Imagine you start a job in a managerial position.

You’ve had jobs in a similar position before, but this is for a world renowned and extremely successful brand.  The person who held the job before you retired. This particular person was loved by all. He was loved by the general staff, he was loved by the consumers and he was loved in head office. He held the post for over a quarter of a century and became known as a legend in his field. He hand picked you to replace him. You know that nothing in this world could ever prepare you for this job, especially after the company beat off competition to become top dog in the previous year, but it’s an opportunity you couldn’t possibly let pass you.

Despite all the best intentions and optimism, things start to turn sour for you from day one. Your Head of Recruitment fails to get you the world class new staff members you were promised and you are forced to bring in someone from your previous company in an attempt to fill gaps in your staff. You felt to best put your ways into practice within the company, that you should have your own team of advisors, and not those who were part of the previous regime, much to the dismay of the staff below you. Speaking of the staff you manage, they don’t seem all too interested in listening to you or your demands. They don’t treat you with the same respect as your predecessor and aren’t performing to the standards expected of them. But alas, despite any efforts you make, they aren’t having any of it and you’re the one to blame for all of it.

As a result of all of this, the consumers are not happy. The customers who pay good, hard earned money for the company’s services. You can understand their concerns. They’re watching their beloved brand falter, while a close rival rises to the top after a long spell below. They’ve been infallibly loyal for years, possibly a lifetime and are not receiving a quality of product they have become used to, but they’re incredibly impatient. They want you to turn things around with the flick of a switch, holding you solely responsible for what they’ve been getting recently. They don’t look at the bigger picture and are not willing to wait until you can put the plans you have into action.

Last of all, your superiors in head office are also not happy. They see the stock markets, shares and profits as the main goals. Unfortunately, when the company is performing badly, so do these other aspects. You offer up an action plan for the long term, one you have faith will bring the company back to it’s perch, but they want immediacy. As you are the man responsible for the duties on the ground, you are the scapegoat. They’ve decided you have to go. Relieved of your duties after just a short scale of time.

Worst of all it feels as if everyone you thought was on your side, seems to have been working against you. It’s been said that senior members of staff knew you were to be removed from your position before you did. Every man, woman, child, cat and dog knew before anyone had talked to you about the situation. Nobody even came out in your defence to at least try to diffuse the situation, the decision had already been made. Humiliated and embarrassed, you have been fired.

Ex-Manchester United Manager David Moyes

Ex-Manchester United Manager David Moyes

This is what happened to David Moyes this week. Put it into the perspective of any job other than that of the manager of a football club, the events that unfolded seem very unfair. While there is no defence for Manchester United’s performance this season, it has been horrendous by United standards, from day one the job had been made untenable for David Moyes. The media, the fans, and now seemingly the United players were all against him. Looking back over his short tenure, you begin to feel very sorry for the man who was picked to follow in the shoes of Sir Alex Ferguson.

In May 2013 Sir Alex announces his retirement, not long after guiding Manchester United to their 20th English League title. He phones David Moyes and asks him to come over to discuss some things. Moyes arrives, expecting to be told United would be pursuing an Everton player in the transfer window, or that United would like him to take one their players on loan at Everton next season for development purposes. Instead, he is told he is to be the next Manchester United manager. David Moyes did not apply for the job, or send his CV to Old Trafford. He was told he would be replacing Sir Alex. Did he really want the job? Who knows, but how do you say no to Alex Ferguson and turn down Manchester United?

Next comes the official announcement of his appointment, and on a lengthy six year contract. Many of the fans and media are already vocal in opposition of Moyes’ appointment. They have him written off before he has even properly began. How do you win over the support of people who have spent a good part of their lives, if not the entirety of their lives idolising your predecessor? Can you ever do that unless you are given at least a good chunk of your contract to try?

