and Frank de Boer in charge for next season. The Champions League first leg defeat against Olympiakos in Greece pushed United’s season to the very edge of the precipice, and the report suggests the club hierarchy have looked over that edge and peered into the abyss.
There’s an old saying in football that you never want to be the man that follows the man; you want to be the man that follows the man, that follows the man. Taking over from a legend like Sir Alex Ferguson can initially sound like a dream job, and surely no-one would have been surprised that, when Moyes was offered the chance, he grabbed it with both hands. He may now have burnt fingers however.
Many people have offered fairly pointless wise counsel after the event to Moyes. He should have done this. He shouldn’t have done that. He should’ve played this way. Picked him. Bought this guy. Sold that one. Keep the old coaching staff. The simple fact however is that whichever way he chose to go, David Moyes would always have been saddled with one major problem – and that is simply that he isn’t Sir Alex Ferguson.
Moyes isn’t the first manager offered the opportunity to pick up the reins at Old Trafford after an ‘institution’ has moved on. Back at the end of the 1969 season, Sir Matt Busby initially vacated the manager’s seat, and was replaced by long-time assistant Wilf McGuinness. The role proved beyond the new manager however, and Busby was persuaded to return just after Christmas in 1970 for a further 18-month period. The man who followed the man had come up short in the impossible job.
In June 1971, Busby again retired, and was replaced by the Leicester City manager Frank O’Farrell. The Northern Irishman lasted 18 months before the board deemed him incapable of the task of controlling the squad in general and the mercurial, but troublesome, talent of George Best in particular, and he was dismissed. Again, the man who followed the man had paid the price of the pale comparison.
At this time United appointed Tommy Docherty, and although it took a relegation and a thorough overhaul of the squad to rinse out the old ways, the Scotsman turned the club around. Not having the long shadow of Busby’s success hanging over him, O’Farrell’s reign had created some breathing space for the new man.
Henry Ford once famously said that “History is bunk!” Moyes however may dispute the assertion of the pioneering carmaker, and be contemplating the difficulties experienced by McGuinness and O’Farrell, comparing them with his own. The question of course, is just how realistic it is for the club to expect a smooth transition from a manager that has very much shaped a club in his own form, to a new manager. It seems an almost comical thing to say, but the biggest help the players, club and fans can offer to Moyes is to forget Ferguson.
If Moyes remains cast in the tragic-comic role of the man who follows the man, his chances of success will remain compromised by the burden thrust upon him. The manager needs to simply be able to be that – to step clear of the giant shadow and realise that he isn’t the man that followed the man. He simply is ‘the man.’
How much time will Moyes be given to prove himself at the club? Are United’s failing a result of Moyes’ management or the players not pulling their weight? What does Moyes need to do to turn things around?
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