For all the club’s assurances and guarantees, David Moyes’ departure has had an air of inevitability for some time. The news of his sacking has resulted in jubilation amongst some Manchester United fans whilst others struggle to take pleasure in the humiliation of a seemingly pleasant man. So what does this sacking mean for Manchester United? Was it a necessary step in securing the club’s future success or a cowardly betrayal of long held principles?
In this article, we take a look at some of the potential pros and cons of the sacking.
The sense of renewed optimism among many United fans
Before Moyes’ departure was announced, it was difficult to place much credibility in the club’s claims that they would be challenging for the title next season. With a new manager and a huge transfer kitty, the idea suddenly sounds a lot more plausible, particularly if an experienced, top-level European coach is appointed.
A more united dressing room
Whilst rumours of dressing room unhappiness are ever the plague of the unsuccessful club, some of the stories coming out of Old Trafford lately have been unsettling to say the least. At this point, there is little proof of which rumour was true and which wasn’t, but the Wilfred Zaha situation and the supposed talk of a Danny Welbeck transfer were both extremely worrying. Zaha has hardly played under Moyes in spite his £15 million price tag and there have been murmurings that Welbeck was unhappy with his role under Moyes and considering his future. Given the fact that Welbeck came through the United youth ranks, this seemed a particularly bad omen for the internal goings on at the club.
Of all David Moyes’ strengths as a manager and as a man, positivity does not seem chief amongst them. Whether he was making Liverpool the favourites ahead of their trip to Old Trafford or implying that his (Title Winning) squad wasn’t up to the challenge of making the Top Four, Moyes has consistently given off a negative air which is out of place in a club like United. One can’t help wonder how different this season might have been for United with the very same squad had they had the enthusiasm of a Klopp or Martinez in their dugout.
A more attacking style of play
This was perhaps the biggest single issue during the David Moyes’ era. It’s one thing to lose as Manchester United manager. Fans were willing to be patient, fully realising there was always likely to be a hangover after such an extended period under the previous tyrannical Scot. But there’s a big difference between losing the right way and losing the wrong way. Too often under Moyes, United went out with a whimper, showing little by way of passion, attacking flair or courage. Whilst there is no guarantee that a new manager will be more offensive, it seems highly likely. United is a club founded on a particular attacking, never-say-die ethos. Restoring that cavalier approach and unshakable determination and belief should be the first priority of any incumbent.
Summer Spending Spree
Whilst United paid over the odds for Fellaini, he is a better player than he has looked this season. He may not be the nimble, complete midfielder that United needed but his strength and aggression could certainly prove useful assets over the coming seasons should he regain his confidence. Juan Mata is a classy operator, albeit one who has been off form and played out of position too often under Moyes. Neither of these players were poor signings and both improved United’s squad. That said, neither of them were the players United were crying out for either. United need speed. They need someone in midfield to control the game. Truth be told, they need several defenders too.
But one can’t help wonder how easy Moyes would have found it to attract top level players after the club’s performance this season. It’s not just the results but also the uncharacteristically defensive displays from United that could have caused potential signings to hesitate. Regardless of who the new manager is, this should not be an issue. Of the names being bandied about, Simeone, Klopp and Van Gaal all command immediate international respect. The fourth name, Ryan Giggs, is a club legend and a true disciple of the steely attacking football which has made United great. It is not difficult to see any of these candidates undertaking a successful overhaul of the United squad. To let Moyes spend that money would have been an incredible gamble at this point. Especially if one believes the rumours that his first act as United boss was to scupper pre-arranged deals for Thiago Alcântara and Ezequiel Garay. One couldn’t help feel that the only way he could have gotten the team playing the way he wanted was to replace every single player in the squad except Wayne Rooney.
The papers have been rife with tales of a growing rift between Giggs and Moyes. For most United fans, the choice between these two men was a straightforward one. If Moyes’ departure facilitates Giggs remaining at United (and the likes of Paul Scholes possibly getting involved in the coaching set-up), then it seems like a price worth paying on that level alone.
The home crowd never turned on Moyes and now they won’t have to. The hard-core United fans have done the club proud in their unwavering refusal to adapt mob rule as the status quo. One couldn’t help wonder if the Everton game mightn’t have tested this resolve. Now, it’s no longer an issue.
The End of the Hangover
It is hardly out of the question to suggest that some of the problems at United this season stemmed from a general and subconscious loosening of standards in the aftermath of Ferguson’s departure. Players and staff around Old Trafford had known and feared Fergie for almost three decades. With that fear factor departing and with external pressures intensifying as a result, it was almost inevitable that there would be some hangover. With Moyes’ departure, this season can now be reviewed in that light and any new manager will be arriving into a far less pressurised environment. Many pundits have predicted that it will be easier to replace the man who replaces the man. They may well be right.
