Over the course of this season, Manchester United have careened from disappointment to ponderous defeat. The latest few “disasters” made the position of manager David Moyes – The Chosen One – completely untenable, and the United board have responded by sacking him after less than a year in the position.
While the manner of his dismissal was poorly handled by the club, few – if any – disagree with the decision. The negativity surrounding the player group reached the threshold for toxicity months ago, while an overwhelming on-field ambivalence led to several insipid performances. The worst of these have occurred since January.
Throughout the season, Moyes conducted himself with a kind of pie-eyed optimistic dignity. Even the statement he put out through the League Managers Association upon his dismissal smacks of class. However, dignity is often the product of respect and therefore does not necessarily beget the arrogance required to both capture and hold the attention of a roomful of egos. Neither does it inspire confidence in fans.
Despite the underhanded manner of its announcement, the decision to let Moyes go was the right one even considering the paucity of viable replacements. Despite the distaste generated by disposing of a manager within a year of his appointment, David Moyes simply could not be authorised to spend the money required to rebuild.
Why was this? The answer, as with many failed hirings, was that under Moyes’ leadership the club simply had no identity. They weren’t the almighty steamroller of years past, nor did they have any kind of observably consistent offensive or defensive philosophies. It’s telling that, outside a certain handful of players, Moyes was never certain of his best lineup; his appalling summer transfer window in 2013 was the product of indecision – weighing up the benefits of one player/fee/style over another for far too long.
A large part of this blame can be apportioned to the departed manager, but another significant part rests with the manner of his coronation.
Most managers leave a club after their methods fail, when problems with the past manager’s style are obvious. Unlike most new gaffers, Moyes succeeded the most trophied boss in the business and thereby the typical new-guy remit - “don’t be that guy” - was not afforded him. He had no remit to change, just to evolve that which already existed; there was little stylistically to “fix”.
It is damning that the area of chief concern, the midfield, was addressed poorly and expensively at the transfer deadline.
Moyes has, however, given his successor – probably Louis van Gaal – that opportunity. The job description will probably include the words “Anti-Moyes”, “Arrogant One” and “Don’t be David” prominently featured in size-18 Comic-Sans. United are eminently fixable without the root-and-branch reform Moyes began peddling in 2014; all it takes is the ability to see the problems quickly upon arrival.
If nothing else, David Moyes’ tenure as United manager has highlighted areas that need quick and drastic improvement.