Then there were the tasks that lay ahead of David Moyes from his very first day of stepping into office. He was left with a relatively average squad that needed a lot of work and rebuilding. Sure they had just won the league, but it can be argued it was Robin van Persie’s stellar form, stuttering form among their title rivals and the plain fact that they had Alex Ferguson in the driving seat that sealed title no. 20. There was also the Wayne Rooney issue. In his last ever on pitch interview, Ferguson revealed that Rooney wanted to leave the club. While this came as no surprise to people, and it wasn’t the first time Rooney had been unhappy at United, surely the last thing Moyes needed when starting the job was to dealing with one of the club’s most important players wanting to leave. This should have been wrapped up, Rooney either staying or going, before Moyes tenure began. This was only the start of what was to become a very long summer transfer window…

Wayne Rooney: Reportedly wanted to leave United

Wayne Rooney: Reportedly wanted to leave United

Moyes was left with a squad that needed quite a bit of work, there’s no denying that. Manchester United’s midfield has been crying out for proper talent for the best part of 10 years. With Roy Keane never truly being replaced, Scholes’ (second) retirement, and the lack of established players in that central midfield role, the onus was purely on Carrick to carry the midfield for the last few seasons. Other positions needed players too. Left Back, where Patrice Evra is getting on a bit and possibly leaving. Central Defence, where Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, the latter who would eventually announce a move to Inter Milan, both suffered from chronic injury problems, are also ageing and no certainty over players like Smalling and Jones being able to step up yet. And finally, the wing positions, where Nani and Antonio Valencia never really managed to fill the gap left by Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure to Real Madrid in 2009. Both had spells of good form, Valencia especially, but lacked that world class difference brought by someone like Ronaldo.

While Moyes dealt with the pre-season matches, press duties and other tour tasks across Asia, transfer dealings were seemingly left to the club’s executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward. Deals were set-up for numerous players. Thiago Alcantara, Cesc Fabregas, Fabio Coentraeo, Ander Herrera and Leighton Baines. Quality players who may well have been exactly what United were looking for, all stuttered and failed under Woodward’s watch despite being all but done in the eyes of the media, and possibly Moyes. It left Moyes and United with no option but to go for the panic buy option. A player familiar to Moyes from his former club, Marouane Fellaini, for a massive £27.5million. While a brutish hard man was needed in the United midfield, Fellaini, despite being a key player at Everton, never really showed his uses at United making just 15 appearances. Some transfer success did come however in the form of securing Juan Mata from Chelsea in the January window, a player who will undoubtedly flourish for Manchester United in the future.

Juan Mata

Juan Mata

Despite a positive start, winning the Community Shield and taking 4 points from the first two games against Swansea and Chelsea, things then started to turn sour. In September, United managed just one win from four games. Two of those four games were poor losses to bitter rivals Liverpool (1-0 in Anfield) and Manchester City (4-1 in the Etihad). Things seemingly began to look a bit more hopeful for Moyes, by Christmas they had just two losses and eight wins over the next thirteen league games, however it wasn’t enough to lift United above 6th position in the table. In the second half of the season, matters worsened. Not able to amass more than 2 wins on the trot, and losses to Spurs, Chelsea, Liverpool, City and finally, Moyes former club Everton, Manchester United have been left in 7th position in the Premier League and unable to qualify for the Champions League. Facing their first ever finish outside the top 3 and no European football next season, David Moyes was sacked with just four games left in the league campaign. Club legend Ryan Giggs is taking over for the remaining games until a replacement can be found. United fans are also facing watching Liverpool lift the League title for the first time in 24 years. Something that leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of many.

There is no defence for United’s Premier League performance. None whatsoever. No excuses can be made. At Everton seventh place would be expected, an acceptable finish, and anything above that a success. This is Manchester United. One of the biggest clubs, if not the biggest, in the world. But exactly how much of that torrid form was due to Moyes, and only Moyes? Do the players not have a lot to answer for too? At the end of the day, it is them out on the pitch.

