JUST a year ago, only two clubs in England gave their manager the latitude needed to do the job of football management properly. Now, only Arsene Wenger and Arsenal are left.
The share price is now the benchmark the Glazer family will be watching and like everything else about Manchester United at the moment, movement in that area is very firmly south.
Wenger tested the limits of his own position at Arsenal last season when his vision appeared to be fatally flawed, brought down by his own inability to understand that he couldn’t coach his way out of trouble and needed to spend big.
He threw a lot of money at Ozil and it worked a charm. He is now as secure as he has ever been and the Arsenal fans and everyone else who doubted him must feel a bit sheepish.
I always thought Wenger would survive as long as he wanted to do the job because he always won enough matches to keep the Champions League cash flowing and the shareholders happy in the process.
It was a close run thing, though, and Wenger was under intense pressure at the start of this season. The transformation in Arsenal’s fortunes on the field after a rocky enough opening month was the story of the season up until the last few weeks when the wheels really came off Moyes’ wagon.
The decline at Old Trafford has been sudden after years of continuity and I don’t blame Moyes for it. It may well prove to be the case that the job is too big for him, but he has not been given a fair chance to succeed.
Manchester United can no longer claim the kind of stability Alex Ferguson brought to the table and it is deeply ironic that it is his role in the unfolding drama which has done as much as anything else to undermine the very circumstances he fought so hard to preserve.
David Moyes is in real trouble now and not even treading water. Looking over his shoulder all the time is Ferguson, who refuses to retreat from the limelight.
I think the first big mistake was made, not by Moyes, but by the Glazers in how they managed Ferguson’s decision to quit. They clearly had very little control over the timing and the events following the announcement.
Had they read a few books on the history of the club they owned, they would have known that it is dangerous to the point of stupidity to allow a legend to linger. In Ferguson’s case, they made him a director.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say until I’m blue in the face; Ferguson should have taken a giant step back and sacrificed his own ego to allow his successor time and room to breathe.
It didn’t matter who the new man was going to be, but it is even more relevant to Moyes given the fact that it was Ferguson who anointed him.
He had and has an obligation to do what is best for Manchester United and I don’t think he can now put his hand on his heart and make that assertion.
Of course, the fundamental issue for Moyes is not the looming shadow over his work, but the fact that he is trying desperately to find a team in a squad which had some very obvious gaps even during Ferguson’s time.
Sure, these players won the title last season, but Robin van Persie was fit and Ferguson was still the boss. They were his players and he knew them inside out.
I believe Manchester United made a terrible mess of the summer transfer market and took their eye off the ball. Moyes signed Marouane Fellaini for a lot of cash and that was his only signing.
So it isn’t Moyes’ fault that Manchester United do not have enough players to compete with Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea or even Liverpool and Everton. That’s Ferguson’s legacy and Moyes must act quickly to fix it.
Unless the whole thing comes crashing down around him in the next month or so, he will be around for this transfer window and the next and in that time he must be given the backing he needs to buy the players he wants.
But all the time, Ferguson is hanging around and the Glazers wouldn’t be human if they didn’t pick up the phone and run Moyes’ decisions and transfer targets past the man who was their golden ticket.
Moyes continues to maintain the stance that he welcomes Ferguson’s input and seeks it out, but I don’t believe that for a minute.
A few months ago, I wrote that I would not be surprised if Ferguson ended up back in the hot seat at Old Trafford before the season is over. It would be a crazy thing for the Glazers to do, but they may not see it that way at all.
I don’t doubt that Ferguson has the ego to believe that he could be doing a better job than Moyes and if he was asked, he might find it difficult to refuse.
But for the sake of Manchester United and, indeed, Ferguson’s place in the history of the game, the best thing the Glazers could do for the next six months is dig deep into their very deep pockets and give Moyes as much money as he needs to put this right.