So it took Manchester United 10 months to put David Moyes out of his misery. Any other self-respecting top club, with equivalent demands and expectations, would have taken the decision long ago. Long before their title challenge dissipated. Long before Moyes got the chance to admit to being underdogs in a Premier League fixture against Liverpool at Old Trafford. Long before most all of the travesties witnessed at Old Trafford this season.
The baffling thing is why it took so long to do. And there is one simple answer. There is an institutional arrogance which permeates the club at every level, which can be summarised in one phrase. It’s one of those uttered in triumphalism at the best of times, yet this season it has become a mantra of ignorant denial due to a sense of self-importance. It is simply because: ‘we’re Manchester United.’
On Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football, Gary Neville demonstrated these elitist ideals which appear to, until recently, have been upheld at the club. He said that he “always felt Manchester United should be different. Hold itself up as a club that stands against what’s happening in the game.”
There remains an idea that Manchester United should go against the grain, purely for the sake of the badge and the brand. Purely to be identifiable from the rest; to be footballing hipsters. The thought that they could, and would, stick by their manager through thick and thin – which Sir Alex Ferguson addressed at the end of last season – simply for the sake of being different is absurd.
Now Manchester United dine on humble pie in recognition that they are no longer bastions of an ideal footballing world. They aren’t blazing a trail for other clubs to follow them to a football utopia. They’re just another one of the pack.
The arrogance within the club even manifested itself in the converse recognition that yet whilst Sir Alex Ferguson was unique, he could be remanufactured in the body of David Moyes. Another man in Fergie’s ‘image’, in United’s eyes, was the key. They felt they were the perfect club, and had the perfect formula for a continuation of their dynasty.
Ironically, in acknowledging how special Fergie had been to the club, the overlooked his uniqueness. It is highly doubtful that they will ever come close to replicating what they had with Sir Alex Ferguson. Managerial reigns which bring continued success over a quarter of a century can’t simply be reformulated. But by leaving the succession of Sir Alex Ferguson in his very hands the club felt they would continue to be successful. They thought they could rely on him to make the decision, because he was always reliable.
It has also become evident that the club’s hierarchy had not come to the realisation of the severity of their own demands. Or if they did, they weren’t conveyed to David Moyes well enough. The thought that a club the size of Manchester United would be willing to accept a period of failure not witnessed for over a quarter of a decade is ludicrous.
The messages that Moyes would be granted the time needed to rebuild the club weren’t given under the pretences of abysmal underperformance. Not to question Moyes’ professionalism – because I’m positive he always gave his best efforts – but, sub-consciously, the belief he felt he had from the hierarchy will have partially allowed for failure in his mind.
Manchester United simply never contemplated failure of the magnitude they have experienced this season. And this ignorance had gotten into Moyes’ head too. After the 2-2 draw away at Tottenham earlier in the season, Moyes claimed that the top of the table would ‘sort itself out’. He had bought into the elitist culture of Manchester United, believing that some sort of divine right would see them rise up the table into the Champions League spots. There was no mention of hard work. He simply felt the club deserved to be there because they are Manchester United.
Everyone within the club got so caught up in their own delusions of grandeur that they lost sight of what, in reality, they actually are. They ‘give time’ to their managers because it’s ‘the Man United way’. They had success with Sir Alex Ferguson that way, and they would have success that way again.
The urgency of the situation at Manchester United has only now dawned on the club’s owners and board members. David Moyes – the ‘Chosen One’ – was an unknowing victim of the ‘United way’. The belief they could do things differently because they were above their competitors, not just technically, but moralistically as well, has come at a price. A price which has seen them detached from their fingertips which kept them clinging onto their perch. Football has ushered in a new era, and Manchester United are just joining the party.