This weekend sees Manchester United’s season of woe finally come to an end. The first full year since Sir Alex Ferguson's departure will have been a harrowing experience for supporters of the club. For a generation of fans that began following United under Ferguson, this season was an unwelcome journey deep into unknown territory.
The appointment of David Moyes as successor to Britain’s most successful club manager was a romantic, if not idealistic, one. Moyes, like Ferguson, was a tough and uncompromising Scotsman, who’d put in 11 years of tireless work to build his own footballing legacy 34 miles away from Old Trafford at Everton. Although unable to capture any silverware during his time at Goodison Park, Moyes’ morals and work ethic set him up as the embodied of everything Manchester United wished to represent: honesty, integrity, determination and ability. Dreams do come true, as Moyes, the unglamorous underdog, finally got his big break. This was his moment to ascend to Old Trafford’s vacant throne and proceed towards managerial greatness. Sadly, however, such fairy tail narratives rarely occur in reality, and for David Moyes, flaws exposed in his personality would tragically prove fatal to his ambitions in Manchester.
In football, the ability to make your players think like, and thus play like, champions is perhaps the most important quality a manager must have if his team is to succeed and win trophies. From the outset, the startling lack of silverware on Moyes’ CV was a concern that suggested he didn’t posses the requisite skills to elevate the performances of his players to that of trophy winners. Arguably, Moyes' predecessor's greatest ability was his knack for extracting the very best from almost everyone who played under him. From Park Ji-Sung to Cristiano Ronaldo, every player, regardless of talent, was given the confidence to go toe-to-toe with football’s very best. In this sense, Sir Alex Ferguson, a habitual creator of champions, was sublime.
So, for Moyes, it was damning when, 10 months into his tenure, Manchester United stalwart and dressing room mouthpiece, Patrice Evra, spoke about a lack of confidence throughout the squad; pointing to this as the reason for the season's many abject performances. Indeed, so bad had the team's displays been, that they'd resulted in the club’s sharp decline from champions to mid-table also-rans. For a club that had been defiantly confident since the dawn of the Premier League to now be found so lacking can only mean Moyes had cut the supply. His earnest approach sapped successful, established players of the cocksureness they and their badge were synonymous with. Cue Moyes' crucifixion by incredulous fans and the preying press pack.
For a team with a reputation as daredevil as Manchester United's, Moyes was terminally uninspiring when addressing the media, with United's performances subsequently reflecting their manager's prosaic persona. At the pinnacle of British football, his set-piece dossier and state-of-the-art transfer ‘bunker’ were preposterously inadequate. Studiousness was not enough; what he lacked was something rare and intangible. The air of conviction - the charisma, the aura - that inspires belief in players, and devotion in fans, was glaringly absent. Without this, Moyes was exposed as a managerial mortal, unable to rule in the arena of the elite, and leading the champions of England towards footballing catastrophe.
Ultimately, the tenure of David Moyes was a human tragedy. Here was an honest man, who, after years of humble service at Preston North End and Everton, was hoping to truly begin his journey towards a place amongst British football’s greatest managers. Alas, handed a poisoned chalice and baptised in fire; the Theatre of Dreams hosted his worst nightmares, and, ultimately, he was a lamb led to slaughter. Compounding the devil red stain, now forever on his CV, Moyes' humiliation was completed by his former club, Everton, who, in the same season, exceeded all expectations he’d once set.
At the season’s conclusion, pious David Moyes is a figure of martyrdom, as it was he that was made to pay for the decades of unprecedented success at Manchester United. A historic haul of silverware that now, in the cold light of May, will look sinful in its gluttony to this season's empty-handed United supporters. For the watching audiences, Moyes’ ten-month tenure was a gripping tale of romance and tragedy, which was played out on football’s biggest stage.