Every Monday night, you can tune into Sky Sports and listen to Gary Neville preach the importance of managerial stability and patience at any given football club. Often Neville will slam chairman of clubs such as West Brom, Chelsea and Fulham for their hastiness with regards to removing one manager after another as they seek to fulfill their ambition, be it winning trophies or merely surviving in the top flight. If you brought Sir Alex Ferguson’s autobiography last Autumn you’d have read the immortal manager’s words about how he was afforded time to stamp his authority on the famous Old Trafford club, despite him finishing just 11th, 2nd, 11th again and 13th in his first four seasons at the helm of Manchester United. Ferguson even pleaded with supporters to give Moyes their support last May when he stepped down as manager of United after 20 years of near unprecedented success. Manchester United’s own supporters preached the same message throughout last summer after Malcolm Glazer and the United directors passed up the opportunity to hire Jose Mourinho, despite his resume including league titles in four different countries and two European Cup victories, instead opting for the “long term” option of David Moyes.
It is clear that Moyes’ first season in charge was not going to plan. He’d inherited the previous season’s champions and seen them become Premier League also rans, destined for a 7th place finish. Yet he’d been without the services of Robin Van Persie for more than half the campaign, and one wonders whether or not he’d have inherited champions at all if the Dutchman had proven so fragile in his first season at Old Trafford. Elder statesmen such as Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs have also looked well past their best while Ashley Young, Nani and Micheal Carrick have suffered through severe dips in form. This squad was not a squad of champions. Last season they were eliminated in the quarter finals of the Champions League. This season? They suffered the same fate. On the European stage it has been a few years now since United have been able to compete with the very best, witness their 3-1 defeat to Barcelona in 2011, which perhaps demonstrates the lack of quality in the current side.
Yet there’s no denying that Moyes had his faults. He failed to bring in the required calibre of player last summer, when Marouane Fellaini was his only buy. Juan Mata, it cannot be argued, was a better piece of business in January but he hasn’t been utilised in his favoured “number 10” role. He has failed to project an air of confidence in press conferences, or on the touchline. But what is the point of giving a manager a six-year contract if he is not allowed time to mature into the role? It took Ferguson four years to win his first trophy with United. Think about that for a second. Brendan Rodgers, currently atop the Premier League with Liverpool, is yet to win a major trophy in his managerial career. That will probably change in a few short weeks but where would Liverpool be now if they had sacked Rodgers after a 7th place finish last season? United are actually four points better off than Liverpool were at the same stage in 2013. When the Glazer’s hired a man with no Champions League experience and no background of managing a top European club surely, surely, they must’ve anticipated growing pains. To sack a manager so soon after appointing him demonstrates a stunning lack of faith in both their own judgement and that of Sir Alex Ferguson.
When Chelsea sack manager after manager they are derided as being a joke, a plastic club with plastic fans. Fortunately for them they have an owner with billions of pounds behind him. United aren’t so fortunate, and they’ve set a dangerous precedent for their future. What if the next manager, be it Louis Van Gaal or whoever else, fails to net a trophy next season? It won’t be easy. Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City look almost certain to retain top four status next year. Then there’s Arsenal, Tottenham and Everton all vying for that final Champions League spot. They might not even be playing in Europe next year, so that’s another potential trophy out the window.
Sacking Moyes does not make Tom Cleverly a better player, nor does it reverse the aging process that has set in with the likes of Evra, Van Persie and Giggs. Moyes was this morning sacked nine months into a six-year contract. If that’s a long-term appointment, what makes a short one?