It's official! Sad David Moyes has been fired by sad Manchester United, just one year into a six-year contract. While Moyes had avoided the ax a couple times this season, the sacking isn't at all surprising given a nightmarish campaign that has resulted in United's worst ever Premier League season and widespread glee among soccer fans all over the world.
Although the move isn't a shock, it could be argued that it is perhaps kind of a little unfair. Maybe. OK, tactically, he left a lot to be desired. The kind of defensive rigidity and timidity going forward that ensures avoiding the drop for teams like Everton won't win you the points and plaudits you need to keep your job at a top, top club. It never looked like Moyes's United had any semblance of an attacking philosophy past packing the middle and, when that area inevitably got too congested, playing in a fullback who would proceed to bomb in innumerable crosses off of the heads of the other team's defenders. It didn't help that despite an emphasis on it, the defense wound up a sieve.
Moreover, when a club filled with veteran players whose egos are only outsized by their trophy cabinets don't buy what the manager's selling, you get what we saw in Manchester this year. Guys like Nemanja Vidić, Rio Ferdinand, and Ryan Giggs were never comfortable with what Moyes was trying to do, probably partly because they're all septuagenarians and he was running them into the ground. Whatever the case, the Telegraph hinted that it was Moyes's alienation of Giggs that finally soured Ferguson on him, which is pretty funny. If only Moyes had tried Giggsy at striker, maybe it all would've worked out.
This was, though, less about the manager than a squad full of decrepit old-timers and injury-plagued stars. I don't care what kind of black magic Alex Ferguson used to conjure up a title last year, even voodoo dolls and burying some down feathers from Arsène Wenger's coat at the crossroads at midnight weren't going to turn this team into one befitting of the Manchester United crest, and that's not really Moyes's fault. That he only dipped into the much-discussed transfer kitty to bring in Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata can't be blamed solely on him. The chief force behind United's transfer dealings is executive Ed Woodward. It's been obvious for some time that the club needed help and lots of it, and you don't miss out on Thiago Alcântara, Cesc Fàbregas, Paul Pogba, and Ander Herrera just because those players are unsure about Moyes.
Justified or not, at least firing the manager is decisive. That's not much to say for it, but it's something from a club leadership that has publicly wrestled with whether or not to get rid of Ferguson's hand-picked successor since about the moment he was hired. When rumors of his imminent departure hit yesterday, it at first seemed to suggest a departure from the extreme penny pinching that had the British press wondering if the team really might schedule midweek friendlies in far-off locations to stuff its coffers after missing out on European soccer. If nothing else, United fans might have felt optimistic that the board had come to grips with the fact that money would need to be spent in order to rescue the team from its current position.
Of course, it later emerged that Moyes's sacking was, in fact, just another one of the cheap-ass decisions the club has been known for under the Glazer family ownership. The Independent reported yesterday that the decision to fire the manager was actually made back in February; United's delay in making it official was apparently due to a clause in Moyes's contract that allowed the club to avoid paying him for the remaining years on his contract should he get fired while failing to qualify for the Champions League. This weekend's loss mathematically ruled out a top four finish, which made today's announcement actually as swift a firing as was fiscally responsible.
By moving today, the team hopes to wrap up some of the summer's transfer activity as early as possible. Potential recruits to Old Trafford now know for sure that they won't be playing in the Champions League, but also that they won't have to play for Moyes. We've said before where United needs to improve—central midfield, everywhere defensively, in the use of Mata—and odds are they will bring in a few good players and a proven manager to try to right the ship. But if suitable reinforcements fail to arrive, and the next manager looks as inept working with an assortment of proud old dogs and once-promising, now disappointing young pups, United supporters won't have Moyes to kick around for it any more. Instead, their pitchforks will be pointed squarely at the board.