It was scandalous that the everyone knew David Moyes was being sacked before he did. It reminded me of when I was a young player at Chesterfield. A team-mate rang up to offer his commiserations, having read that I was being released in the local paper. It was the first I knew of it. It is no way to find out you are losing your job, whether you are a teenager starting out in the game or an experienced manager.
I did think Manchester United would have more class, but that is the Premier League now, it’s all about money. Yet while David will have been angry at the way it was done, deep down the decision will also have been a relief.
Watching Manchester United’s Liverpool game a few weeks ago brought back memories of my last few weeks at Leeds United. While Leeds have nothing like the same profile, when you are in the eye of the storm the pressures still weigh heavily. So in a small way I could understand what David was going through as he stood on the touchline.
For weeks the job will have consumed him and affected his sleep. You wake up all hours, thinking: “How am I going to get them playing?” He will have been running over different team selections in his mind – and, having picked 51 different ones, he clearly didn’t know what his best team was. Eventually you get to the stage where you start asking yourself: “Do I really want to go to work this morning?” You know there’ll be senior people and ex-players behind the scenes whispering about you, and players who want you out so aren’t trying. You begin to think everyone is against you.
Once you’re not enjoying yourself it is only a matter of time before you leave. I could see in interviews in the last few weeks how the job had ground David down. It is a horrible feeling when you are stood on the touchline and you know the team aren’t good enough, you haven’t got the players you need to make it good enough, and some of the players you have got are letting you down. When that happens there is only one casualty and it is always the manager.
Now David can get his life back and will soon be enjoying managing again. Having a few quid will help take the pressure off. Brian Clough didn’t worry again about finance after being paid off by Leeds; he used to say to me it was the best thing that ever happened to him.
David started at a disadvantage. Having a new chief executive in Edward Woodward coming in at the same time and overseeing a disastrous transfer window didn’t do him any favours. I imagine Marouane Fellaini only became a desperate deadline day signing because the club couldn’t deliver any of David’s top targets. That meant he largely had to go with what he had inherited and, while United won the title last season, we all know City threw it away – and, don’t forget, United got a full season out of Robin van Persie. Being champions only made it harder for David as it created unrealistic expectations.
When you move to a club one of the first things you do is talk to the senior players, the ones the club revolves around, because you need them with you. David did well to talk Wayne Rooney not only out of leaving, but also into signing a new contract. But that did mean he had to find a way to accommodate Rooney, Van Persie and, come January, Juan Mata.
Even though Mata is a top player, did they need him? He was available, it looked good from a manager’s point of view signing him, but how do you get the best out of Mata, Rooney and Van Persie? In the Premier League you need pace and power and, quite frankly, United have been abysmal at that this season. There’s been so much sideways passing in the big games. David will know deep down he needed the pace of Danny Welbeck and Adnan Januzaj but it is so much easier to leave out the young players because they won’t complain.
David was criticised for bringing in his own staff but I don’t blame him for that. When you go to a club you’ve got to have people you can trust 100 per cent with you. At a club like Manchester United he maybe could have kept on one of the previous staff: Rene Meulensteen might have been a good ally to have. He’s a smashing man, not someone two-faced who would stab you in the back. He’d probably have been ideal in helping blend the new staff in, because there’s no club in England the size of United. David and his staff won’t have come across some of the problems that being at United brings.
So it was a big learning curve, but David will be a better manager for the experience. Clubs will be queuing up for him. He may never get a top job, the Manchester Cities or Chelseas of this world, but he is still a hell of a good manager at the next level, that group of clubs fifth to 12th in the league, which is where I will think he’ll end up.
He is good at organising teams. Roberto Martinez has had a lot of praise this season, deservedly, but he never had a good back four in his previous teams. At Everton he inherited a very good back four and goalkeeper, which gave him a platform to bring in the attacking players. A lot of his success is down to David.
I can understand why David never thanked the players. A couple of times I’ve left clubs I’ve said goodbye to the players, but you know as you are talking some are pleased to see the back of you. You do it because you want to say goodbye to the loyal ones, but I can remember at QPR one player staring out of the window as I said my goodbyes. It’s been interesting to see he’s not had much of a look-in with my successors either.
I won’t mind if Mourinho rests his top stars at Anfield
I’ve been asked by a few people, who remember the circumstances of Sheffield United’s relegation from the Premier League, whether Jose Mourinho should be allowed to play an understrength team at Anfield tomorrow. Back in 2007 I was furious that Rafa Benitez played a weakened Liverpool team at Fulham two weeks before the end of the season, and Alex Ferguson rested Manchester United against West Ham on the final day. Fulham and West Ham both won; if either had drawn or lost my Sheffield team would have stayed up.
There are three big differences. The consequences of relegation are so great I think it’s important teams treat matches against teams at the bottom with proper respect. Also, Liverpool had 18 days to go before their Champions League final, so Benitez did not need to rest players, Manchester United a week before the FA Cup final. Mourinho has only three days before Chelsea play Atletico, and he is already missing players with injury and suspension. Finally, squads are better these days. Benitez played people no one has ever heard of before or since; Mourinho will be picking players who cost millions.
The only consolation in 2007 was I told my son James to put bets on United and Liverpool’s opponents in their finals, which meant I could celebrate all the more when they lost them.
Come to lovely Cornwall – you won’t need a passport
Following the news that Cornwall has been granted minority status I can report there is no border control at the Tamar Bridge so you can still come to visit our beautiful county without packing a passport. And with the trains now running through Dawlish again there is no excuse not to. Meanwhile I’m off to look for a flagpole to fly St Piran’s flag.
Once you’re not enjoying yourself it’s only a matter of time before you leave.