Opening remarks: what Europe’s new gaffers had to say

David Moyes has begun life as Manchester United’s gaffer by griping about the fixture list. Over the past few years he’s never seen Man Utd have a more difficult start to the season, he says. Should we then assume this transition of power at Old Trafford has been longer in the pipeline than we thought? Or why would the Everton manager so assiduously monitor a team’s fixture list which is not even among his team’s recognised rivals? Anyway, that’s beside the point. What impressed me about the Scot’s brief moan was how much it made him sound like his predecessor. It was typical Fergie – minus the quivering jowls and purple nose, but ‘Siralix’ all round, accent included.  

When he said, “I’m not convinced that’s the way the balls came out the hat when that was getting done,” I half expected the Moyes mask to be ripped away to reveal Man U’s legendary gaffer, the way the bad guys were finally revealed in Scooby Doo. I now fully expect Moyes to pen a deal with Wrigley and discover a fault with his eyes for which he needs glasses. And now we learn that Phil Neville and Ryan Giggs will be there to oversee this transformation. Hmmm.

Laurent Blanc started by making a wish, which unlike those made while blowing birthday candles, he said out loud into a forest of microphones. “I would be happy to have him as part of my squad,” the new PSG coach declared in rapid-fire French. The ‘him’ referred to in the statement is last year’s Serie A Golden Boot winner Edinson Cavani. Et voila! It is now all but confirmed that the Uruguayan goal poacher is heading to Paris for more than glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. While the former France boss is alarming neighbours as he criss-crosses his yard in cartwheels of delight, somewhere in Naples a goatee-wearing Spaniard with a new Europa League winner’s medal is wondering why his wish was ignored. Yet the recipient of the wish was seated at his elbow when Rafa made it. While the said Cavani was down in Brazil plotting how to rain on the Seleção parade, Rafael Benitez was in a presser, nudging his new president, Aurelio De Laurentiis, to do everything save glue Cavani’s bottom to the dressing room, to keep the striker. “…because he’s an important player for us…” Rafa kept repeating with a lump in his throat that wouldn’t go away.

Back to Manchester, and another freshly unwrapped manager was surreptitiously begging for time, a commodity the man he’s taking over from was granted very little of. “…we have great players and we can reach important titles in the next 3 or 4 seasons here in Manchester…” said Manuel Pellegrini in a relaxed, sun-drenched MCTV interview shortly after being unveiled.  Roberto Mancini took three seasons to win the league title with the Sky Blues but that was after he had won the FA Cup in the previous season. So Mr. Pellegrini had better have a magic wand hidden somewhere that will turn last season’s fat-and-happy, disinterested lot into glory-hungry youngsters in the next few weeks.

Or he could just hire a couple of goons to go over to Munich in balaclavas and pinch the ‘big ears’ from the Allianz Arena.