Although the squad needed work, and didn’t improve along side rivals who done admirable business in the summer, you could argue that they were definitely still a top four side, even if that was on the sole basis of them being champions. They were a winning side, instilled with the winning values of Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson. That shouldn’t have been something that was lost with SAF’s departure. Surely the key to the talent of all of these players was not locked inside a now retired Scot? No. At least it shouldn’t be. Nor should one man be able to single handedly destabilise it either.

We don’t know what David Moyes was saying inside the dressing room (as of yet, anyway), or how he was setting teams up to play, or whether the teams even listened to him in the first place when he made demands of them, tactical or otherwise.  United’s play was stale and regressive for the most part this season, and aside from some short flashes of excellency, no player stood out above the rest as one who was even trying to play for Moyes, or for themselves. Apart from maybe David de Gea, who possibly kept United from suffering a worse fate this season with innumerable vital saves. If poor performances came from Moyes’ doing, and it was something time couldn’t repair, then maybe his sacking was justified. Although you cannot say he didn’t try to shake things up tactically, playing 51 different starting XI’s in the 51 games he was in charge.

David Moyes looking forlorn vs Liverpool

David Moyes looking forlorn vs Liverpool

Moyes’ exit statement in which he never mentioned the players is quite telling of a clearly fractured relationship between players and manager, suggesting player power may have played a massive role in the decision made by the United board. The egos within the United camp may not have taken well to someone who was not Ferguson coming onto the scene and attempting to take the same iron fist levels of control that were present in the past. Moyes also had to battle with the issue of what may be a big leak inside Old Trafford, one that started the smoke and eventual fire in the press of both his sacking and Ferguson’s retirement. If reports are true that some of the players knew Moyes was to be sacked then a leak could well be on either player or board level, and intent on working against Moyes.

Unfortunately for David Moyes, he will never get to see whether whatever plans he had for Manchester United come to fruition. This summer would have been a sign of his intent for improvement of the club, and giving him time to put his measures into place could well have paid off for the club, but his regime was doomed from the very beginning.

He did however, have great dignity in every day he was manager. Facing angry fans week in, week out, some of whom paid for a banner demanding his sacking to fly over the stadium, which he faced alone on the pitch of Old Trafford, and yet he held no grudge against the fans during his exit, sympathising with them on their concerns over results.

What’s next for United, only time will tell. With football fan’s and club owners expecting immediate success from a new manager and moody superstars on massive pay packets needing pampering, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for a football manager to step into a club and succeed. The sack-spend-sack-spend culture has definitely become a steadfast trend in football, made famous by Manchester City, Chelsea, and Real Madrid, who have no qualms over sacking a manager when things aren’t going to plan before giving the next in line a transfer war-chest of hundreds of millions of pounds. While it works for some clubs, it is not a system any club should aspire to unless there are some oil-rich owners behind the scenes ready to splash billions like they’re pennies.

Roman Abramovich: Chelsea's oil-rich bankroller

Roman Abramovich: Chelsea’s oil-rich bankroller

It seems apparent that the days of giving a manager time to get club affairs into order are dying out. Remember that it took Sir Alex four years to win his first trophy at United, and not without being given a few second chances. Heck, you only have to look at Liverpool, where Brendan Rodgers lead them to a seventh place finish in his first season, but it was seen as something to build upon rather than dismiss him as a failure like his predecessors, and peers at other clubs. They now stand on the brink of a Premier League title. They learned from the single season or less terms of both Hodgson and Dalglish that it was not sustainable, and if their good form of this season is continued over a prolonged period it will show what having patience with the manager can potentially do for your club.

All in all, it proves that being a football manager is one of the toughest jobs out there. Could any of you handle the situations placed in front of David Moyes any better? Definitely not. Can Ryan Giggs? Can Jurgen Klopp? Can Jose Mourinho? Can Louis van Gaal? We’ll see.

 

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