Exactly a year since Manchester United claimed the 2012/13 English Premier League title, the squad has this reality to face for its 2013/14 campaign: zero pieces of hardware. A locker room reportedly on the verge of self-combustion, if it hasn’t imploded already. A season probably without European football on the horizon.
Two of those three things the vast majority of English clubs deal with on an annual basis, so soccer fans throughout the Isles will hock a loogie into a tissue before lending it to a United supporter. But at United, the specter of this season’s lack of accomplishments is unforgivable. It has also cost the man who presided over it, manager David Moyes, his job.
Per USA Today:
“The club would like to place on record its thanks for the hard work, honesty and integrity he (Moyes) brought to the role,” Manchester United said in a brief statement on Tuesday morning. The dismissal followed a meeting with Ed Woodward, the club’s executive vice chairman, at the side’s training ground outside Manchester.
Veteran player-coach Ryan Giggs was named interim manager until the end of the season or until a permanent replacement has been found, Manchester United said.
Moyes was hired to replace legendary coach Sir Alex Ferguson, a natural heir to the throne if we’re to believe Fergie. Both are Scots who plied their managerial talents at good–but not elite–clubs in Everton and Aberdeen before ascending to United’s head honcho role, and it was this pedigree that was supposed to see Moyes through to greatness.
But in the end, nah. Moyes dealt with, among other things this season, a recalcitrant superstar forward who finagled GM-like power in lieu of leaving the club; a bumbling go at the transfer market; and an unsettled starting line-up that has seen 51 different configurations in 51 games.
With that combination of bad luck and self-inflicted wounds, Moyes was not destined to do more than witness the club sink in its first post-Fergie season. And perhaps that’s how it was always meant to be. In an illuminating article for Slate, author Ken Early recounts the anecdote about Moyes’ being offered the job directly by Ferguson:
“So I didn’t get the chance to say yes or no,” Moyes later said. “As you can imagine, the blood drained from my face.”
Two things strike you about Moyes’ story: At no point was he in control of what was happening. And when he sought to describe his feelings when he learned he had been handed the biggest job in English football, he reached for a cliché that signifies terror.
Moyes will always be a good, solid coach for a mid- to Europa-level squad that threatens–but doesn’t usurp–the big boys of the game. The right manager for Manchester United, and perhaps any elite club, he was not.