David Moyes needs to be ruthless with Manchester United's dead wood

Mike Hewitt

David Moyes can't afford to offer Manchester United's dead wood a clean slate - he needs to be brave and clear out some of their underachieving stars.

It is common, when a new manager takes over at a club, that players out of favour and form can find themselves suddenly thrust back into the team as the new boss tries to feel the lay of the land and give everybody a chance to rediscover any lost abilities or find some new ones. The situation of David Moyes taking over from Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, however, is not a common scenario. And the option to do so should not be one to be considered.

Moyes simply cannot afford to come in and give a speech on how it is only fair that everybody gets a clean slate under the new manager. Glazernomics may force his hand, and it would be an acceptable excuse for United's PR machine, but the simple fact is that there are too many players at United who have outlived their usefulness. In that situation, a lack of resources at the club is not a reason to keep players who are not pulling their weight, but all the more reason to ditch them.

There are many who should go, too. It would be easy for a club in United's position to get complacent, but it would be a major surprise were Manchester City and Chelsea not vastly improved from last season, even before they sign ay new players.

Firstly, United's out-of-form wingers need to be dealt with quickly. Nani has had many opportunities to impress at the club, occasionally putting in a fine performance which gives hope that he may yet establish himself, but he has been doing it for far too long now to inspire any real conviction that the best option is not to sell him while he can still command a high price. Anderson is similar, but with added fitness and mentality problems that make the decision to sell a no-brainer.

There are further underachievers who could perhaps be given a season but must be considered in equally ruthless fashion. Antonio Valencia has done enough in his first two years at Old Trafford to suggest that he is worth keeping despite his shocking form in the past season. His phenomenal displays immediately after returning from a serious injury also suggest that is not the problem, but another year of ineffectual performances cannot be tolerated. The same goes for Tom Cleverley and Ashley Young, who are both still a long way from proving they have what it takes to be United players.

There are others, too. Anders Lindegaard showed towards the end of the season that he cannot be an acceptable deputy keeper if David de Gea suffers an injury, while Patrice Evra's defensive form continues to elude him. It's hard to see how Moyes can genuinely make progress at the side without a few well-placed and ruthless decisions to drop players.

This all leads neatly to the elephant in the room (and given his usual condition after pre-season, that will rarely be a more apt metaphor) that is Wayne Rooney. Moyes' previous fallout with him and Ferguson's apparent knife in the back on the way out of the door seems to leave his exit a certain, but there have been suggestions that an olive branch has been extended to the striker. To do so would simply be an error of judgement.

Moyes cannot afford a potentially divisive influence in such a difficult transitional period both on the pitch and in the dugout. He is also no longer irreplacable - United could very easily sell him without bringing in a fourth striker, given the options of Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez, with youngsters like Will Keane and Angelo Henriquez also available to play bit-part roles.

Yet more than anything, it is his relationship with Moyes that suggests it is a bad idea. The lawsuit over his book is not the key reason for their fallout. The roots go back much deeper - in Rooney's autobiography, he recalls giving a press conference after signing his first professional contract, sipping from a bottle of water to hear Moyes growling under his breath: "Use the f***ing glass!" That is not the behaviour of two friends who fell out over one issue: it is the behaviour of two friends who have lived and worked with each other for four years and now cannot stand the sight of each other, the familiarity of every mannerism sending a direct current of hatred to the nerves. In other words, it suggests that it would be a matter of when, not if, their feuding resumed.

The fact that United are financially hamstrung by their debt is in no sense an argument against surgery to the squad. Firstly, they are not under as large restrictions as once they were, given the new TV deal and the reduction of the debt. Witness Ferguson's transparent "oh, when I said no value in the market, I meant young players" excuses as to why the club would mysteriously start spending again.

But more than anything else, United are always going to keep up appearances. If a first-team player leaves, he will be replaced. The Glazers aren't quite asset-strippers to that degree, particularly not with the dangers of the post-Ferguson era and the likes of Chelsea finding themselves having to fight for fourth. Removing current players offers an opportunity to get others in, and even if United still suffer, nobody is likely to blame the departure of the likes of Anderson on any poor runs of form.

The transtional process is looking rougher and bumpier than it ever ought to have been given the time United have had to prepare, but if David Moyes wants to prove he really is cut from the same cloth has Ferguson, he has a fine opportunity to show it and stamp his own mark on the team. Although the type of pressure is very different, the early Ferguson years were marked by some bold and ruthless decisions in trimming away the fat from the squad. The next chapter in United's history will have to be the same.

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