David Moyes sacked: Manchester United cannot afford to get it wrong again as Louis van Gaal and Jurgen Klopp are linked with Old Trafford hot seat

This could be the end of the cherished Old Trafford tradition of ‘continuity’

Manchester United have not sacked a manager since 1986. There have been eight England managers appointed since then, 15 permanent occupants of the same role at Manchester City and five Prime Ministers since the day that Martin Edwards told Ron Atkinson his time was up after a League Cup defeat to Southampton. Other than a bumpy ride around the late 1980s, this is a club that had convinced itself that sacking managers was something other people did, while they tutted and nodded sagely in the direction of their much-vaunted, seldom-replicated “continuity”.

As of the recent decision not to stand by David Moyes through a series of results that have gone from the bad to the disastrous, it turns out that, contrary to what you might have been told, United are just like all the others. There is no magical quality that insulates them against the possibility of managerial failure, and when push comes to shove they have no solution other than the one everyone else resorts to in the end.

So where do they go now? Eleven months ago they had already made the move for the man who would succeed Sir Alex Ferguson. As of now they once again find themselves in the market for a manager. They are offering a job that is a little less attractive than it was one year ago, but still one of the biggest in world football, and a prize that many great coaches would take in a heartbeat.

Read more: How this season turned so sour
Could Moyes end up at Tottenham?
United do sack managers - it was Ferguson that bucked a trend

This time, United cannot afford to get it wrong. And this time they cannot treat the opinion of Ferguson as the first and last word on the appointment.

In terms of the big hitters, the field is as limited as it was even last season and it felt limited then. Pep Guardiola had already committed to Bayern Munich by the time Ferguson quit. Jose Mourinho – whether United wanted him or not – was already a long way down the road with Chelsea. Carlo Ancelotti may be available – he usually is – but that would be very much the conservative option.

You could make an argument for saying Jurgen Klopp is the stand-out high-achiever among the younger generation of foreign contenders – and United have never had a non-British or Irish manager – although his rise has been stalled somewhat after the heights of last season with Borussia Dortmund. Frank De Boer is top of the Dutch league with Ajax, although he contrived to lose a cup final this weekend in spectacular fashion, 5-1 to PEC Zwolle. Diego Simeone has been deeply impressive at Atletico Madrid. But, still, what a risk.

Louis Van Gaal, the man most strongly connected to the job, with reports of a meeting with United representatives, was not even a consideration this time last year. He last managed a club side in 2011. The Champions League victory with Ajax, which was the making of his reputation, was in 1995, four years before Ferguson won his first. In what has become ever more a younger man’s world, Van Gaal, at 62, looks a strange choice.

Giving the job to Ryan Giggs has its attractions. Taking it off him, as Liverpool found with Kenny Dalglish second time around, could be painful.

The consideration for United is that there is no outstanding, obvious candidate, and consequently they will have to reassess what it is they want from their manager. Another man to build long-term, as was clearly the plan with Moyes and his six-year contract last year? Or the acceptance of a more regular turnover of coaches working under a director of football might be more applicable in the new era?

United tried to replicate what they had with Ferguson once and failed. Mistakes like that happen - in sport, as in business. But it is inconceivable that the venture capitalists at the helm of the club will permit the same mistake to be made twice.

The notion of a manager with less power than that which Moyes temporarily inherited from Ferguson, was unthinkable a year ago. Now it seems inevitable. United have been wounded this season, deeply so. All the old certainties that they had come to take as part of the landscape at Old Trafford have been challenged, in some cases shattered.

It is not that that they cannot be a success again, of course they can. It is more that, post-Moyes, they are having to re-learn what it is to be a football club in the 21st century, one that sacks managers rather than enjoying the comfort of being led by a man who, ultimately, proved a bulwark against failure. What assurances can they give their new manager? Nothing like those they gave Moyes. Nothing beyond his first season in charge, perhaps even less than that.

It reminds me of a conversation with the hierarchy at Chelsea, the club who have become a byword for hiring and firing while maintaining their success. The lesson they learned from Andre Villas-Boas’ short-lived reign was not that it was best to give a failing manager more time but rather to act quickly. They did so the following season when doubts arose over Roberto Di Matteo, replacing him in time for Rafa Benitez to ensure Champions League qualification and snare a trophy into the bargain.

It may be the case that the next United manager is the man who reigns for a decade, who gives the club back its confidence in the principle of continuity. It may be that they go through another ten until anyone stays in charge for as long as that. But with the sacking of Moyes, 28 years on from Atkinson, United have demonstrated that they as a club have no secret formula for making a manager successful.

As they recognised with Ferguson, the success flowed from the manager, not the other way around. The trick is getting the right man which, as they now know, is harder than it looks.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
musicOfficial chart could be moved to accommodate Friday international release day
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
News
i100
Sport
Italy celebrate scoring their second try
six nations
Sport
Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against West Ham
footballWest Ham 1 Crystal Palace 3
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
music
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

Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review