David Moyes during a League Cup match with Sunderland. Photo: Getty
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David Moyes, Manchester United, and the nightmare dream job

Of all the managers who have been sacked this season in the premier league, David Moyes can have perhaps the fewest complaints.

David Moyes will not be remembered fondly in the history of Manchester United Football Club but it is easy to sympathise with an honest and humble man who found himself in a high profile job only to have it blow up in his face. The number and scale of the calamities that beset Moyes at United have been such that you have to wonder if he owed his appointment to a wish from a monkey’s paw rather than a word from Sir Alex Ferguson.

The mantra for fans when a new manager is in a bad spell at a club is “he needs time”. You say it to yourself over and over as you watch your beloved team get made to look like idiots week in, week out. United fans consoled themselves by thinking of the lean times at the start of Ferguson’s tenure at the club, or more recently Liverpool’s success under the initially troubled Brendan Rodgers. Over the season this mantra wore out. The talk of two years minimum became “wait for the end of the season”, the talk of waiting for the end of the season then faded too as people came to understand that this was a situation that was never going to improve. When Ferguson started at United the club began to progress, when Rodgers took over at Liverpool he was unsuccessful but he was clearly trying to work towards a plan and a style of play which is now paying off. With Moyes, however, it was never easy to see what he was trying to do with the side; indeed it was difficult to believe that he even had a plan.

For me the killer was the match at home against Fulham. United enjoyed total control of the match at times, yet the plan was always the same: cross the ball into the box. Eighty-one times United crossed the ball into the Fulham box. It was like watching a broken AI in a video game, trapped in a loop of getting the ball, crossing the ball, getting the ball, crossing the ball. The result was galling but more telling was the performance. This United side could take complete control of a game, but having done so they had absolutely no idea what to do with it.

Fans criticised the players for a lack of effort and even a lack of pride in the shirt, but it is hard to commit effort into a football match without direction. It doesn’t matter how fast and how far a group of headless chickens run they are still not going to get a result against an organised premier league football team.

Manchester United stumbled through the season in the manner of a partially concussed prize fighter, able to rely only on the most rudimentary survival skills. Commentators would mention that United enjoyed the best away record in the league, but it was more telling that against teams in the top half of the table United were often beaten and often badly. There was even relief at the comedic collapse in the penalty shootout against Sunderland in the League Cup, because at the backs of our minds most United fans were dreading what Manchester City might do to our quavering heroes in a Wembley cup final.

It is fitting that the coup de grace was delivered by Everton. Nothing spells out that a manager is not fit for purpose more eloquently than his old club trouncing his new club. Moyes spent eleven years at Everton yet had no idea how to beat them and at Goodison he looked like a decorator who has wallpapered over the door.

For all this, it is hard to dislike Moyes. Even though he must bear the ultimate responsibility for the extent of the failure it doesn’t reflect as badly upon him as a person than it might have done. This calamitous season is his fault but nobody can doubt his good intentions and his effort. He upset some of the players, he did not make the best use of them, but he never hid behind them. He clearly put everything he had into the job and by the end watching the press conferences and miserable post-match interviews was painful. Ultimately Moyes had the curious and convenient distinction of being so poorly suited for his job that the sacking was the least controversial part of his reign. Of all the managers who have been sacked this season in the premier league, and there have been many of them, he can have perhaps the fewest complaints.

The sacking of David Moyes actually leaves Manchester United in a somewhat happier position when it comes to finding a new manager than they were in after Sir Alex retired. The new manager will now be seen as a saviour, as the man who will rescue the club from the chaos and misery of a terrible year, rather than being seen as the man attempting to replace a legend.

Phil Hartup is a freelance journalist with an interest in video gaming and culture

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Meet Anne Marie Waters - the Ukip politician too extreme for Nigel Farage

In January 2016, Waters launched Pegida UK with former EDL frontman Steven Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson). 

There are few people in British political life who can be attacked from the left by Nigel Farage. Yet that is where Anne Marie Waters has found herself. And by the end of September she could well be the new leader of Ukip, a party almost synonymous with its beer-swilling, chain-smoking former leader.