The ruination of a good man’s reputation
Whether one admires David Moyes as a manager or not, it’s difficult not to feel a little sorry for him. Sure, he’ll get his pay out but one never got the impression that Moyes took on the challenge of replacing Fergie for financial reasons. Rather, one suspects it was a job he had dreamt about for years and would have stayed in for years, had circumstances allowed. One cannot take any pleasure in seeing an apparently good hearted, dedicated man fail so spectacularly on such a big stage.
Fergie hand-picked Moyes. No doubt, he has had cause to second guess his decision as the season went on. Make no mistake, this is not how the great man planned to end his career. The Moyes’ debacle should in no way tarnish Ferguson’s legacy but the way some ‘fans’ turned on him when results went bad was sickening. These were undoubtedly the same fans who thought Ferguson only won trophies because he spent a lot of money. One can only hope that the club do everything they can to keep Ferguson and Bobby Charlton on side, they are far too important to the fabric of the club to be discarded like old jerseys.
Giving the nay-sayers too much power
Even before David Moyes took charge of his first game as United manager, there were people who wanted him sacked. They may look on recent events as a vindication of their passionate opposition to Moyes’ reign. They would be very wrong, however. Sure, Moyes may have proven himself an inadequate replacement for Alex Ferguson. But it could just as easily have gone the other way. The fact that it hasn’t means that United have had a very poor season. Anyone who is happy about that can hardly call themselves a true United fan. More importantly, however, this sets a very dangerous precedent. Around the time that Alex Ferguson announced his initial retirement back in 2002, there was a large chorus claiming he was past it; that he had only won trophies by outspending his rivals; that he was senile, old and archaic. These voices grew and grew until Fergie finally squashed them by abandoning his plans to retire and embarking on one of the most successful periods in the club’s history. Had Moyes lasted a little longer, such success seemed unlikely. Giving power to negative, fair weather fans, spoiled by years of success is still a recipe for disaster, however. Look at Leeds. Look at Aston Villa. Look at countless other ‘big clubs’ scattered around the lower leagues. Chelsea and Real Madrid may get away with managerial merry go rounds reminiscent of the French Revolution but they have spent enormous quantities in the process and have still under-performed on many levels.
Had Moyes already arranged to sign players this coming summer and what now happens to these deals? It’s World Cup year so signings need to be made early if at all possible. This would also allow any signings to get to know their new team-mates before the new season starts. As is, it is very likely that next season will again be labelled as a ‘transitional period’. There’ll be a new manager after-all.
Never ending transition
If the new manager doesn’t land on his feet immediately, he will likely come under pressure from fans and the media in much the same way Moyes has. Moyes got more leeway than most managers because of United’s reputation for sticking by their managers. Whilst Moyes’ sacking may not eradicate that reputation entirely in that he was still given a lot more time than he would have been at most major clubs, it will certainly undermine it. That means that the next United boss could find himself under even more pressure than Moyes did and quicker.
Whilst it was difficult to know what Moyes was planning or what tactics he might eventually adopt, one must assume he didn’t sign Juan Mata on a whim any more than he fought so hard to keep Wayne Rooney at the club. With Moyes’ departure, this is an area that is going to require some serious consideration. In Mata and Rooney, United have two players who theoretically excel in the same position. It will be fascinating to see how Rooney is treated by the incoming manager and where they see him fitting in. Rooney has, to his credit, played with passion and intensity this season even when his general performances haven’t always been up to scratch. If he doesn’t fit in to the new manager’s plans, that legendary new contract he signed might need reviewing a lot more quickly than any of us expected
It is difficult to argue with Manchester United’s decision to part ways with David Moyes. That said, this should never result in the vitriolic gloating undertaken by some fans. These fans should remember that, for all his apparent faults, David Moyes was a man trying his absolute best to bring success to United. He didn’t set out to fail and the fact is, he didn’t hire himself. It should also be remembered that Moyes did give fans their first glimpse of Adnan Januzaj as well as signing Juan Mata and tying Wayne Rooney to a long term contract. Some of these dealings may not have appealed to the fans but equally, they could prove vital to the club down the line. Moyes also revolutionised United’s player recruitment and scouting departments, which may equally prove beneficial in the future. It is difficult to view the short-lived Moyes era as anything other than a failure. However, in time, some of the work he has done may well come to fruition under someone else’s stewardship. For now, Manchester United fans will be curious to see how the team performs under Ryan Giggs and will surely be looking to the summer with a new sense of optimism and excitement.