In terms of the many disappointments David Moyes oversaw in his reign at Manchester United, a 2-0 defeat to Everton hardly ranks highly amongst them. Languishing in seventh place in the Premier League, the Red Devils latest loss may have mathematically ruled out a top four finish. But any hopes of securing Champions League football for next season had long since been dismissed as futile.
Why then was the decision taken to remove the “Chosen One” now?
The timing of the sacking in footballing terms doesn’t add up. United had battled valiantly against an impressive Bayern Munich side to suggest that perhaps a corner had been turned. Moyes had started to get the best out of record signing Juan Mata and the club’s overall form had to a degree improved.
If Moyes’ removal was linked to performances on the pitch, surely he would have gone a lot sooner? Logic dictates that the former Everton manager would have been issued his marching orders after any of the number of recent humiliations. Consecutive 0-3 humblings at home to rivals Liverpool and Manchester City offered the Glazers the perfect opportunity to get rid of their man. The defeat at Goodison Park to Roberto Martinez’s top four chasing side hardly compares to these capitulations.
Rumours of dressing room unrest have plagued Moyes’ United since the turn of the year. There has evidently been some substance to these claims. Nemanja Vidic’s decision to swap Manchester for Milan. Robin Van Persie’s comments after the first leg defeat at Olympiakos. The latest exit reports have linked Danny Welbeck with a departure from Old Trafford.
Obviously the old adage reads that there is no smoke without fire. But whenever a club struggles, rumours of dressing room unrest often abound without any real evidence. Until one of United’s stars release an autobiography a decade from now, we will never be able to say with any certainty what went on behind closed doors.
Rather than trying to understand the sacking from a purely footballing perspective, does the removal of Moyes make more sense from a business angle?
The departure of the “Chosen One” on Tuesday was leaked the day before and the information prompted a rejuvenation in the club’s share price on the New York Stock Exchange. In the two hours following the official confirmation, the share priced jumped from $17.72 to $18.60. It was the highest value achieved since Sir Alex Ferguson announced his retirement back in May.
The former United managed himself was quoted in the Times as saying “it was upsetting the way it came out.” But the guaranteed loss of £25 million following the club’s now mathematically confirmed failure to qualify for the Champions League would have proven detrimental to a share price that had already suffered over the past year.
The continual delays in a much heralded new sponsorship deal with Nike may have also played their part in precipitating Moyes’ demise. Reports earlier in the month suggested that United were closing in on an extravagant £600 million, ten year deal with their current partner. But with no confirmation as of yet, the Glazers likely reacted in this manner to protect the viability of their investment. Despite the reputable status of their acquisition, the American owners still view United as a cash cow that needs to remain profitable.
Maybe the answer to the question of timing may lie with the upcoming transfer window. With the club eliminated from the Champions League, attention at Old Trafford had turned to the topic of investment in the summer. With United’s squad in major need of surgery, maybe the Glazers realised that they didn’t want to entrust a nine figure transfer kitty to the man that had already spent £27.5 million on Marouane Fellaini?
In an interview with Sky Sports News following the news of Moyes sacking, financial expert David Buik asserted that the decision was “80 percent” driven by money. United’s debts since the Glazers seized ownership have been well publicised and Buik believes that the Americans needed to act swiftly to protect their investment. The expert stated “they had to act precipitously, cruelly and very quickly. I’m afraid being kind and serving notice, saying ‘perhaps you can leave at end of the season’, was never part of the equation.”
For a club that had long embodied and continued to preach the virtue of managerial stability, the actual sacking of Moyes this week was a surprise development. Business rather than football provides a better explanation behind the timing of the decision, but the departure of the “Chosen One” remains surrounded by a myriad of questions that will likely remain unanswered.