The players were the problem to begin with. A combination of ageing and declining powers being met head on by a group of youngsters who were failing to live up to their expectations in a timely fashion. It wasn’t all David Moyes’ fault, as some even went as far as accusing, or at least wanting to accuse, Alex Ferguson of the poor state of the Manchester United squad.
It’s no one’s fault. It’s football. It happens. Teams get weaker as they come to the end of their cycle. Moyes was entrusted to oversee the reshaping of the squad, a task that obviously couldn’t be done overnight, or with one transfer window.
What hasn’t been accounted for is how poorly Moyes would fare in the job due to his own inability. The loss in Greece against Olympiakos was the lowest point for Manchester United thus far – and that’s saying something considering the defeats and manner of defeats suffered even weeks before the Champions League first leg tie.
Louis van Gaal has been talked up as a name to come in and right the ship. And why not? The Dutchman has found success in the Netherlands with two teams, in Spain with Barcelona, in Germany with Bayern Munich, and is now managing at international level. He’s everything a club in the predicament United are in need. He’s everything David Moyes isn’t and maybe never will be.
But can the club simply make the switch without any hassle, whether it’s now or in the summer, with the latter making far more sense? No, because that completely rubbishes the image they’ve tried to create for themselves, the image that separates them from clubs like Chelsea and those who are happy to have a revolving door of managers.
And here’s the thing: United weren’t being forced to portray this image of themselves. No one held a gun to the club’s owners and said they simply had to give Moyes a six-year contract, nor would Moyes have turned down the offer had it been half the term.
Football is obsessed with image, clubs seemingly carrying out what others want or think they should do. Like the Wayne Rooney deal. How much of that was due to United wanting to keep the player over what others would think of them had they sold him on?
The club have shot themselves in the foot by offering Moyes a six-year deal. It’s not just the potential damage that will be done to their reputation, but also the hit the club will take on the financial side. The Glazers are already noted for their unwillingness to part with big money, so how keen do you think they’ll be to pay off Moyes to the tune of £25 million? Not even Robin van Persie’s transfer fee came to that.
The problem with Moyes is that there doesn’t seem to be any upside to the losses. If United were playing good football but still losing, Moyes would have time on his hands. The evidence would be there that he’s having a positive effect but being hindered by an inadequate squad.
But that’s not happening. If anything, United’s performances have been getting worse. Olympiakos are a team thrown together by youngsters, loan signings and journeymen; Michel, the manager, was sacked by Sevilla last season for a collapse following a derby win against Real Betis. And yet he and his group of players managed to outthink and outplay the Premier League champions and a man who is yet to be shown the door in his managerial career.
But can all of that be taken into consideration when thinking of the on-field side of the club? Are the owners allowed to walk into an area which they said they wouldn’t? The club appear to be influenced by what’s going on outside, yet they’ve also hamstrung themselves, because again no one told them they absolutely had to hand out a six-year contract to a man with no record of winning major silverware whatsoever.
United should be thinking about replacing Moyes because it has come to that, there are no positives to take from any aspect of his handling of the job, while suggestions that Moyes has lost the dressing room should send alarm bells ringing. Van Gaal would be ideal.
With United sacking Moyes, it would be to tarnish their reputation or image by choosing to think long term. For those who want to avoid looking at things as black or white, it is appearing to be a case of an appointment simply not working out, rather than a club becoming bored.