In much the same way he came, he has gone. There were lots of similarities between how Manchester United appointed David Moyes and how finally they let him go. Leaked from hours before with the certainty of it only awaiting official confirmation. And when it did, it was a realisation of the inevitable.
It seems that in the modern world, Manchester United’s modus operandi has now become like that of other clubs. For years, it was difficult for any impending news to come out of Old Trafford. In the era of news spreading like wildfire across the globe in seconds, it seems even Manchester United cannot control the imminent leaks.
The same had applied to Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.
The news had leaked much earlier, the unknown was known before it became the constant reality. Maybe that is what changed the moment Ferguson was leaving. The old barriers that prevented such pieces of information coming out were broken down. In that sense --- and with Manchester United then going on to establish a Twitter account post-Ferguson --- it seemed the club had stepped into the 21st century.
Indeed, then for all of its modernistic change, it was peculiar that a man such as David Moyes had been at the helm for so long. The Scotsman had been appointed by a departing Ferguson --- and now his crowning moment has all become a freakish nightmare. Uneasy is the head that wears the crown but in Moyes’s case, the crown became a burden too heavy to lift, too immense to bear and to glowing for him to ever comprehend.
Stability had been his mainstay, and it ensured that he laid the foundations at Everton which Roberto Martinez could easily move to the next level. But when Moyes was required to make that step up himself --- he failed.
His philosophy was incompatible with that of such grand a club. At Everton he was used to maintaining the averages and absorbing opposition pressure, hoping to play on the break. At United, he had to take the initiative; make the percentages his; unbalance the scale and apply pressure on the opposition. At Everton, the highest requirement to which he could be expected to achieve was European qualification. At United, that was the basic level, the worst he could be forgiven for stooping to.
In the end, he stooped lower.
Time was never going to be his ally, especially with the game having moved so far into its results oriented basis. For Moyes however, it was not just the mere fact of results going against him --- it was how they did. The microcosm of it all was that whenever he seemed to show a capability of moving forward, his team then took backwards steps.
The only consistency was in showing glimpses of improvement against mid-level teams, thereby falsely heightening hope before causing the crushing despair of defeat against quality sides.
The aura of invincibility was lost, and at times, so too was Moyes. His words were not carefully picked whenever he spoke to the media, and at times he seemed overawed by the glimmer of the spotlight constantly pointing his way. The pressures eating at him, causing him to delve further and further into the abyss of disappointment.
As good a manager as he is --- and as good as he may be in future --- Moyes will always be the man who took over Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United and failed to step out of the shadow of this great man.
Yet, even in the realisation of this man’s failure is a great deal of detail in the Red Devil’s annus horribilis. The underperformance of the manager aside, there is much more wrong with --- and at --- Manchester United.
A squad with an ageing core lacks the sort of quality players to transition it back to world class level. Thus for every Robin Van Persie, there is a Danny Welbeck; every Michael Carrick is accompanied by Tom Cleverley.
Similarly, a mode of doing business that required minimum amount of transfer activity seems to be a ghost of past successes. With Sir Alex, the maximum could be attained with the average. There are very few managers with that sort of intangible quality.
It means that United was locked in an idiosyncratic world. From the past, they had successes which deceived of future pretences. Now, they have stepped into the present. Moyes’ failure has only but served as a shocking reality.
That shock now means that they have to recover from a few paces off than they ordinarily envisioned.
Tough times await, harder decisions must be made and the error must now be reduced. If Moyes was the wrong choice, then it represents a harsh reality that Manchester United and its fans must now face. Sir Alex ensured a constant sense of superiority --- his chosen predecessor has shown just how unsustainable it was.
We may never know what would have happened if a Pep Guardiola or a Jose Mourinho had been appointed post Ferguson. Indeed, any of those would have been a step out of norm, and the initial thoughts over the appointment of Moyes were that United was sticking to principle, tradition and caution. That caution has now shown to have failed.
The risk must now be taken.
No matter how you look at it, Manchester United must now appoint a modern manager, and like most modern clubs, spend millions of money in order to regain its illustrious position among the elite. In that sense therefore, the post-Ferguson era is primed to truly begin. Principle must be readapted, tradition rethought and caution abandoned.
Manchester United must now firmly step into the modern world of football.