Now all he needs is a decent left-back, a couple of commanding centre-backs, a level-headed right-back, two strong central midfielders, a right winger, not to mention a medical miracle man to sort out Robin van Persie. Then he might have a team capable of challenging for the title.
There was an interesting debate among fans after the game between Chelsea and Manchester United: where would United be now if they had gone for Jose Mourinho rather than Moyes in the summer? Given that the inheritance would have been the same, would they be in the same muddle? Would their fans be approaching this evening’s Capital One Cup semi-final with quite the same stomach-churning trepidation?
Not so much worrying about defeat against Sunderland, but worse - nervous about what victory would mean, and the terrifying consequence of what lies ahead if they were to make it to Wembley and had to face City in the final. In short: how much has the choice of manager contributed to United’s current woeful position?
So let’s speculate. Had Mourinho fetched up at Old Trafford in the July we can be sure of two things: he would not have treated the squad he found with quite the same deference as Moyes did and he would have quickly sorted out a couple of transfers. Willian, for starters.
Plus, in the manner of Brian Clough, who always took John McGovern with him wherever he went, so Mourinho would have also added a couple of players to the squad he knew he could trust: Michael Essien and Ricardo Carvalho would even now be training at Carrington.
And unlike Moyes he would not have been as patient with Anderson, Ashley Young and Nani. While Moyes took the line that these guys had all won more than him and thus deserved being shown a bit of respect and given the chance to show what they could do, Mourinho would have immediately pressed the ejector button. This is a manager who really knows how to freeze someone out.
Tactically, the Portuguese would have been unlikely to have presided over the kind of defensive shower that undermined United’s efforts at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. There would have been more organisation, more grist, more doggedness, more emphasis in training on defensive harmony. Which suggests – in all likelihood – there would have been a few more points. Though not necessarily more entertainment, nor necessarily enough to have United any higher than fourth.
But then Mourinho, who has never been the most enthusiastic promoter of talent from within, is highly unlikely to have given Adnan Januzaj his chance in the first team, still less the responsibility of being the team’s sole creative outlet in the absence of Van Persie and Wayne Rooney. The youngster’s advance has been the one unequivocal success of the Moyes era at United, and it has suggested that the new manager is determined to adapt to the traditions and heritage of the club in a way Mourinho wold not have done.
There was an incredible statistic revealed recently: one home-reared player has lined up in every single one of United’s 3,678 games stretching back to October 1937. No surprise, really, when the list of appearances for the club is topped by Ryan Giggs, Bobby Charlton and Paul Scholes, three home-grown players whose combined length of playing service alone almost stretches back to 1937.
Throw in Sammy McIlroy and Arthur Albiston who maintained the tradition through the times between those two great promoters of youth Matt Busby and Alex Ferguson, and you begin to see how such a record has been established.
Mind, it is somewhat stretching the term to suggest that Januzaj is home-reared. He was poached from the Anderlecht academy as a 16-year-old, at a fee of some £250,000, arriving in Manchester if not fully grown, then almost fully formed. Even so, it is to Moyes’s credit that he took the risk and pushed forward a player who, had Mourinho been in charge, we can imagine would now be on loan along with the 25 other Chelsea youngsters currently temporarily plying their trade away from the Bridge.
The most minor of consolations perhaps, but in his elevation of Januzaj, United fans should be relieved that it was Moyes not Mourinho who got the call from Sir Alex last February. Now all the new man needs to do is show some of Mourinho’s nous in the transfer market and bring in some other reinforcements to build a worthy team around the young Belgian.
Paul Pogba, Marco Reus, Luke Shaw, Arturo Vidal, Lucas Moura, Koke, Ilkay Gundogan and Julian Draxler: Moyes doesn’t need to go on an extensive scouting expedition to tell him who would improve what he has. He just needs a chequebook. And a persuasive tongue. Maybe he could get Jose Mourinho to do some freelance buying on his behalf.