In tomorrow's early match, Aston Villa will travel to Old Trafford to take on a mercurial Manchester United squad. There have been rumours that David Moyes will be fired, and there have been performances that are well below what the Red Devils expect. In an effort to get a feeling for what the other side thinks, I've asked Callum Hamilton of The Busby Babe a few questions.
You wrote earlier this week that David Moyes' best chance of saving his job is to win the Champions League. And then you said it was pretty unlikely. Do you really think Moyes is gone if he can't do that?
The suggestions were, depending on which newspaper you take/journalist has blocked you on Twitter, that David Moyes would either be binned if he suffered disaster in the Liverpool-Olympiakos-City triptych, or that his performance would be evaluated at the end of the season. Now, I humbly suggest that were United to continue and finish about sixth or seventh and get pumped in the Champions League by Bayern, then there would only be one conclusion to be arrived at by that evaluation.
There's next to no chance United will beat Bayern. We still have a lot of very good players, but two of them won't be playing and only Rafael, De Gea and Januzaj can be guaranteed to turn up, and only two of those are guaranteed to be picked. It's not going to happen.
Also in that post, you called United "the collection of can't-play-won't-play cloggers being dragged reluctantly around on the David Moyes roadshow of despair." I can see fans aren't taking this too well. Is the despair a measured one, or is it of the "run around screaming because everything is terrible" variety?
It depends on who you are. If you're the ballbags who are organising a 'Moyes out' banner to be flown over Old Trafford then it's very much the latter, although mostly the clued-up Reds and indeed the matchgoers as well (clearly there is some overlap there, but in the Glazer era, by no means a total one) have been sympathetic. I use that word because I don't think anyone thinks Moyes has done a particularly good job, but anyone with any sense who can see beyond the hype and spin will note that he's been given an impossible job - a mutinous squad that needed to be overhauled and change drastically, but would resist any such efforts to do so, combined with boardroom incompetence and following a father-figure, and what do you have?
Members of those groups were also highly critical of the late Ferguson era for its dull football and lack of ambition. The answer back then was to simply shut up and enjoy our league trophies. I suspect that most of those will therefore gain some comfort from this season proving us entirely right all along. Unless of course, David Moyes is just an awful manager, but we know he's not. He was very good at Everton, and the attempts at revisionism to suggest he was 'holding them back' or similar are nonsense. Not even worth addressing.
If you're of a more sadistic bent like me you may even find some grain of enjoyment with the despair, that a team you've long disliked is now getting deservedly humiliated on a weekly basis. Just a shame that Moyes is having to take most of the flak rather than the ones that can't be bothered to try on the pitch.
The club certainly made some moves over the summer, but not so many that you would expect the club to go from soundly winning the league to battling for a Europa spot. Is it really all the fault of David Moyes, or is there something else there?
Nobody really knows at this point. I'm not sure I could add much more than anyone would be aware of from reading the papers. As I've said above, it's been something of a perfect storm. There's a suggestion that by not hiring a huge personality like Mourinho, Moyes was in effect doomed from the start. While that's not an analysis I necessarily disagree with, I would state that something much more important is deeply wrong if we can hire a manager who, on the basis of who he is and his reputation, is put in a situation where it is impossible for him to succeed. Moyes has shown little to suggest he is a Ferguson or Busby type, but there's no doubt that either of those two men would not have been able to survive in the situation he's been put in.
The old 'but Fergie needed time!' argument is not directly true because he got an early 2nd-place start which bought him time, got rid of the drinking culture to make progress, had been phenomenal at Aberdeen and United were at the end of their tether and were prepared to give someone time. But despite all that, it doesn't mean that he'd have succeeded in this environment, and I honestly don't think he would have.
Since the beginning of the Premier League, United have taken 100 points from Villa. Be honest: does it brighten your mood to see Aston Villa coming up next on the fixture list?
I lived with a Villa supporter for three years. He was a rather unstable sort and I spent one evening with him once, with him crying because they'd lost the League Cup final to us and me consoling him that I'd rather have lost that and had the points they'd taken off us in the league, which we lost to Chelsea. I hope that answers your question.
Finally: What's your prediction for this match? Which of our teams bounce back from humiliating defeats?
Villa are, along with Norwich, probably the least predictable team in the Premier League. Just as Hughton pulls a victory out of his arse every time it looks like he might get canned if he doesn't, Lambert appears to do the same every time it looks like Villa might not be progressing as much as people would've thought.
Oh, and United aren't exactly the easiest to predict anymore either. Going by the general atmosphere around the club at the moment I'm going to predict that it'll be 2-1 to the Villa.
Thanks to Callum for taking the time to answer our questions. Be sure to head over to The Busby Babe for the Manchester look at this weekend's match. He'll also have my answers to some of his questions a bit later today!