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Jack: Miserable Moyes era ends at Manchester United

Kristian Jack
4/22/2014 5:14:41 AM
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The jury is in.

Manchester United Football Club finds David Moyes guilty of guiding them to their worst season in 25 years.

Until now, none of us really knew what the club's owners thought about the whole mess that has been the 2013/14 season.

Make no mistake, despite his sacking, Moyes is far from the only reason for United's dismal campaign, but his departure means he is the main culprit.

In the end his final chapter, fittingly, took place at Goodison Park, a place of happiness for Moyes, his home as a football manager for 11 years, where he had been seen as the major architect for overachievement.

On Sunday, marshaling a team in red, rather than blue, he was suddenly the architect of underachievement.

Yes, the season had been poor and had exposed some players for what they were but, with less than a month remaining in the season, United were absolutely pathetic at Goodison Park, leaving many to ponder whether any signs of improvement would ever come under the first year manager.

At Everton he was the big fish in the small pond, paid more money than any player and relied upon by owner Bill Kenwright to make average players good and good players, very good.

His record against the league's top clubs was poor but that was when the blame was placed on the players. They weren't quite that good to topple the best of the rest, we were told. It was a resume that got the attention of others.

Last April, Sir Alex Ferguson called his fellow Scotsman while he was out shopping with his wife and asked him to come to his house immediately.

Moyes admitted later that he thought he wanted to speak to him about one of his Everton players. In the end, the only signing taking place was Moyes, handpicked by Ferguson to take over the monumental task that was Manchester United.

A year on it is fair to say that Ferguson's choice of Moyes can be put under the same category of many of his last few signings at the club.

British, expensive and nowhere near a level that a club like United should strive for.

Ferguson did many things right at Old Trafford but he is also made mistakes and the sacking of Moyes now means his hiring of him is one of the biggest he made.

In Moyes he clearly saw traits he admired, traits he believed were similar to his own but the football club was at a much different stage than it was at when he took over in 1986.

United's first colossal error in a long-line of them in the past 12 months was not conducting a deep, thorough search for Ferguson's successor.

Within that search they needed to evaluate everything, including a look at their own results which showed, despite winning the Premier League last season, a decline in their status as a top club in European football, highlighted by how they performed against the big six clubs in England (Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Man City, Tottenham) and in European competitions.

In the three seasons of 2008/09, 2009/10, 2010/11, United played 70 of these 'big game' matches. They won 45, drew 18 and lost 17 for a very impressive win percentage of 64 per cent. During this time they went to the Champions League final TWICE and lost in the quarter-finals on away goals to a team called Bayern Munich.

Over the last three seasons (2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14) United have now played 70 of these 'big game' matches. They have won 28, drew 16 and lost 26 for a very disappointing win percentage of 40 per cent. Their worst performance in the Champions League in the three previous seasons (QF) was now considered a success.

Much of this was down to Ferguson. He ignored the warning signs when teams like Basel and Benfica humiliated them in the Champions League, sending them into the 2012 Europa League where they were given a tactical, technical masterclass in their own stadium by European lesser lights Ajax and Athletic Bilbao.

During this era, Ferguson and his staff signed many average players, throwing the same 80 million pounds he received for Cristiano Ronaldo on Bebe, Ashley Young, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Shinji Kagawa and Wilfried Zaha.

Domestically United bullied their way past far inferior teams in the Premier League but across Europe the elite got further and further away.

This is what Moyes inherited and that was exactly why he was the wrong man for the job. When United struggled, much of the blame went towards the players initially. Gradually the pendulum of blame swung towards the manager but it took much longer than it would at most clubs and that's because outsiders were not sure what some insiders were starting to find out.

By hiring Moyes, an unproven manager in big games and with no experience with genuine world class players, United were able to shield their manager from the usual tirade of criticism because no one quite knew just how good he was.

If Jose Mourinho, for example, had been given the job and they failed, then the players were completely at fault. By going down the Moyes route, United took longer to identify their issues.

In truth, they still may not know them all, completely. What Moyes has done for them is show them just how poor some of their players can be for long stretches of a season. This can never be solely blamed on a manager and United would be best served to use this season as evidence to move aside a number of players at the club.

Some will say those players have let Moyes down but, ultimately, the game is about what they believe, not what fans or media believe and it was clear from a very early stage that they had very little faith in their manager to turn it all around. Once he lost the players, he lost his job.

He departs a club at a crossroads in their journey towards success at the highest level.

This past season they have lost too many football games. They lost their ruthless, attacking identity. They lost a spot in next year's Champions League.

In the process they were perilously close to losing their status as a genuine big club on the pitch. Instead, they chose to lose their manager.

It is time for United to aim higher and grab world class talent when shopping for new players and, now, a new manager.

Their naivety in those areas has led to this point and for a club like Manchester United there should be no lower point than what has happened this season.



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