An ill-conceived beginning met a suitably ugly end. From start to finish the reign of David Moyes has reflected poorly on Manchester United, the American ownership and the apparatchiks who run the club.
The only individual who survives with dignity intact is arguably Moyes himself, promoted beyond his capabilities via the medieval selection mechanism of patronage triggered by a knight of the realm and dumped via the reports from preferred media that caught fire on Twitter.
By the time United made Moyes’ exit official on Tuesday morning, the “breaking news” was almost a day old on the social media site. The reach and pace of dissemination of information on Twitter has transformed the sacking process. It became a virtual event, sparing United the rod in real time. The whole matter had been discussed, dissected and accepted without a peep from the club.
The official silence bought United 24 hours to get their house in order as best they could following a decision finalised after the camel’s back broke with the 2-0 defeat at Goodison Park. But the clandestine and cynical manipulation of the news did not look so smart as the day progressed.
A morning spent watching Sky Sports was testimony to the power of United to set the news agenda, the ousting of Moyes blowing Chelsea’s Champions League fixture against Atletico Madrid into the weeds, and this after a virtuoso performance in the pre-match press conference by a fractious Jose Mourinho.
Fully six hours passed before Dexter Blackstock’s betting charges broke the United news cycle. Since the development that Moyes had gone was already old news, the story had moved on from the anatomy of his sacking to who might replace him.
Shots of Ryan Giggs sweeping into the Carrington training complex in his Range Rover acquired stately weight as he would shortly be handed temporary charge of the team. It is a measure of how far leadership of the club has descended into chaos that an individual who was on the pitch three weeks ago against Bayern Munich in Manchester would end this day in control of team affairs. At least someone was prepared to take responsibility.
Where was Sir Alex Ferguson’s voice in all this, the man who persuaded the American owners that Moyes was the only man to replace him? “No need for an interview process chaps, leave it to me, I’ll give him a bell now. All sorted.”
It is somehow fitting that Moyes was intercepted by Ferguson last year while out shopping with the missus, a docile figure wandering through an alien environment about which he seemed to know nothing. It is clear now that Moyes was never up to the challenge of replacing Ferguson.
It is equally obvious that Ferguson was utterly wrong in his estimation of Moyes’ coaching qualities. The whole episode has been one of embarrassment for the club hierarchy and the former manager.
The only official statement came via the club website. Under the headline “David Moyes leaves United” the following appeared: “Manchester United has announced that David Moyes has left the Club. The Club would like to place on record its thanks for the hard work, honesty and integrity he brought to the role.”
Manchester United 2013/14 - a season of new lows
Manchester United 2013/14 - a season of new lows
1/10 Man United 1 West Brom 2 (28 Sept)
West Brom won at Old Trafford for the first time since 1978. None of the Baggies squad that day were born when they had previously won at United
2/10 Man United 0 Everton 1 (4 Dec)
Bryan Oviedo's goal gave Everton their first victory at Old Trafford for 21 years
3/10 Man United 0 Newcastle 1 (7 Dec)
Yohan Cabaye scores as Newcastle end their run of 41 years without a win at Old Trafford
4/10 Man United 1 Tottenham 2 (1 Jan)
United lose on New Year's Day for the first time in 20 years
5/10 Man United 1 Swansea 2 (5 Jan)
Wilfried Bony's late header sees United knocked out out of the FA Cup at the third round for only the second time in 30 years
6/10 Sunderland 2 Man United 1 (7 Jan)
United lose three matches in the month of January for the first time in 40 years after League Cup first-leg defeat
7/10 Chelsea 3 Man United 1 (19 Jan)
Samuel Eto'o became the first player to score a hat-trick against United when the club were were reigning Premier League champions
8/10 Stoke 2 Man United 1 (1 Feb)
Stoke defeat United in a league match for the first time in 30 years
9/10 Man United 2 Fulham 2 (9 Feb)
United fail to beat the team ranked at the bottom of the league since 2011
10/10 Olympiakos 2 Man United 0 (25 Feb)
United lose to a Greek team for the first time ever. They had previously gone unbeaten in all eight previous European matches against teams from Greece
Where was the integrity and honesty of the club? Not a spokesperson in sight to answer for the actions of an institution that refers to itself as the biggest footballing brand on earth. The Glazer family are invisible in the good times never mind the bad.
Neither Malcolm Glazer nor either of his sons Joel and Avram was available to address fans and stakeholders. The chief executive officer, Ed Woodward, was similarly absent. Not a squeak from the club’s press office beyond the cursory statement. This is how the “biggest” club in world football handles its affairs.
Into the void came a series of talking heads offering a mixed bag of football quackery and expertise, none of it painting the club in particularly complementary light.
There was a degree of farce, too, in the news coming out of Germany, where the acclaimed coach of Borussia Dortmund, Jürgen Klopp, was running a mile from the idea that he might replace Moyes. At every turn United descended deeper into the midden.
Moyes is well out of it. He was in and out of Carrington at the crack of dawn on Tuesday to collect his effects. The estimated £4.5m pay-off might seem like a fair trade to the common man but in these early hours of reflection and regrets will mean little to him. Moyes would far rather have his reputation intact.
He leaves Old Trafford as the Reduced One, exposed as a figure who had not a clue what he was letting himself in for, nor a coping strategy once the penny had dropped. The failure was not just his but belongs equally to those who appointed him.
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