Finally, brutally, the curtain has been closed on the truly disastrous employment of David Moyes at Manchester United.
Let’s quickly run through this truly woeful tenure in order to illustrate why this was not just a good decision, but a decision that should have been made a long, long time ago.
Home and away losses to Liverpool. Home and away losses to Everton. Home and away losses to City. A home loss to Newcastle for the first time since 1972, a first defeat against Stoke since 1984 and a loss at Old Trafford to West Brom for the first time since 1978. A first-ever home defeat to Swansea. The first time that United have lost three consecutive games for 13 years. Failure to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 1995. A disastrous season culminating in what will most certainly be their lowest-ever points tally.
This has not been an underwhelming ten months in charge for David Moyes. It has been unutterably disastrous. It has been so highly embarrassing for everyone involved, and the saddest thing about it is that it could so easily have been prevented.
Moyes never had the credentials for the job. He has never won anything (bar a Second Division title with Preston North End). He has never shown ability in the big games. He has never proved that he could handle the big egos of players on a couple of hundred grand a week. The fact that Fergie gave his mate Moyes the job was laughable at the time, but on reflection it just looks a little bit sad.
No one wants people to lose their jobs. No one will be taking any pleasure in what Moyes will now be going through. But the reality is that this is a decision that had to be made after Ferguson’s most acute folly in his final act as Manchester United manager.
The issue now will be where United go from here. When Ferguson’s retirement was announced last May there quickly emerged two possible successors: Mourinho and Moyes. At the time I wrote that “Moyes simply hasn’t had the experience of managing a big club that I would regard as imperative” whilst I made the point that “Mourinho’s swagger and self-confidence is far more likely to be successful than Moyes’ humility and determination”. I wasn’t alone in this thinking. Along with plenty others, I believed that this was a one-off opportunity for United to replace Fergie with one of the very best managers in the game. They didn’t take that opportunity, and now that Mourinho is no longer available, it seems clear that they will be rueing that decision.
So who will they go with now? Let’s quickly review the candidates:
Giggs has been given the reigns for the rest of the season, and the Welshman has an opportunity to stake a claim for a more permanent position. His legacy at Old Trafford would mean that he would be given time (or as much time as you could expect in the modern footballing world), whilst his clear bias towards attacking football would stand him in good stead with the fans.
Nevertheless, Giggs as the permanent manager doesn’t seem to fit just yet. For one thing, the player-coach is yet to complete his coaching badges, and he does not have the coaching or the managerial experience required to steer a ship as big as Manchester United.
The Borussia Dortmund boss is currently the bookie’s favourite, but if reports are to be believed, Klopp isn’t too keen on heading over to Manchester.
With four years left on his contract, Klopp would be an expensive acquisition, but if he can instil the same thrilling and attacking spirit into the United players that he has managed in Dortmund then he would surely be worth it.
Despite his denial of interest in the job, Klopp’s empire is being sold from under him, with Robert Lewandowski the latest player to jump ship and join the Munich revolution. If Klopp has had enough of struggling to compete with the financial might of Bayern he could well be convinced to take over at Old Trafford with the opportunity to build a legacy as he has done at Dortmund.
The job that Simeone has done at Athletico Madrid is startling. Top of La Liga, and in the semi-finals of the Champions League on a laughably small budget when compared to the Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid. If he is able to steer his side to one or both of these trophies it would represent one of the most remarkable success stories of the modern footballing era.
The reality is that Simeone has only an outside chance of being offered the job and for one reason only – he has no experience of English football. The Premier League is a different kettle of fish to what Simeone has experienced in Spain, and it would represent a risk for United to take a punt on the Argentine stepping up given the fact that they need to improve both their results and their image pretty sharpish after the dire Moyes’ tenure.
Louis van Gaal
Tottenham fans will be cursing the fact that Moyes has gone this morning, as it is likely to halve their chances of landing the 62-year-old Dutchman. Van Gaal has serious European pedigree and has won seven league titles, one UEFA Cup and one Champions League.
Whilst he has never managed in the Premier League, van Gaal’s years of experience would stand him in better stead than someone like Simeone or Klopp, but conversely, van Gaal’s age may mean that he cannot be considered as a long-term appointment.
This one is a bit of a long shot, and could potentially be a massive risk, but given the way the Spaniard has starred at Everton this season, there is a possibility that United may fancy trying to emulate what Liverpool have done with Brendan Rodgers.
Martinez is a young manager, full of ideas and full of attacking impetus. He has worked wonders at Goodison Park and his Everton side is among the most visually attractive in the division. He believes in getting involved in all elements of the club from the ground up, and this would suit United who are looking for someone to stabilise things and preside over a rebuild.
Given where Moyes came from, it would be highly unusual for United to poach two Everton managers in the space of 12 months, but stranger things have happened. Right now, Martinez is the only real candidate with Premier League experience who might take the job, and this option should not be discounted.
One man is unlikely to end up at Old Trafford
The one manager not on this shortlist is of course Jose Mourinho. As we mentioned, United’s window of opportunity for signing up the Portuguese slammed shut when they appointed Moyes, and the reality is that in the intervening 12 months, the United job has become a much less attractive proposition. With no Champions League football to offer potential candidates, as well as a number of discontented players and a rebuild required, the chances of United being able to lure genuine world-class candidates like Mourinho or Guardiola are slim to none.
United have paid the ultimate price for their archaic notion that stability is more important than credentials. They have paid dearly for their moronic decision to allow Ferguson to choose his successor. The mind boggles when it considers afresh how David Moyes – good, solid, unspectacular David Moyes – was allowed anywhere near the Old Trafford hotseat. But he was. The result? A descent into the abyss for the most successful club in English football history. Whether they can stop descending remains to be seen, but the club have paid dearly for their idiocy.
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