David Moyes and The Damned United

Chris McSweeney takes a look back at the short time David Moyes spent as Manchester United manager and what exactly went wrong.

Former Manchester United and Everton manager David Moyes has finally been sacked by Manchester United.

Throughout the Premier League’s relatively short history, Moyes was seen as one of its top managers. During his 11-year tenure at Everton, it was often said by fans and pundits alike that he could surely compete on the top level if he were given more resources and a world-class team. Then, following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson in June 2013, David Moyes was given a career-defining chance at the helm of Manchester United. It should be news to no-one by now that he crumbled like an overcooked fruit cake.


It is undeniable that Moyes didn’t have quite enough time to build a team that he could say was his own. He didn’t even make it to the inevitable end-of-season £200m spend-a-thon. All things considered, he seemed like a good guy who’d been dealt a bad hand. The old guard of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand had suddenly seen a complete nose-dive in terms of competence on the field, Robin Van Persie, who more-or-less won the Premier League on his own last season spent the majority of this season injured, and younger players like Chris Smalling and Adnan Januzaj failed to flower into the rounded professionals the coaches were hoping they could be. Moyes quickly became less of a leader and more of a perpetual apologist for United’s bad luck, while Ferguson took his legacy and bolted.

That said, it’s difficult to overlook all of this:


Within the above image are five embarrassing home defeats, two home thrashings by bitter rivals, and one comprehensive thumping by a nigh-unknown Greek side in the Champions’ League (an honourable mention to Sunderland, who dumped United out of the League Cup at Old Trafford after penalties).

Moyes’ tenure was often underscored by a shockingly transparent ineptitude – in terms of both tactics and personality. The previous season’s champions often looked totally lost on the field, and the few new signings that Moyes made failed emphatically to find form. It was at one point noted that Manchester United spent a cumulative £80m on Juan Mata, Wilfred Zaha and Marouane Fellaini. To date, only Juan Mata – the January signing – has had anything close to an impact on the team. Other teams have these problems too, but few handle them as poorly as Moyes has.


You only need to compare Moyes’ performance with other recent managerial changes to see how poorly he’s taken to his post. Lower in the league, Tony Pulis yanked Crystal Palace out of a relegation battle; José Mourinho at Chelsea also inherited an aging side, but kept his team firmly in the top three, and Manuel Pellegrini looked very close to clinching Manchester City’s second Premier League title, but won the League Cup as a minor consolation. Both will be playing Champions’ League football next year. Overseas, Pep Guardiola has won the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich, and even the least successful top-tier debutant – Gerardo Martino at FC Barcelona, has kept his team in the title race, and in European football. In this time, David Moyes has taken the Premier League champions to seventh place, and due to the team’s poor performance, they won’t be playing in the Champions’ League for the first time in 19 years.

Attention has been drawn to the fact that Sir Alex Ferguson didn’t have a particularly successful first season at United either, and this is a valid point. As a matter of fact, Ferguson lost more of his first 30 games in charge than David Moyes did.


However, that was 1986 – when players were paid £200 a week, tickets were less than a fiver, and it was still publicly acceptable – admirable even – to wear a mullet. Needless to say, it was a very different game back then. United weren’t the side they are today, and football was more of an open competition, as wider range of teams had a shot at the title. Nowadays, players are paid literally a thousand times more, and for better or worse, only 3 or 4 teams have a shot: everyone else won’t come anywhere close. You either get in that top 3 or 4, or die in the wilderness, trophyless and broke. If a top team loses its footing in this day and age, you don’t come back. Just look at Leeds United – a catastrophic fall from grace is a realistic possibility for everyone. Ergo, the stakes are a lot higher, and big clubs quite reasonably expect results from their handsomely paid managers.

All things considered, it’s difficult to see David Moyes as anything but a turd in United’s punchbowl. Going forward, Manchester United still have a rather shitty bowl of punch, but at least there isn’t a turd in it.

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