The offer was, as David Moyes himself related, out of the blue, not least because no one knew Sir Alex Ferguson was about to retire from his post as Manchester United manager having just secured his 13th Premier League title.
“Sir Alex gave me a call and asked me to come to his house,” said Moyes. “I was expecting him to say, ‘I’m going to take one of your players’. But the first thing he said to me was, ‘I’m retiring next week’. And his next words were, ‘You’re the next Manchester United manager’, so I didn’t get the chance to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. I was told that I was the next manager and that was enough. It was incredible. Within half an hour he was talking about the squad and the players and the staff. I couldn’t believe it.”
That meeting was in the first week of May last year. Moyes revealed it upon his unveiling as Manchester United manager in July. In the intervening two months United were left in limbo as Moyes saw out his contract at Everton and Ed Woodward waited for David Gill, United’s chief executive, to stand down after a decade running the club. By the time Moyes and Woodward began work in earnest on 1 July Europe’s big clubs had already stolen a march in the transfer market.
Moyes and Woodward’s late start and lack of contacts at this elite level proved damaging. They had one success in the transfer market: they faced down the Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho’s attempt to lure Wayne Rooney away to Stamford Bridge.
But when it came to strengthening the team United missed out on target after target. Gareth Bale and Thiago Alcantara went elsewhere while Cesc Fabregas, Daniele de Rossi, Ander Herrera, Luka Modric, Sami Khedira, Fabio Coentrao and Leighton Baines could not be prised from their clubs.
The next Manchester United manager: Those linked with the Old Trafford hot seat
The next Manchester United manager: Those linked with the Old Trafford hot seat
1/10 Jurgen Klopp
Currently the manager of Borussia Dortmund, Klopp coached his team to the Champions League final in 2013. He also delivered back-to-back Bundesliga titles in 2010/11 and 2011/12, despite Dortmund being in the financial shadow of Bayern Munich. All of that was achieved while playing a distinctive attractive style of football. After six years at the club, it could be time for the 46-year-old German to move on, however he has already said he is happy to stay.
2/10 Fabio Capello
The former England manager has coached the likes of Real Madrid, AC Milan, Juventus and Roma. He now resides over the Russian national team who topped their group in qualification for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil to ensure they are at the biggest tournament of them all for the first time since 2002.
3/10 Louis van Gaal
Dutchman Van Gaal will be leading his national side at this year's World Cup in Brazil. He has taken charge of both Barcelona and Bayern Munich in the past and won the Champions League in 1995 with Ajax. In total, he has won over 60 per cent of his 780 games in management and he's made it very clear he covets a position in the Premier League. Heavily linked with Tottenham prior to David Moyes' sacking.
4/10 Sir Alex Ferguson
Considering he's at every game anyway, a switch from the stands back to the dug-out doesn't seem inconceivable for Sir Alex Ferguson. It'd certainly be a popular choice among fans having achieved so much success in his long time in charge. The winner of 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups and two Champions League titles, if there's anyone who can succeed Ferguson, it's Ferguson.
5/10 Frank De Boer
Although his managerial experience is relatively small in comparison to other potentials, he has already shown he can win domestically. Since taking over at Ajax in 2010, in his first job as manager, De Boer has won the Eredivisie in three consecutive attempts, with his team currently well clear at the top of the league this season. Has been regularly linked with the biggest vacancies in Europe.
6/10 Antonio Conte
Winner of the Serie A manager of the year in 2011-12 and 2012-13 after leading Juventus to the title in those seasons, as well as a Champions League winners medal to his name as a player, Conte has pedigree. Since taking charge in Turin three years ago, the Italian has returned Juventus to the dominant force in Italy, with the club destined to win their third title in a row this term. That kind of dominance is exactly what United crave.
7/10 Diego Simeone
Simeone has been enjoying much success since taking over at Atletico Madrid. His excellent win rate has seen the club win the Europa League and Super Cup, and against all odds challenge Real Madrid and Barcelona for La Liga title this season. He'd have to hope his history with David Beckham didn't count against him if Manchester United came calling.
8/10 Michael Laudrup
Despite a rather sudden and messy divorce from Swansea City earlier this year, Laudrup did show he was capable of managing at the highest level. He won the League Cup with the Welsh club, the first major trophy in the club's history, and he did it with a brand of football that won many plaudits. A legend as a player, the Dane has the gravitas for such a huge position as Manchester United manager.
