David Moyes’ 11-month tenure in charge of Manchester United is on the verge of coming to an end according to numerous reports out of England on Monday. The Telegraph writes that Moyes could be out before this weekend’s match with Norwich City. Sir Alex Ferguson’s hand-picked successor “lost” both the confidence of the Glazer family and the players. As is almost always the case, it’s easier to fire the manager — or coerce him to resign — than it is to fire all the players.
Moyes now joins the likes of Gene Bartow (UCLA) and Phil Bengtson (Green Bay Packers) as coaches who were unable to emulate the success of their legendary predecessors.
The last few months this seemed all but an inevitability, as Moyes was clearly not up to the task during his brief, embarrassing spell at Old Trafford. The final straw came Sunday when United lost 2-0 to Moyes’ former club, Everton. United, which won the title last season, have slumped into seventh place. With only 57 points United is 23 points behind first-place Liverpool and an astounding 13 points off the final Champions League spot.
For much of the season it was easy to praise Ferguson’s last hurrah, guiding mostly the same team to an 11-point gap in the table ahead of second place Manchester City. After a while, it was impossible to turn a blind eye to the terrible performances United continually put out under Moyes. Was Ferguson that good or was Moyes that bad? (Or perhaps Ferguson’s final deal with the devil ensured a healthy season from Robin van Persie and in turn the league title.)
There’s no sugar-coating here. Moyes’ reign at United was a disaster right from the start — remember #MoyesOut after that preseason friendly loss in his debut against a Thai All Star team? — including a terrible summer transfer window and embarrassing result followed by embarrassing result. Today’s news should come as no surprise, even if the Scot was handed a six-year contract and hailed as “the Chosen One” upon his arrival.
By the end, opponents were sarcastically mocking Moyes as a “Genius” during a humiliating 3-0 loss to Liverpool.
The question now is where will United go to fill Moyes’ shoes. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Although the Premier League might be the world’s most-exciting, most-watched league it’s not exactly a fertile breeding ground for managers. Why would, for instance, Roberto Martinez leave Everton on the verge of qualifying the Champions League for the uncertainty of trying to rebuild Manchester United?
There doesn’t seem an attainable manager at the other 19 Premier League club that screams out, this is the guy. Dipping into the lower tiers of the Football League for a manager doesn’t seem like something United would be wont to do, either. If United’s ambitions were simply to stave off relegation, Tony Pulis and his baseball cap would already be on a train to Old Trafford. (This lack of viable domestic Premier League candidates helped Arsene Wenger maintain his post at Arsenal, despite failing to win a trophy dating back to 2005.)
Ironically, the instant Moyes is officially handled his walking papers he’ll have no shortage of other Premier League teams — think Newcastle United, Aston Villa — lining up for his services.
Figure the usual European suspects, such as Borussia Dortmund’s Jurgen Klopp, former Bayern/Barcelona coach Louis van Gaal, Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone, PSG’s Laurent Blanc etc. whether realistic or not will be bandied about to replace Moyes at Manchester United. There will certainly be calls for Ferguson’s return — once he’s finished teaching at Harvard. The sentimental choice might be to move United lifer and legend Ryan Giggs into the manager’s tracksuit, if only to win back the dressing room, despite his lack of experience. Still, nobody leaps off the page as a “hot” name like we see in the world of college basketball in April.
Looking back to last May, the only man with the requisite chutzpah to take over United was Jose Mourinho, but even he might have run into the same issues given the lack of quality across the Red Devils’ roster. Sure, Mourinho’s best work has been accomplished with older players, but how much could the Special One have coaxed from Nemanja Vidic and the calcified Rio Ferdinand in central defense?
For all the talk about the man to replace Moyes, United’s issues run deeper than simply the manager. Ed Woodward, an accountant by trade, is now the executive vice-chairman in charge of the day-to-day operation of the club. Until his retirement, Ferguson essentially handled everything pertaining to the actual soccer part of the club. The Daily Mail wrote the club was 20 years behind the times. The Glazers might not see much change after replacing Moyes until structural changes in how the club is run: a strong-willed, smart Sporting Director for instance rather than executive like Woodward who was concerned with locking Wayne Rooney down as a club ambassador after his playing days are over.
A club of Manchester United’s prestige shouldn’t be duped by fake agents, as allegedly happened during the late-summer pursuit of Ander Herrera, or waiting until the absolute last minute in August to sign Maroune Fellaini. Nor should they have a manager who couldn’t adjust his approach or find places in the squad for Shinji Kagawa or Wilfried Zaha.
There’s not much, if any, sentimentality in the cutthroat world of European soccer. The storied history of Manchester United and the success isn’t going to fade away immediately, but its appeal isn’t going to have a long shelf-life compared to the money and success rivals like Manchester City or Chelsea. Arsenal is still a top-four fixture and a resurgent Liverpool might win its first title of the Premier League era. Factor in continental European giants like PSG, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich and United’s window atop the soccer world which took Ferguson 26 years to build could be over in less than 11 months.
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