A United ‘NO’ to MO‘YES’

Although Moyes was awarded a six-year contract, the modern football industry does not make adjustments for failure. For only so long could United suffer the financial burden of missing out on Champions League football. Once the club was unconvinced that Moyes could be trusted with a huge transfer kitty, there was only one way to go, writes Priyansh.

It’s tough to ascertain the magnitude of the task that awaited David Moyes when he was chosen by Sir Alex Ferguson as his successor last year. Former Manchester United first-team coach Rene Meulensteen described the manager’s transition from Everton like, “going from a yacht to a cruise liner.”

Yet, the statement doesn’t do justice to the challenge that faced and eventually consumed Moyes. Perhaps his task could be compared to the one encountered by Tim Cook, when he replaced Steve Jobs as the CEO of Apple. If you’re looking to draw a parallel from the football world, Brian Clough’s appointment as Don Revie’s successor at Leeds United in 1974 comes close.

It should be remembered, though, that Clough’s ill-fated 44-day spell was characterised by intense acrimony.

His distaste for Leeds’ rough style of play under Revie meant that he lost the dressing room before he could have it. The players were at fault too as they approached Clough’s tenure with remarkable cynicism.

Fortunately, Moyes did not suffer as much. Yet, suffer he did. In the days that followed his sacking, it was revealed that players had grown disillusioned with Moyes’ methods. Meulensteen alleged that the 51-year-old manager hurt his task by ignoring advice from the existing Manchester United staff.

Certainly, the Dutch coach had an axe to grind. He decided to bring a five-year long association with the club to an end after learning that Moyes would prefer to bring his own staff. Nevertheless, Meulensteen’s opinion is worthy of consideration.

“It’s not just necessarily the work on the pitch. It’s everything that surrounds Manchester United, the players, the performances, the pressure, the style, the identity. And I think he (Moyes) underestimated that. It’s always easy in hindsight but unfortunately it’s cost him his position,” reckoned Meulensteen when he spoke to Sirius XM FC, a satellite radio station.

If Moyes did underestimate the task he was assigned, then it’s quite baffling. For it was obvious that the Scot had been given one of the toughest jobs in the world.

Other charges laid at Moyes’ door contain greater strength. The football played by Manchester United was certainly prosaic. The situation was worsened by Moyes’ lack of tactical ideas to cover the side’s deficiencies. A poor transfer window policy last summer damaged the club massively.

Yet, the club needs to admit the rot runs deeper.

The quality of the squad is remarkably average. Moreover, the players haven’t won any admirers due to a lack of courage in the face of adversity. The club’s chief-executive Ed Woodward exacerbated the situation by employing an ineffective transfer strategy upon the arrival of Moyes.

But as so often happens in football, the manager paid the price. Losing the dressing room can prove to be decisive when the results go wrong and so it did. Yet, this should not be the end of Moyes. In light of Everton’s good performance and United’s slide this season, there has been a significant negative revisionism of the Scot’s tenure with the former. But we need to guard against such opinions; Moyes’ time with Everton was, undoubtedly, a success.

For the remaining season, United has appointed Ryan Giggs as manager. Surely, a more established name will replace him next term. Yet, to avoid a Liverpool-like fall from grace, the so-called ‘Class of 92’ needs to be included in the running of the club. Paul Scholes, Phil Neville and Nicky Butt are already assisting Giggs. This famed bunch can provide the club a link with its successful past.

Unfortunately for United, two major problems persist. While the much-touted 150-million pound investment in the squad is necessary, it may not be enough. If the squad does lose seven to eight players over the summer, the current gaping holes could transform into a wide, deepening abyss.

More importantly, United has very few options when it looks for a new manager. Let’s consider the names linked to the job. Jurgen Klopp has refused to entertain any offers. And it seems uncertain that Carlo Ancelotti will leave Real Madrid if he leads the side to the Champions League title. Moreover, the United squad is ill-placed to conform to the ideas of football proposed by Louis van Gaal and Diego Simeone.

Who’s left? Antonio Conte. But the Italian has not been named among the leading contenders.

So, the process of selecting the new manager could prove to be painful for United. Sir Alex Ferguson will be involved in the decision-making, but it is almost certain that he won’t be given the freedom to appoint anyone he wants. The David Moyes saga has hurt Ferguson’s credibility too. His decision to appoint Moyes is seen as an unqualified failure. It’s not only the poor performances on the pitch that have forced many to question Ferguson’s wisdom; the opportunity cost of the decision is considered heavy too.

Last season, Jose Mourinho’s interest in the job was a bit too obvious. Many within the United camp felt that the club needed a world-class manager like the Portuguese to guard against failure. And success did desert the Red Devils.

Although Moyes was awarded a six-year contract, the modern football industry does not make adjustments for failure. For only so long could United suffer the financial burden of missing out on Champions League football. Once the club was unconvinced that Moyes could be trusted with a huge transfer kitty, there was only one way to go.

Was it the right decision? It’s tough to argue otherwise.