Waters’s political journey is a curious one. She started out on the political left, but like Oswald Mosley before her, has since veered dramatically to the right. That, however, is where the similarities end. Waters is Irish, agnostic, a lesbian and a self-proclaimed feminist.

But it is her politics – rather than who she is – that have caused a stir among Ukip’s old guard. Former leader Paul Nuttall has said that her views make him “uncomfortable” while Farage has claimed Ukip is “finished” if, under her leadership, it becomes an anti-Islam party.

In her rhetoric, Waters echoes groups such as the English Defence League (EDL) and Britain First. She has called Islam “evil” and her leadership manifesto claims that the religion has turned Britain into a “fearful and censorious society”. Waters wants the banning of the burqa, the closure of all sharia councils and a temporary freeze on all immigration.

She started life in Dublin before moving to Germany in her teens to work as an au pair. Waters also lived in the Netherlands before returning to Britain to study journalism at Nottingham Trent University, graduating in 2003. She subsequently gained a second degree in law. It was then, she says, that she first learnt about Islam, which she claims treats women “like absolute dirt”. Now 39, Waters is a full-time campaigner who lives in Essex with her two dogs and her partner who is an accountant.

Waters’s first spell of serious activism was with the campaign group One Law for All, a secularist organisation fronted by the Iranian feminist and human rights activist Maryam Namazie. Waters resigned in November 2013 after four years with the organisation. According to Namazie, Waters left due to political disagreements over whether the group should collaborate with members of far-right groups.

In April 2014, Waters founded Sharia Watch UK and, in January 2016, she launched Pegida UK with former EDL frontman Steven Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson). The group was established as a British chapter of the German-based organisation and was set up to counter what it called the “Islamisation of our countries”. By the summer of 2016, it had petered out.

Waters twice stood unsuccessfully to become a Labour parliamentary candidate. Today, she says she could not back Labour due to its “betrayal of women” and “betrayal of the country” over Islam. After joining Ukip in 2014, she first ran for political office in the Lambeth council election, where she finished in ninth place. At the 2015 general election, Waters stood as the party’s candidate in Lewisham East, finishing third with 9.1 per cent of the vote. She was chosen to stand again in the 2016 London Assembly elections but was deselected after her role in Pegida UK became public. Waters was also prevented from standing in Lewisham East at the 2017 general election after Ukip’s then-leader Nuttall publicly intervened.

The current favourite of the 11 candidates standing to succeed Nuttall is deputy leader Peter Whittle, with Waters in second. Some had hoped the party’s top brass would ban her from standing but last week its national executive approved her campaign.

Due to an expected low turnout, the leadership contest is unpredictable. Last November, Nuttall was elected with just 9,622 votes. More than 1,000 new members reportedly joined Ukip in a two-week period earlier this year, prompting fears of far-right entryism.

Mike Hookem MEP has resigned as Ukip’s deputy whip over Waters’ candidacy, saying he would not “turn a blind eye” to extremism. By contrast, chief whip, MEP Stuart Agnew, is a supporter and has likened her to Joan of Arc. Waters is also working closely on her campaign with Jack Buckby, a former BNP activist and one of the few candidates to run against Labour in the by-election for Jo Cox’s former seat of Batley and Spen. Robinson is another backer.

Peculiarly for someone running to be the leader of a party, Waters does not appear to relish public attention. “I’m not a limelight person,” she recently told the Times. “I don’t like being phoned all the time.”

The journalist Jamie Bartlett, who was invited to the initial launch of Pegida UK in Luton in 2015, said of Waters: “She failed to remember the date of the demo. Her head lolled, her words were slurred, and she appeared to almost fall asleep while Tommy [Robinson] was speaking. After 10 minutes it all ground to an uneasy halt.”

In an age when authenticity is everything, it would be a mistake to underestimate yet another unconventional politician. But perhaps British Muslims shouldn’t panic about Anne Marie Waters just yet.

James Bloodworth is editor of Left Foot Forward

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear