When Sir Alex Ferguson chose David Moyes to be his successor at Manchester United, everyone agreed that it was a wise move. The former Everton manager was seen as a boss in the mold of United legend Fergie, and the club were commended for hiring a British manager.
The six year deal Moyes signed was a signal of the board’s intentions to give him all the time he needed in his quest for silverware. But United fans worried that his lack of experience in major tournaments, and his total lack of success in terms of winning silverware, would be evident at a club where there is no room for error.
Fergie himself was just spared the axe when he won the FA Cup three years into his tenure - with fans calling for his head. But that was more than 20 years ago and in a year where eight sides had already parted company with their manager before Moyes’ dismissal from United, it is hardly surprising that such a dismal season has come at a price.
United are seventh in the league after a 2-0 defeat at Goodison Park against Moyes’ former club Everton, and are 23 points behind leaders Liverpool - despite winning the title themselves last season. And with 11 defeats in 34 games, United’s hopes of a European spot are also hanging in the balance with Hull City set to take the third Europa League spot - providing Arsenal finish in the top four.
Moyes was struggling from the word go, failing to sign targets Thiago Alcantara, Cesc Fabregas, Ander Herrera and Leighton Baines - as well as failing in reported bids for Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Moyes signed Marouane Fellaini from Everton for £27.5m and he has also found it difficult to get into his stride. Even January signing Juan Mata didn’t provide much sparkle. Arguably Moyes’ biggest success in the transfer market was keeping hold of Wayne Rooney.
But being knocked out of the FA Cup by Swansea, Capital One Cup by Sunderland and accepting their performance in Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich as a positive were all massive factors in the board’s decision.
In addition, Liverpool, Everton and Manchester City all managed to do the double over United, scoring 14 goals in the process. Chelsea also managed to get four points from two games against the Red Devils, who have just one win in twelve games against the top six - a 1-0 win at home to Arsenal.
United fans that were calling for Jose Mourinho, Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola when Ferguson announced his retirement will be left wondering what could have been. But the Glazer family have a chance to appease the fans now as they can replace Moyes with a big name manager - Louis Van Gaal and Carlo Ancelotti emerging as the early front runners.
Despite the continuous backing Moyes received from the fans, there was no hiding the relief and - in some cases - elation at the decision to end his tenure. Some fans even chartered a light aircraft to circle Old Trafford with the words “The Wrong One - Moyes Out” before the game against Aston Villa recently. That was a reference to the infamous Chosen One banner that will now be removed from the ground.
And Fergie must be ruing one of the biggest mistakes of his career, with his choice backfiring at one of the world’s greatest clubs - for the world to see.
United now face a struggle to get back into the top four - let alone fight for the title - and must ensure they have the perfect manager for the job on the journey forward. Ryan Giggs has taken charge on an interim basis until then, and will be hoping to finish the year strongly.