9/10 Harry Redknapp
Currently manager of QPR, Redknapp has often been a fan favourite across English football, winning manager of the year in 2009/10 as well as the FA Cup with Portsmouth in 2008. At one stage he looked a certainty to be the next England manager, only to lose out to Roy Hodgson.
10/10 Ex-United players
If Manchester United were to choose from one of their own, they would have plenty of ex-players to pick from. Ryan Giggs is the most obvious choice after being installed on a temporary basis after Moyes' departure. Others in management who served as a player under Sir Alex Ferguson include Roy Keane, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, both Neville brothers and Steve Bruce. Mark Hughes played for United along with Gordon Strachan and Laurent Blanc. While none of them have particularly overachieved in any of their positions, a former player tends to be popular with fans, and can be rewarded with success.
Moyes did buy the midfielder Marouane Fellaini for £27.5m from his old club Everton in September, but having himself inserted a clause allowing Fellaini to leave for £4m less if a bid was received before the end of July, this seemed like a mixed success even before the Belgian’s patchy season at Old Trafford had started.
Moyes picked up a trophy in his first match, but beating relegated Wigan Athletic to win the Community Shield was nothing to boast about by United’s standards.
The title defence began well, Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck scoring two apiece as United won 4-1 at Swansea. Being held by Chelsea at home, and losing 1-0 at Anfield, then doused expectations but it was when United were crushed 4-1 at the Etihad, then lost 2-1 at home to West Bromwich Albion six days later, that alarm bells began to ring. Albion’s first win over United in more than 30 years left Moyes’ team 12th with seven points from six games. It was their worst start since the 1989-90 season and United were already eight points adrift of leaders Arsenal.
Signs of recovery
By the start of December Moyes looked to be getting a grip on his task at hand. Having twice come from behind at Tottenham to draw 2-2, suggesting the players’ desire was not a problem, United had gone 12 games unbeaten. That run included a 1-0 home win over leaders Arsenal, a scintillating 5-0 win at Bayer Leverkusen that secured Champions League knock-out stage qualification with a match to spare, and a 4-0 win at home to Norwich City as United progressed into the last eight of the Capital One Cup. Van Persie was injured, but Rooney was scoring and United were two points off fourth-placed Liverpool.
Old Trafford, once a fortress, began to resemble a gift shop with visitors taking the spoils from four games out of six. Everton won there, their manager Roberto Martinez achieving at the first attempt a feat Moyes failed to do in a decade; Newcastle gained their first victory at Old Trafford since 1972; Tottenham, beaten 6-0 at Manchester City, won at United; then Swansea won there for the first time in their history, ending United’s FA Cup ambitions. United did beat Sunderland in the Capital One Cup semi-final second leg at home late in January, but went out on penalties to spoil the news of Juan Mata’s £37m signing.
Stumbling towards spring
Dogged by inconsistency United were unable to gain the momentum they normally find in spring. Whilst they defeated Cardiff, Crystal Palace and West Bromwich, and held Arsenal at the Emirates on 12th February, they lost at Stoke, drew at home to Fulham, and just scrambled past Olympiakos in the Champions League. Worst of all they were humbled 3-0 at home by a Liverpool side suddenly emerging as title contenders.
Derby defeat sparks dissent
As Ferguson had asked them to, when handing over the reins, Moyes had been supported by United fans and ex-players while he struggled to settle into the role. However, a 3-0 home defeat to Manchester City on 25th March, handing their neighbours a derby double, snapped the patience of some.
A group of fans hired a plane to trail a message calling for Moyes to go over the stadium four days later, but more damaging was Paul Scholes’ verdict. While Scholes said the manager should be given more time he was damning about the team’s inadequacies. In the wake of the derby defeat Scholes’ former team-mate Gary Neville also chipped in. “They need to have a rethink about where they are going. At the moment they have an identity crisis,” Neville said.
The death knell sounds
A spirited Champions League exit to Bayern Munich this month appeared to buy Moyes time, even as it ended hopes of qualification for the Champions League next season. But Moyes went back to Goodison Park at the weekend and watched his team deliver such a lame performance the board concluded the players were no longer prepared to play for him.
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