Manchester United fans have long thought the club immune from the revolving door syndrome that characterises managerial positions in modern football. That’s unsurprising, given that its last manager, Alex Ferguson, spent 26 years building the club into a formidable footballing institution and enviable global brand. His retirement brought with it well-founded trepidation that no one would be able to fill the void left by his absence, and the appointment of David Moyes, a hard-working yet unproven-on-the-big-stage Scot, did little to alleviate apprehensions of a particularly bumpy transition. Now, after only 10 months—during which United have slid from champions to seventh in the English Premier League, which will also likely cost them a UEFA Champions League spot, the first time they will have failed to qualify in almost two decades—Moyes has been handed his marching orders. The overwhelming sense is that it was a matter of “when”, not “if”.
Not only has Moyes failed to motivate the team to win matches, the cautious approach that worked so well at his previous club, Everton, did not yield results at the much bigger United, whose fans are accustomed to consistently winning silverware, not just occasionally slaying giants. United, after all, is one of the giants that Everton, until Sunday, had not defeated on home ground in 21 years. The last 10 months have starkly outlined the limits of Moyes’s skills, with defeat not even coming as a consequence of entertaining, attacking football with a rickety defence a la Arsenal of the past, but rather a dour, plodding style.
Succeeding Ferguson was always going to be as difficult a task as it was a wonderful opportunity, but Moyes was not aided by his own decision to sideline another Old Trafford hero, Ryan Giggs, who has assumed interim charge. In an era where the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City have popularised the view that money can buy trophies, Moyes exemplifies just how important a manager is to building lasting success in modern football.