So, it has finally happened. Some may have been dreading it whilst others may have been wishing for it, but David Moyes was sacked by Manchester United at 8am on Tuesday 22nd April by Ed Woodward. It is fair to say this season has been anything but glorious for the Champions of last year. But can the failures of this season really be put wholly on Moyes’ shoulders? Surely, this season was always going to be impossibly difficult for whoever took over at Old Trafford.
Let’s start off with the key factor: Sir Alex Ferguson. Anyone succeeding the most successful manager in football history is going to encounter some serious difficulties. As Robbie Savage recently said on 5Live, imagine this; you arrive at Old Trafford to walk past the statue of Sir Alex Ferguson. Then, you walk through to the changing room past images of Sir Alex Ferguson’s success. As you walk out, the first thing you see is the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand. As you sit in the manager’s seat, you can see Sir Alex Ferguson himself in the stands. To say there is a lingering image of the past at the club is an understatement here.
Many have complained about the lack of quality in United’s team. What the team desperately required was a huge re-vamp to an ageing defence and a midfield which suffered from a lack of creativity. Seemingly a simple task, as squad-rebuilding goes in football, but imagine undertaking this task at United, surrounded by Sir Alex Ferguson propaganda. An immediate rebuild would either have been seen as very brave or very stupid as it could have broken down relations with the big man himself, and no manager in their right mind would have done that.
Moyes showed that he was willing to spend the big money to improve the United squad.
Despite this Moyes didn’t exactly shy away from the transfer window. There was a great deal of early speculation with United reportedly keen on players such as Ander Herrera of Athelic Bilbao, and Cesc Fabregas of Barcelona. There was even some success when Juan Mata was brought to Old Trafford in January, for the healthy sum of £37.1 million Chelsea. This should be considered as a statement by Moyes after the transfer failures of August 2013. He was starting to show he was willing to spend the big money to improve the United squad.
This was vital for two reasons. Firstly, it was a sign of change to his managerial style. At Everton, during his eleven year reign, he was very good at managing his players and building squads on a low budget. The success this brought at Everton was well-known. Clearly, his managerial style had to change for a club with larger resources and bigger personalities. Maybe he should have evolved quicker, but the signing of Mata and the renewal of Rooney’s contract were indeed signs of imminent change. Perhaps if Moyes had been allowed the transfer window of summer 2014, he would have shown more signs of changing his managerial style, but we can only put that down to speculation now.
The other reason the Mata signing was vital was because it showed signs of revitalising the squad in a key area. If we are honest, the only reason United won the title last season was because no-one else did enough to challenge them- City made poor signings as they became predictable, Liverpool and Chelsea were building, whilst Arsenal were well off the pace.
This season, though, everything changed as City made some proper signings (including a manager with a more attacking psychology), Chelsea retained their Special One, Liverpool found the perfect formula and Arsenal finally made a big signing. All of this, combined with the Sir Alex Ferguson aura and the poor squad, put a huge amount of pressure on Moyes in his debut season to make changes which, as I have already said, would be very brave/ stupid.
Now let’s look at the statistics. 17 wins, 6 draws and 11 losses have made this United’s worst performance in the league since the Premier League’s inaugural season in 1992. They have now missed out on European football for the first time since 1995. There are a huge number of negative records which have been broken as well, such as West Brom’s first win at Old Trafford since 1978 and Newcastle’ first since 1972.
However there are also more positive statistics: United’s away form (10W 3D 5L) is the second best in the League. Only Chelsea (15) and Everton (18) have conceded less goals away then United (21). Whilst Moyes’s win rate of 52% at United beats his win rate at Everton of 42%.
That said several results highlight United’s poor season- one need look no further than results against the top five. However, these have to be put down to the squad. David Moyes is responsible for making the tactics for the team to take out on the pitch- he is not out there kicking the ball! If the players don’t respond, that is their own fault.
There have been several rumours of unrest with players such as Van Persie and Welbeck apparently unhappy. Events ‘behind the scenes’ are the one thing that no pundit or fan can comment on with certainty. However pundits have commented on United’s lack of commitment on the pitch, so this could just be a simple case of players falling out with the manager. But is this just another cog in the process of succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson?
Finally, by sacking Moyes, Ed Woodward has let down the man who made United into the super-power they have become. Let me remind you of Sir Alex Ferguson’s words after the 2-1 victory over Swansea in May last year: “Your job now is to stand by our new manager. That is important.” If I could think of one word to sum up Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson’s relationship, it would be commitment.
I can only describe the sacking as a “panic move”.
There were several occasions United could have sacked Ferguson, for example the poor early seasons and the Beckham incident. But they stuck by Sir Alex Ferguson, like Everton did with Moyes, and allowed him to build a squad which has featured several world-class players- just think of the class of ’92, Keane, Cantona and Ronaldo. Who knows what Moyes could have achieved with time? Obviously success at United is demanded more now but the United executives (if not the commendable United fans) have thrown this philosophy out of the window in what I can only now describe as a “panic move”.
I do not believe any manager, even the Special One, could have taken over from Sir Alex Ferguson and enjoyed a completely successful first season. Factors such as the presence of Sir Alex Ferguson, an ageing, limited squad and a revolution in the Premier League have resulted in a huge amount of pressure being placed on the United manager in his debut season.
For me, Moyes should have been allowed time in the transfer window- if he made big changes, it would show Moyes was actually changing United; if he did nothing United would be within their right to sack Moyes with enough evidence from the previous season to show changes were needed. Maybe Moyes just didn’t manage the team well and the next manager will make a cracking job of it all, but Moyes’ sacking has come at the wrong time, leaving United extremely unstable. I certainly would not be surprised if the next signs you see at Old Trafford say ‘Glazers Out’!