two points and even after twelve matches, they had picked up just fifteen points which is little better than relegation form.
However, as the season progressed, Rodgers did seem to be getting his message across and Liverpool started to play some very good football. It was all too little too late after such a poor start but in their final twelve matches of the season, they finished as strongly as any team in the Premier League. They lost just one of those twelve matches and 5-0, 4-0 and 6-0 thumpings of Swansea, Wigan and Newcastle respectively amongst that run did tend to suggest that the pieces were finally starting to fall into place.
In those final twelve games of Rodgers’ first season, Liverpool picked up 25 points which is very close to League-winning form and comfortably inside the rate of return a Top Four side would require.
Whilst Liverpool still only finished seventh at the end of the season, the signs were there that Liverpool were finally moving forward under Rodgers.
That, right there, is why the Liverpool board would have decided to stick with Rodgers.
So how does Moyes compare with his first season in charge?
Well, in his first twelve matches in charge, United picked up twenty-one points, in his last twelve matches, he picked up twenty points.
It’s consistent but it’s consistently average and it is exactly the kind of return that leaves you in the seventh position that we currently find ourselves in. What cannot be said is that there are any signs of progress – in fact, the last twelve have yielded a point fewer than the first twelve so arguments of regression are certainly not entirely invalid.
That, right there, is one of the many reasons why Moyes’ tenure has been laid to rest.
Then there’s the background of the two managers and the style of football they are renowned for having their teams produce.
It has to be acknowledged that David Moyes did a fine job at Preston and got them punching well above their weight – it was this performance that alerted Everton to Moyes and he did well at Everton to establish them as a solid Premier League side.
The football was never particularly exciting though. Under Moyes, Everton always had the air of a side that were solid and tough to beat whilst rarely taking anyone’s breath away with its beauty.
Rodgers, on the other hand, showed what he’s all about when he took charge of Swansea in 2010.
Swansea, you may recall, was the club where a certain Roberto Martinez cut his managerial teeth but after guiding them from the 1st Division to the Championship, the club stalled around 8th in the Championship before Martinez was snaffled away by Wigan.
A season with Paulo Sousa at the helm saw Swansea finish 7th but it was starting to look like they’d perhaps reached their level. That’s where Rodgers came in and in his first season, he’d guided them to 3rd place – just four points behind automatic promotion but Rodgers still took them to the promised land that is the Premier League via the play-offs.
Many times down the years, teams coming up from the Championship – especially those who came via the play-off route – have found themselves hopelessly out of their depth in the Premier League and I think most people feared the worst for Swansea.
However, Swansea took many by surprise with their fearless, attacking style of football. Rodgers was clearly not about to sacrifice his footballing principles in an attempt to establish Swansea as a “solid” Premier League outfit.
Swansea finished that first Premier League season in a highly creditable eleventh position, finishing above the two sides that had beaten them in the Championship one year earlier.
Victories over sides such as Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool that season showed that Rodgers wasn’t afraid to mix it with the big boys either and I suspect it was that victory over Liverpool on the very last day of the season that made the Liverpool hierarchy realise that the answer to their problems might well be right under their nose.
So, in terms of football style – Rodgers 1 – 0 Moyes.
The difference between the mind-set of the two managers was brought sharply into focus when United met Liverpool at Old Trafford just over a month ago.
In the build up to the match, David Moyes hammered yet another nail into his own coffin when he uttered the jaw-droppingly shocking words, “They possibly do come here [as] favourites“.
Yes, in terms of form, Liverpool were doing better than us and, yes, they were above us in the Premier League but the manager of Manchester United – especially a Manchester United side that were still actually defending Premier League Champions at that stage – should never, ever concede favouritism to the visiting side no matter who they are.
Whilst Rodgers was too respectful to openly mock the remark, he did express surprise at the comment when he later said, “I was probably surprised before the game when I heard we were supposedly coming to Old Trafford as favourites. I would never say that at Liverpool — even if I was bottom of the league“.
Liverpool, of course, won the match 3-0 but in the battle of the managers, Rodgers was winning at least 10-0 by now.
It wouldn’t be quite so bad if Moyes was the young rookie who was still learning the ropes of management but being a whole ten years older than Rodgers with a whole ten years more managerial experience than Rodgers (and those years spent in the Premier League), it was staggering.
You might think that such a relatively small gaffe could not make that big a difference to an entire season but it was at moments such as these that Moyes betrayed his small-time mentality. By taking what he was saying in public as a guide, it wasn’t too difficult to believe that he was hardly inspirational behind the scenes, either.
As I’ve said before, it all looked very much like Moyes was unable to raise his mentality to that of that required at an elite club like Manchester United and so set about bringing Manchester United down to a more middling mentality that he was comfortable with.
Taking the United job required Moyes to grow in the same way that Rodgers has grown since becoming the Liverpool manager. He wasn’t capable and even the self-help books he seems to be so fond of reading don’t seem to have made much of a difference.
More than this, Rodgers seems to have taken his players with him on this journey of growth and all seem to have added at least 10% to their game as a result of his man-management.
Players such as Suarez, Sturridge and Sterling look like world-beaters, the old stalwart Gerrard appears to have been given a new lease of life and even the initially unwanted Henderson seems to be flourishing into a fine midfielder.
Moyes, on the other hand, has committed the cardinal sin of publicly questioning not only the footballing quality of his squad but also their “mental toughness”.
Once again, it seems to be an attempt to bring his surroundings down to his own level rather than grow and reach a new, higher level together as one.
So. That’s my take on this Rodgers v Moyes comparison.
In a nutshell, Rodgers has shown progress throughout his managerial career (not just at Liverpool) whereas Moyes has basically stood still for ten years and at this moment in time Rodgers’ star is on the rise whilst for Moyes, the only way is down.