David Moyes wasn’t mistreated at Manchester United – and here’s why

“When you sign a six-year contract and you end up there 10 months, yeah, I believe I was,” the new Sunderland boss declared recently. But that’s not so, says Republik of Mancunia’s Scott Patterson, who pulls no punches in his rebuttal...

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Everybody knew that whoever was handed the Manchester United job after Sir Alex Ferguson was being handed a poisoned chalice. After almost three decades of success, it was obvious that the man tasked with filling the Scot’s boots would struggle.

Opposite the dugout at Old Trafford is the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand, looming large, reminding the current incumbent of the success that came before them. Whether that’s David Moyes, Louis van Gaal or Jose Mourinho, all who stand on that touchline have huge expectations to meet regardless of the glory their CV may or may not boast.

Sir Alex Ferguson Stand

*That* stand, with *that* plane banner

Fergie’s fault

Ferguson helped make the decision to appoint compatriot Moyes without so much as an interview, having the misguided belief that they were cut from the same cloth. But while Fergie enjoyed success at Aberdeen, overthrowing the usual order of power of Celtic and Rangers in Scotland, as well as beating Real Madrid to win the European Cup Winners’ Cup, Moyes had lifted nothing.

Ferguson urged the fans to get behind the new manager, and while a lot of supporters believed that Mourinho was a more suitable choice, they were loyal to their legendary former manager

Moyes had been in management for 15 years, without a trophy to his name, before Ferguson chose him. In Ferguson’s first 15 years of his career he’d won three league titles, five domestic trophies and two European trophies. To claim that these two men are alike is lazy. They were both born in Glasgow, but that’s where the similarities end.

Still, Ferguson urged the fans to get behind the new manager, and while a lot of supporters believed that Mourinho was a more suitable choice, they were loyal to their legendary former manager, so did what he said.

Alex Ferguson, David Moyes

"Take note: here's how you set your watch to Fergie Time"

“Come on David Moyes, play like Fergie’s boys” the Old Trafford crowd would sing every week, to the Slade anthem. The football was awful, the results were even worse – particularly against United’s hated rivals – yet still the fans stuck with their new manager. The atmosphere for the 3-0 home defeats against Manchester City and Liverpool were up there with the noisiest crowds Old Trafford has seen in recent years.

Shoes too big

There were factors that worked against him, like the expectations from the Ferguson years and incompetence of Ed Woodward in the transfer market

Yet, despite the lack of booing and jeering, you’d be hard pressed to find a United fan who wasn’t relieved when, following the 2-0 defeat away to Everton, Moyes was sacked.

There were factors that worked against him, like the expectations from the Ferguson years and incompetence of Ed Woodward in the transfer market, but the simple truth was that Moyes lacked the experience of managing world-class players and was never qualified for such a job.

Maybe Ferguson’s ego meant he didn’t want to see Mourinho come in and outshine him – not that it would have been possible – or maybe he genuinely thought that Moyes needed this platform to prove his capabilities. Whatever happened to allow Moyes to be United’s manager, time proved what we all expected anyway – that this role was too big for the former Everton boss.

David Moyes, Manchester United fans

Moyes did his best to keep the fans onside, but it was in vain

Some United fans hated Moyes and even paid for a plane to fly over Old Trafford demanding his dismissal. Other supporters felt sorry for him, knowing he’d been given a very difficult job.

“Where I should be”

However, Moyes’ comments since his sacking have begun to grate on large sections of the fanbase.

At his unveiling as Sunderland manager, he claimed it was unjust that United let him go after 10 months having been given a six-year contract.

“There were mitigating circumstances,” he said. “And I think there are maybe things that have gone on since then that would actually justify that even more so.

“Managing Manchester United gave me an unbelievable idea of what it’s like at the top. I believe that’s where I can work and that’s where I should be working. My level is that, because that is what I saw when I was there.”

David Moyes, Goodison Park

Moyes's last stand: it all ended at Goodison Park, of all places

It’s true, United gave him a lengthy contract to prove they were committed to Ferguson’s successor. Had he taken the champions to fourth the following season, after the £70 million investment in the transfer window, he would have been forgiven. Despite the fact United hadn’t finished lower than third since 1991, there would have been some understanding given the task at hand.

Ferguson’s final squad was past its best and any manager would have struggled to retain the title, including Ferguson himself. But the fact United finished seventh, below Moyes’s former club Everton, meant he didn’t have a leg to stand on. If one season saw United fall from first to seventh, there’s no way they could have allowed Moyes to experiment at the top for a second season. Who knows how far United would have drifted if he had been allowed to keep his job.

When you also consider that Moyes brought Everton’s top scorer Marouane Fellaini with him to Old Trafford, his reign is still leaving a bitter taste. Roberto Martinez had just seen Wigan relegated, and in his second and third seasons Everton finished 11th. Moyes wasn’t competing against a world-class manager with a generous budget, yet still Martinez managed to show him up, despite having an inferior squad.

Too much, too soon

The decision for Moyes to substitute United’s title-winning backroom staff with coaches from Preston, Everton and Newcastle bit him on the backside.

Presumably, when Ferguson made the decision to appoint Moyes, he didn’t believe his replacement would be so bold to think he knew better. Moyes needed one season to steady the ship, continuing with the successful coaching that was already in place, and if in his second he saw areas for improvement, so be it. Yet there was no acknowledgement of his own failings when he left.

“It was really difficult when I lost the job initially because I didn’t really see it coming, even though I had been losing games,” he told the BBC. “I knew that it could be difficult but I joined a club that I felt stood behind their managers, made sure they supported them in difficult times – Sir Alex had difficult times when he first took over.”

What Moyes failed to mention was that Ferguson took charge when United were in the relegation zone, while he became manager when the team were champions. To expect to be given a few years to show what he could do, because of what happened to Ferguson, was ridiculous.

Something to show

The past three years have been embarrassing for United and in three years’ time they may find themselves in the same position, given Mourinho’s history of short-term success. But while Van Gaal’s football was dreadful, he at least had an FA Cup to show for his two seasons, as well as giving the fans reasons to cheer when United played their rivals. More often than not, United picked up good results against the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal.

However, it’s difficult to think of even one positive to Moyes’ tenure at Old Trafford. Even securing Wayne Rooney’s future at the club, which was billed as a success at the time, has proven to be a bad move given how quickly the captain’s form has deteriorated since then.

Moyes has delusions of grandeur. Even now at Sunderland, following his failed stints at United and Real Sociedad, Moyes believes he’s above them. He was an unmitigated failure at Old Trafford and the fact he still can’t admit any of his numerous mistakes is worrying for him.

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