Long-term relationships usually end like that. The love of your life leaves after 26 years so you look elsewhere. There is the fancy Portuguese one that keeps making the eyes at you, the rugged German or the one that reminds you of your past love.
Like a love-struck fool, United went for the closest thing they could find to Sir Alex Ferguson and it did not end well. After clinging on for far too long in the hope that it would work out, David Moyes was finally dumped. The fallout will last for weeks and the heartache will linger on yet once it became clear it wasn’t working, it became easier to end it.
There has been idealised talk over the club tarnishing its reputation and becoming a sacking club. Yet the club have not had to sack a manager for 26 largely successful years, a situation that most clubs can only wish for. Indeed, back in 1986 there was little talk of share prices, stock markets and business models. Back in 1986, a manager was allowed a few seasons to bed in and build a successful team.
That was then and this is now. Moyes was sacked when the league position meant that reaching the Champions League was impossible. This eventuality triggered a clause in his contract to restrict the compensation package to a single season. Which all sounds pretty gruesome, like a trapdoor opening beneath Moyes’ feet as the final whistle blew against Everton.
Football is now a results-driven business and while the club had Ferguson’s best wishes at hand in handing the reins to ‘The Chosen One’, perhaps some new-age thinking should have been applied first. Appointing someone in Ferguson’s mould may have been seen as the ideal move yet, as has become clear, the club needed someone to get results right away, not someone to grow in the position.
Fourth place is now the bare minimum requirement for the club to maintain it’s financial position. Now that the club is out of the Champions League for at least a season, it will become harder to get back in, a harsh reality after last season’s triumph. That is the main worry for the club and one that will be at the forefront when considering the next appointment. Following Ferguson was always going to be a poisoned chalice yet the next manager has to hit the ground running.
There were a few reasons why Moyes was dumped. His body language, the embarrassing pre and post-match comments, the tactical ineptitude, the poor results but above all the football was becoming excruciating. The game against Everton was another in a long line of painful performances, another where the players were happy to keep possession without creating chances, it had become anti-football.
Expecting Moyes to become the next Ferguson because of similar attributes was always going to be far-fetched. The two managers may be cut from the same cloth but these are different times in a results-driven business. While sacking Moyes may have gone against the club’s traditional stance of giving managers at least some time, his brand of football was going against what Manchester United stood for.
Instead of the players looking to express themselves they appeared confused and bereft of confidence, mirroring the manager. After a few weeks of getting back into the market, the club have to look past a replica of Ferguson and look to someone who can get results while playing attractive football. There are plenty more fish in the sea.