Moyes sacking: He is the fall guy for Glazers’ policy

The departed manager had many faults and had to go, writes United season-ticket holder Paul Vallely, but the crisis at Old Trafford stems from 2005’s disgraceful leveraged buyout

We liked to think our club was different. But the graceless sacking of David Moyes has shown Manchester United fans that our pride in the longevity of Old Trafford’s managers was a fond myth.

This is an impatient age in which nothing is as myopic as money. The denizens of the Theatre of Dreams have finally learned what has long been a commonplace for supporters elsewhere. We liked the idea of long tenure, of steady stewardship, of bringing on young players, of cultivating local talent. But the world has changed around us.

Sir Alex Ferguson may have been given a long time to settle in when, in the old days, he began what proved to be his glorious reign. But I do not think even Fergie would have been handed that time had he begun in the present era.

Among those with whom I have had exchanges on Twitter in the immediate post-Moyes period was Professor Paul Gilroy, the celebrated cultural studies writer. He tweeted that Moyes’s sacking showed that “economic expediency trumps aesthetic and ethical concerns”.

There was nothing aesthetic about playing badly, I replied, nor ethical about Moyes’s consistent failure to improve. For which Gilroy upbraided me. “I always thought spectator sport was about learning how to manage disappointment not a machinic right to constant triumph,” he riposted.

That is a singular view of spectator sport (unless you’re an Arsenal fan, of course). But it set me thinking about the psychology of success.

For decades United fans took winning almost for granted. Yet a full spectrum of emotions could be encompassed within that. The United fans around me in N3404 block – especially the World’s Most Boring Man who drones on endlessly behind me – used to complain even when we were winning if they felt the victory was not stylish enough. This season has been an interesting corrective to all that.

Of course, we expected some slippage after Fergie. We were braced to fall to third or fourth but no one anticipated the cascade of catastrophic firsts which Moyes achieved, one after the disastrous other, in his Miltonic tumble from Chosen One to Frozen One. The ousting of Moyes may have been graceless but it was inevitable.

Ah, but Moyes is a decent hard-working man, the apologists said. He should have had more time. In the old world he might. But decency is only a necessary rather than a sufficient condition.

Moyes lacked the charisma to carry off his reported instruction to Rio Ferdinand that the man who was, in his time, the finest defender in the country, should sit down and watch a video of Everton’s Phil Jagielka and study his moves. “What the fuck has he ever won?” was the Champions League winner’s alleged response.

Moyes’s tactical locker was bare, as the 81 fruitless crosses against Fulham in February  showed. His instruction to United’s midfielders not to get ahead of the ball left our forwards isolated and the rest of the squad bemused. In 51 different games he chose 51 different teams, suggesting he didn’t have a clue what his best side was.

He lacked the swagger and the pride we needed. Liverpool came to Old Trafford as the favourites, he conceded. United should “aspire” to be like City. “I don’t know what we have to do to win,” Moyes said after the defeat at Stoke. Perhaps someone else would have a better idea, the board finally decided.

It was a judgement to which the fans had been reluctant to rush. He had, after all, been anointed by the infallible Fergie. But though there has been much criticism of the cack-handed way Moyes was dismissed, there is little but relief that the hapless manager has departed.

All the talk now has shifted to who will replace him. Only a minority of fans look beyond that to the structural problem which has really brought Manchester United to this place. For the current crisis only underscores the fact that the real problem is the disgraceful leveraged buyout by the Glazer family which saddled the club with debt. And that is where Prof Gilroy is right to talk about economic expediency.

Follow the money is the old maxim. The book Soccernomics, by Stefan Szymanski and Simon Kuper, has demonstrated how money buys success. There is a direct correlation between a club’s wage bill and its position in the league. A mere 10 per cent of managers, like Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool, achieve more than their player’s wages would suggest.

The genius of Sir Alex Ferguson hid this truth from United fans for years. By sheer force of will and personality Fergie kept Man Utd at the top far longer than ought to have been the case once clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City had dramatically overtaken United in spending. In those clubs rich men were constantly putting their own money in. At United the Glazers only took money out.

Fergie was the greatest of that 10 per cent of over-achievers. But once he had gone the reality of the economics began to exert its gravitational pull. Moyes did not have the character, charisma, ego or sheer will to resist it. “It’s the economy, stupid,” as Bill Clinton famously observed.

The future of Manchester United is being decided by the family which loaded vast debt on the club and the banker who organised it. They are hoping that the current hoo-ha will keep the spotlight from their inadequacies.

United fans should not be surprised if things get a good deal worse before they get better.

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
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks