Thursday 22 February 2018

Garry Toal: United handled sacking badly but Moyes had to go

David Moyes was unexpectedly handed the manager's job by Alex Ferguson (Photo credit IAN KINGTON/AFP/Getty Images)
David Moyes was unexpectedly handed the manager's job by Alex Ferguson (Photo credit IAN KINGTON/AFP/Getty Images)

Garry Toal

As a lifelong Manchester United fan, I'm not disappointed Moyes has been sacked.

It was the correct decision - even if the manner in which it was handled was distasteful.

If anything it should have happened sooner, when there was still the chance of salvaging something from this wretched season.

Ahead of the Champions League quarter final against Bayern Munich was the best opportunity, at that point the club had nothing to lose by cutting him loose.

The move may have reinvigorated the players, who under Moyes have been suffering from a distinct lack of direction and belief.

Instead United were allowed to stumble into their last meaningful tie of the season under Moyes’ guidance and any distant hope of qualifying for next season’s Champions League was dashed by the brilliance of Bayern. 

The decision to replace the most successful manager in the history of the club with a man who had no major honours to his name was one that divided supporters from the start. 

How would he inspire a dressing room that contained players who had won all there is to win at club level? That was the foremost question in the minds of concerned fans.

But Moyes was chosen by Sir Alex Ferguson, a man whose decision-making was key to United’s dominance of English football for almost a quarter of a century, so the vast majority of supporters got behind the new boss.

At Old Trafford, the scene of too many abject performances to list, Moyes’ name was sung week in week out by the supporters.

This was due in part to Fergie’s rallying call to support the new manager during his farewell speech at Old Trafford, but also the perception from within that United fans are a class apart when it comes to standing by their manager.   

Moyes made his first major error on practically day one when he let go of the backroom team of Phelan, Meulensteen and Steele, coaches who had nurtured the current crop of champions and been so instrumental in their success.

Moyes brought in his trusted lieutenants from Everton, as was his prerogative.  But crucially the detailed knowledge of the players and important relationships their predecessors had built through years of working with this squad were lost.

A lot has been made of the shortcomings in the squad that David Moyes inherited, but the same crop of players won the Premier League by 11 points and were unlucky, thanks to some questionable refereeing, not to see off Real Madrid in the Champions League round of 16.

Moyes did little to address the inadequacies in his squad at the first opportunity during the summer transfer window, failing to provide realistic targets and instead pursuing players like Fabregas, Bale and Ronaldo who had never any intentions of joining the club. He ended up with Fellaini.

The new executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward shoulders some of the responsibility for the summer transfer farce, but a better prepared and more assertive manager would have seen to it that the necessary reinforcements were acquired.

On the pitch United lacked the creativity and cutting edge needed to break teams down under Moyes. A point highlighted in his final game in charge against former club Everton, when United had 61pc of possession yet half their shots on target and no goals to show for it. 

All too often this season long balls were lumped into the corners and cross after cross failed to produce any results.

Moyes’ tactical shortcomings were embarrassingly underlined against Fulham at Old Trafford in February when United broke the league record for the amount of crosses by a team in a game.  The champions could still only muster a draw against the team then placed bottom of the league. 

Perhaps the most disappointing feature of David Moyes’ team was the lack of fight the players displayed.

United’s never-say die attitude that was the hallmark of all Fergie’s great teams was non-existant under Moyes.

At no stage in the Premier League this season have United scored a goal to rescue points in the final 10 minutes of a game, an astonishing statistic when you consider the amount of games won in ‘Fergie time’ under Moyes’ predecessor.

There isn’t a Manchester United fan on the planet who thought that replacing Alex Ferguson would be easy and pain free.

After the summer transfer fiasco many supporters didn’t even expect a serious defence of the title, especially when all the main contenders had strengthened their squads so well.   

But failure to qualify for the Champions League would not have crossed the minds of most fans.  Qualification was taken for granted under Fergie and, having won the league by 11 points, any manager worthy of the top job at United should have been able to achieve a minimum fourth place finish.  

Advocates of Moyes have pleaded for patience and for him to be given time to build his own team but the reality is he was given more time than he would ever have been granted at any other club of United’s stature with the results he achieved.

Even with his last chance to rescue United’s season against Bayern Munich, Moyes’ decision to keep the team’s worst performer in each game, Fellaini in the first leg and Rooney in the second, on the pitch for 90 minutes highlighted his inability to get the big calls right in the big games.

It is a shame that things finished up so badly for Moyes, the club should never have handled his sacking in the manner they did.

The supporters genuinely wanted him to succeed and many backed him all the way to the end.  By all accounts David Moyes is a decent man and did the job to the best of his ability, but he was always the wrong man. 

Online Editors

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