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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Forget the flat caps - this is what Labour voters really look like

Young, educated women are more typical than older, working-class men. 

In announcing the snap election, Theresa May set out her desire to create a “more united” country in the aftermath of last year’s referendum. But as the campaign begins, new YouGov analysis of over 12,000 people shows the demographic dividing lines of British voters.

Although every voter is an individual, this data shows how demographics relate to electoral behaviour. These divides will shape the next few weeks – from the seats the parties target to the key messages they use. Over the course of the campaign we will not just be monitoring the “headline” voting intention numbers, but also the many different types of voters that make up the electorate. 

Class: No longer a good predictor of voting behaviour

“Class” used to be central to understanding British politics. The Conservatives, to all intents and purposes, were the party of the middle class and Labour that of the workers. The dividing lines were so notable that you could predict, with a reasonable degree of accuracy, how someone would vote just by knowing their social grade. For example at the 1992 election the Conservatives led Labour amongst ABC1 (middle class) voters by around 30 percentage points, whilst Labour was leading amongst C2DE (working class) voters by around 10 points.

But today, class would tell you little more about a person’s voting intention that looking at their horoscope or reading their palms. As this campaign starts, the Conservatives hold a 22 per cent lead amongst middle class voters and a 17 per cent lead amongst working class ones.

Age: The new dividing line in British politics

In electoral terms, age is the new class. The starkest way to show this is to note that Labour is 19 per cent ahead when it comes to 18-24 year-olds, and the Conservatives are ahead by 49 per cent among the over 65s. Our analysis suggest that the current tipping point – which is to say the age where voters are more likely to favour the Conservatives over Labour – is 34.

In fact, for every 10 years older a voter is, their chance of voting Tory increases by around 8 per cent and the chance of them voting Labour decreases by 6 per cent. This age divide could create further problems for Labour on 8 June. Age is also a big driver of turnout, with older people being far more likely to vote than young people. It’s currently too early to tell the exact impact this could have on the final result.

Gender: The Conservative’s non-existent “women problem”

Before the last election David Cameron was sometimes described as having a “woman problem”. Our research at the time showed this narrative wasn’t quite accurate. While it was true that the Conservativexs were doing slightly better amongst young men than young women, they were also doing slightly better among older women than older men.

However, these two things cancelled each other out meaning that ultimately the Conservatives polled about the same amongst both men and women. Going into the 2017 election women are, if anything, slightly more (three percentage points) likely overall to vote Tory.

Labour has a large gender gap among younger voters. The party receives 42 per cent of the under-40 women’s vote compared to just 32 per cent amongst men of the same age – a gap of nine points. However among older voters this almost disappears completely. When you just look at the over-40s, the gap is just two points – with 21 per cent of women and 19 per cent of men of that age saying they will vote Labour.

With both of the two main now parties performing better amongst women overall, it’s the other parties who are balancing this out by polling better amongst men. Ukip have the support of 2 per cent more men than women, whilst the gender gap is 3 per cent for the Lib Dems. 

Education: The higher the qualification, the higher Labour’s vote share

Alongside age, education has become one of the key electoral demographic dividing lines. We saw it was a huge factor in the EU referendum campaign and, after the last general election, we made sure we accounted for qualifications in our methodology. This election will be no different. While the Conservatives lead amongst all educational groupings, their vote share decrease for every extra qualification a voter has, whilst the Labour and Lib Dem vote share increases.

Amongst those with no formal qualifications, the Conservative lead by 35 per cent. But when it comes to those with a degree, the Tory lead falls to 8 per cent. Education also shapes other parties’ vote shares. Ukip also struggles amongst highly educated voters, polling four times higher amongst those with no formal qualifications compared to those with a degree.

Income: Labour’s tax increase won’t affect many Labour voters

John McDonnell, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, has already made income part of this campaign by labelling those who earn above £70,000 a year as “rich” and hinting they may face tax rises. One of the reasons for the policy might be that the party has very few votes to lose amongst those in this tax bracket.

Amongst those earning over £70,000 a year, Labour is in third place with just 11 per cent support. The Conservatives pick up 60 per cent of this group’s support and the Lib Dems also perform well, getting almost a fifth (19 per cent) of their votes.

But while the Conservatives are still the party of the rich, Labour is no longer the party of the poor. They are 13 per cent behind amongst those with a personal income of under £20,000 a year, although it is worth noting that this group will also include many retired people who will be poor in terms of income but rich in terms of assets.

Chris Curtis is a politics researcher at YouGov. 

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