Manchester United today announced David Moyes had been relieved of his duties as manager, having concluded long before Sunday’s punishing defeat at Everton that he cannot be trusted with the potential £150m war chest intended to meet the club’s aim of reclaiming the Premier League title next season.
The Glazer family, who will be in Manchester next week to help oversee a managerial recruitment process in which Borussia Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp is a front-runner, appear to have sanctioned the removal of Moyes as far back as the Champions League defeat at Olympiakos on 25 February. The decision to get rid of the 50-year-old was discussed and possibly ratified at a recent United board meeting but there is a financial motive behind delaying removing him until now.
The mathematical impossibility of United finishing in the top four this season, following their 11th Premier League defeat of the season at Goodison Park on Sunday, means that United need only give Moyes a one-year pay-off under the terms of his five-year deal, rather than honour the full four years left on that contract. Ryan Giggs could then take over as caretaker manager for the final four games of the season
Initially, it had been thought that the Scot's departure might be a graceful one after United's Premier League season ends at Southampton on 11 May. But chief executive Ed Woodward has been urgently seeking to tie up transfer business in Germany and Spain before the World Cup starts, in 52 days' time. The prospect of securing players such as Southampton's Luke Shaw and Bayern Munich's Toni Kroos would be even more challenging if United were under the leadership of a lame-duck manager, as well as unable to offering such recruits Champions League football next season.
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
Klopp is instinctively reluctant to break his contract at Dortmund but United are understood to have approached him, with the Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal also high on the list of possible replacements. The process of sounding managers out may have under way for as long as four weeks. The prospect of a return to Old Trafford for Laurent Blanc, currently Paris Saint-Germain coach, cannot be ruled out. The job done at Atletico Madrid by Diego Simeone also makes him another outside contender. The idea of Moyes' successor at Everton, Roberto Martinez, taking over the reins would be appealing to many, though that is thought to be an unthinkable prospect for the Merseyside club.
United's need to move quickly is also born of the deep worries about season-ticket renewals, with the narrative they are trying to establish of leaping straight back into serious title contention after a ";once in a lifetime" transition season being one that many supporters are just not swallowing. By delaying on any action until 11 May, the club also face a repeat of the problem they encountered last summer - attempting to sign players from a standing start in June.
Though Danny Welbeck became the first to let it be know, at the weekend, that he is frustrated by his lack of opportunities at United, the manager's reaction behind closed doors to the 2-0 defeat at Everton left others convinced he is in a sense of denial at the club's problems. Moyes arrived in the away dressing room to tell the players that they had played well and had been unlucky - to the astonishment of experienced players who always knew that Sir Alex Ferguson's public defence of them would be followed by a private dressing down after such a dismal performance.
The club also have the issue of a deeply disaffected old guard to consider. The silence from Giggs in recent weeks - with the exception of one very uneasy press conference appearance alongside Moyes last month - creates the prospect of him simply drifting away from Old Trafford at the end of next month. He has started only four games this calendar year, the last of which saw his illustrious Champions League career appear to end with an ignominious half-time substitution against Bayern Munich. The presence at United of Giggs and his former team-mate Paul Scholes - who is understood to have felt Moyes' attempts to call on his experience extremely half-hearted - could potentially be a major draw to prospective signings. Losing Giggs would be another break with the past.
The Glazers arrive in Manchester at a time when they are under pressure to make a first major decision relating to the club, at last. Having enjoyed the luxury of Ferguson and former chief executive David Gill running the club for them, they then allowed Ferguson to drive the flawed decision about who should succeed him. He was initially adamant that Moyes should be given the time that he was allowed, when Ferguson took United through some very dark days in the late 1980s. But he seems to have harboured personal misgivings about Moyes during a plummet which has called into question Ferguson's own judgement.
Moyes is understood to have known after the desperate 3-0 home defeat to Liverpool on 16 March that he was skating on extremely thin ice and several sources suggest he might have made a half-hearted offer to quit at that stage. But the board told him that they were willing to let him tough things out.
It has been Moyes' misfortune that 2013-14 was the season when bold, tactically ambitious managers like Martinez and Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool have flourished, revealing literally how far off the pace Moyes' football has been, and exposing his absence of a core philosophy. Welbeck's pace - a quality United have lacked - has been used just 13 times in the Premier League. Phil Jones has drifted around the team, too often in a central midfield combination where his lack of mobility has been exposed. There has also been a baffling reluctance to use Adnan Januzaj. The 19-year-old has also started a mere 13 Premier League games despite causing consistent problems to defences.
Though Moyes' fate was set by the Olympiakos defeat - which Rooney said was United's worst European performance in his time - the real concern came on 1 February when Moyes was able to deploy Rooney and Robin van Persie together for the first time in three months and also call upon new signing Juan Mata. United lost 2-1 at Stoke.
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