Comment: David Moyes' position at Manchester United is much more complicated than a matter of stick or bust

Three defeats in a row has led to more questions about his appointment that ever

Watching Sunderland beat Manchester United in the first leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final last night was a doubly painful experience for me. Not only did I miss out on “Welbeck to score first” at 6/1, but as a Newcastle fan I’m going to be in for some banter-led abuse.

On paper, it should have been a sure thing. The biggest club in the country, on the back of two straight defeats and in desperate need of a response, against Sunderland, a team that currently sits bottom of the league. Cup conditions or not, you’d have expected the Red Devils to go and do a job.

They didn't; and the campaign for Moyes’ head is growing strong.  

I live in the South East so finding some United fans to talk to wasn't hard. “It’s underachievement” said one, “He just can’t motivate them,” added another and “He was the wrong choice all along,” concluded one more who would have preferred Jose Mourinho in charge.  

Of course, there are some apologists as well: “He needs more time,” “Let him sign his own team,” and “Remember, it took Fergie five years,” are similarly bandied about the bar.  

But Moyes’ position is much more complicated than a matter of stick or bust. There’s a twist to be considered too.

If United sack Moyes it’ll signal a catastrophic loss of face; a club that prides itself on stability won’t want to succumb to a mid-season change – I mean, they’re not Chelsea after all.   

On the other hand, there has to be a limit as to how long this grace period can really last. Pointing towards the board’s patience in Sir Alex Ferguson’s early years is fast becoming cliched. United were teetering on the brink of relegation when he took over, and he needed time to build. Moyes, however, adopted reigning league champions; and it’s a very different game.

We’re watching football at a time when TV rights, advertising and most of all money mean everything in the sport. So, as far as marketing ploys go, hiring a man who hadn't been heard of outside of England (be honest), probably wasn't the right way to go. Able only to attract the likes of top six players rather than top two, Moyes resorted to Marouane Fellaini after his reputation failed to tempt more suitable marquees. The Belgian has since proven himself to be an insufficient long term replacement for the genius that was Paul Scholes.

The point about United’s midfield, though, isn't necessarily Moyes’ fault. It’s a concern that was around even when Ferguson was still the boss, and indeed questions about that man’s effect on Moyes’ reign should not be brushed aside.

We’re constantly reminded that Ferguson chose Moyes - why? There are two explanations doing the rounds. One is that it’s a simply like for like switch – two angry Scots with an antipathy towards referees; while the other is to my mind, more astute. For the reason of pure gravitas, Ferguson’s achievements cannot be surpassed, but for the younger United fans, it’ll be little more than a parroted history lesson from their Dads. The new manager will be how they know United and Ferguson’s ego perhaps wouldn't allow that. Bring in a superstar like Mourinho and Fergie is confined to little more than fond nostalgia; but if the new guy fails, even in absence he is still the man. Ask yourself, why didn't Fergie sort out that midfield when he had the chance?   

Psychologically, some sympathy must be afforded to David Moyes having to work under these conditions. Old Trafford is haunted by a spectre, the ghost of Fergie’s past, and the constant comparison can’t be much help at all.  

But sympathy should only be extended insofar as Moyes deserves it. An unlucky loss here or there might be excused under the cloak of transition, but 11 points and six places behind the pace in the league while crashing out of the FA Cup to Swansea, and with a further cup exit to Sunderland now a distinct possibility, something just doesn't seem to float.   

I’m a great believer that a manager shouldn't necessarily be sacked for the results that have contributed to the rot, but rather when there is a loss of faith in his ability to turn it round. Sadly, this latest run of defeats is not the first for Moyes this season and questions are rightly being asked.

Ultimately, there is no easy solution. I don’t think that sacking Moyes will serve as a sudden panacea, but equally I know that letting him finish outside of the top four would be a disaster for Manchester United. They can ill afford an exodus from an already aged squad, while losing Champions League football would be a further blow to their reputation. Moyes’ appointment was a gamble and now all the board can do is see how it pans out. 

His position is at best conditional. If he finishes in the top four, the board are obligated to give him another go. If he wins the Champions League, I don’t think anyone will complain about him ever again. In the event that he achieves neither, perhaps it's best United cut their losses and start again. 

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy