“Your job now is to stand by your new manager.”
When Sir Alex Ferguson said those words in their final home game of the season last year, there was an air of hope and perhaps optimism, but most importantly, the foreshadowing of the troubles to come the following season.
It didn’t take long for all that to disappear, as the ominous signs of troubles appeared early on and finally culminated in David Moyes being shown the exit door just four games to the end of the season.
When Sir Alex chose Moyes to succeed him, it was in view of latter’s longevity in staying with a club for the long term, like how he himself did with United for 26 years and how Moyes did as well rather successfully with Everton.
Majority of the reaction from fans and I daresay players about Moyes’ dismissal would have been mostly of relief, which is warranted considering the dire state of the club this season. Amongst the host of negative records that has been broken, the club is set to finish with their lowest ever Premier League points tally, they have failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 1995 and they have the worst home form for over a decade. And that’s just barely touching the surface.
This list goes on, yes, but let’s take a step back and look at the bigger issue at hand. Moyes’ departure really solidifies the already common notion of fleeting managers in football today, where dismissals are seen to be the most common solution to any poor run of form. But for a club like Manchester United too to succumb to such an ideology, a club that, prior to the shortlived Moyes era, was not known to have constant managerial changes ever - it really does put things in perspective.
No one expressed it more aptly than Gary Neville in a recent interview with Sky Sports.
"It's been a world of madness where the average manager gets sacked every 12 months and I've always felt Manchester United should be different and hold itself up as a club that stands against what is happening in the game,” Neville was quoted.
The Red Devils have always admirably prided itself with their steadiness and how well they back the manager, in good times and especially in bad. With Moyes’ sacking, one can’t help but think the former Premier League champions have succumbed to the common mentality and in a way, opened pandora’s box.
Yes, winning should be the main aim of every team. But so should stability. Moyes’ departure goes to show that even the most stable of clubs have a limited tolerance level in view of negative performances and results. It seems that choosing a manager and sticking with him through thick and thin is not in United’s view anymore, with the importance of winning placed above everything else.
Moyes practically paid the price for a series of indifferent performances, which garnered mostly negative results. Still, contrary to Sir Alex’s request when he addressed the Old Trafford crowd, it never felt like Moyes got the full support from everyone in the club, including the players. Whatever the reason may be, it is with hope that I say the United board would have deliberated making this decision and not acted in a knee-jerk manner, because the very fact that they are not giving him the time (say, another season) to set things right goes to show how much they have lost belief in the man they initially gave a six-year contract to.
Moving forward though, what does this mean for the next United manager? Would he not be at risk of being shown the exit door too should performances not be up to mark? That may very well likely be the case, as the club lose the "United way of doing things", which would mean they would then be no different from the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool - something the club prides itself in.
Next to United, only Arsenal has retained the fairytale of keeping with a prolonged manager all these years and even then, questions over Arsene Wenger’s future are still prevalent even now.
Maybe there really was no other solution other than to relieve Moyes of his duties. But the biggest issue now is whether the incoming manager will be assured of his security with the club, or will the team’s results determine his fate with the club as well.
If it is the latter, then football’s sorry state of fleeting managers will likely be the solution to any problem within a club - including, sadly, Manchester United.