It takes a big man to fill big boots, and in the final analysis, I guess David Moyes simply wasn’t up to the job. Whether it’s true in reality or not, Manchester United have this self-imposed image of a club furnished with a success built on attacking football. It was an all flags flying and exuberant cavalry charge of an approach. Moyes found himself unable to break free from the guerrilla warfare ‘hit and run’ shackles of his success at Everton. The poacher had become the gamekeeper but could not bring himself to trust a tradition demanded of him.
At Goodison Park, Moyes was celebrated for creating a squad that played in a stubborn way. Dogging out results against the odds was a thing to cherish. Finishing sixth was a good season. Anything higher was exceptional. After a decade in the role, it must have been a fairly ingrained format for him. After all it’s what got him the United job in the first place! The problem is of course, that playing that way, produces precisely the sort of league position that it did at Everton. Blue shirts or red, it’s a game plan destined for slightly above mid-table mediocrity. It happened at Goodison. It happened at Old Trafford. Upon reflection, no-one should surely have been be surprised.
Taking over from Ferguson was one hell of a tough gig, and anyone picking up that heaviest of mantles would have struggled under the weight of expectation. It’s little wonder therefore that there was an inevitable tendency to turn to what you know the best; to what has served you so well. “We can worry about the icing and the cherry on the cake tomorrow. Today, I need to go to the shops to buy some flour.” Unfortunately, it’s a ‘plain’ approach, not a ‘self-raising’ one. United fans have become used to having their cake and eating it. The cooking isn’t something they’re overly interested in. The club simply weren’t prepared to both lose and play in such a stunted way. Play the ‘Mourinho’ card and win like it and you have a chance. Play dreary football and lose means an inevitable denouement.
Now with Moyes apparently a dead-man-walking, it’s time for United to look ahead. Sacking the manager is never an solution in itself. It’s simply an opportunity to select a better option. I don’t think anyone is naïve enough to think that a multi-million organisation like the Old Trafford club is run on a whim. Today we will sack them anger, and everything will be fine? It’s surely inconceivable that they won’t have thought ahead and planned their next move. Giggs until the end of the season? Probably. Other than a rung or two on the league ladder, there’s precious little to play for now. Plus of course there’s always that ‘dead cat’ bounce you get when a manager is replaced, especially if it’s by a ‘local hero.’ Witness Di Matteo at Chelsea or Tim Sherwood at Tottenham for example. These things are however, almost by definition ‘short term’ there plasters, applied to cover up the internal wounds, and allow them to heal.
Moving forward, a club like United now needs someone with feet big enough to fill those boots, rather than feet of clay. The club’s hierarchy would be negligent if they didn’t have someone in mind. Who will that be? Van Gaal? Possibly. Klopp? Could be. Allegri? Laurent Blanc? Carlo Ancelotti? They could be in the frame.
Ironically, and it’s not going to happen, revisiting Goodison Park could be a rewarding exercise. Roberto Martinez is a manager as resolved in his playing methods, as Moyes was. The Spaniard’s however would chime much more coherently with the requirements at Old Trafford. No, no. It’s not going to happen. United can’t afford to risk getting it wrong again. Martinez would surely be too much of a gamble. Inevitably, they will plump for the big name. The one that will make the club feel good about itself again, and attract the calibre of player they need to sign. Any one of the names above could fit the bill. At least this time, they won’t be following Ferguson.
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