Just one day after Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, Manchester United announced David Moyes as his successor on a six-year contract. Ten months on, the club finds itself having to seek out a new one.
Player-coach and Red Devils icon Ryan Giggs has been named interim manager until a new one is appointed. That is four more league games and none in any cup competition, because United have been knocked out of both domestic ones and Europe’s elite club tournament. One would imagine an appointment will come swiftly after a miserable season ends.
Jurgen Klopp has already come out to state that his commitment to Borussia Dortmund is “unbreakable” in light of the speculation. Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Louis Van Gaal and even Pep Guardiola are the other prominent names that have been mentioned. Whoever is appointed, he can hardly afford to fail because he will not be given the time to do so. If anything, that’s been proven by Moyes’s short-lived tenure.
Time was the one thing many expected United to dish out to their new man in abundance. Allow him to rebuild a creaking side, to bring in the youth, to build his own squad. But an overwhelmingly under-par campaign that will result in no Champions League football, along with questionable tactics and the general impression that Moyes was in over his heels has evidently changed the board’s minds. Many supporters had already felt it was time long before this. The rather ungainly manner in which it was done – Gary Neville was aghast, Roy Keane was “ashamed” – just served to compound the mess.
But for all the debate over whether it was the right decision or how it happened and what went down behind the scenes, United have to move on and rebuild – and fast.
The dressing room, which Moyes had lost by all accounts, has to band together again. Giggs’s stature will help; the players will respect and listen to him. To be able to get the United players to play their hearts out is the most important task for the next manager.
Passion, verve, desire – these qualities were mostly absent under Moyes. The word “comeback” ceased to be associated with United whenever they trailed. It cannot be all the Scot’s fault, for the players have to share the blame for not being motivated enough in the famous red jersey. But there is no doubt United have to regain the swagger that made them feared by every opponent and only a united - pun intended - dressing room will help them achieve that.
It is also imperative that the squad be bolstered with adequate replacements for next season. Ferguson will assert that he left a good team for his replacement, but this campaign has shown otherwise.
The likes of Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra, Antonio Valencia and Michael Carrick, just to mention some names, have shown clear decline. The squad is aging and jaded and while there is (justified) argument to give the likes of Danny Welbeck, Adnan Januzaj, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones more opportunities, it is abundantly clear that world-class reinforcements are needed. It doesn’t feel like the loss of Paul Scholes has been properly dealt with either.
Nemanja Vidic is on the way out; a central midfielder, a left-back, a couple of wingers and defenders, even, should be coming in the opposite direction. Whoever they are, they have to be the right ones. To strike fear again, United have to rebuild a team that is capable of playing the way they used to – with pace, power and panache.
In this modern age of noveau-riche Chelsea, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, a rapidly improving Liverpool, the German juggernaut of Bayern Munich, it is already a tough enough task to stay at the top of the game, never mind return to it.
Appointing the wrong manager could be catastrophic. Hiring the right one could be cathartic, like in the case of Brendan Rodgers. Put simply, Manchester United needs to be a team that is revered again.
If there was little room for error when Moyes was appointed, there is even lesser for that now. Ferguson lasted 26 years; his chosen one stayed for a fraction of that. Regardless, United has to move on and find the right man now for an arduous task, for the next one in the Old Trafford dugout has an empire to rebuild.