Signs of life have become growingly infrequent. Once an arena filled with joy and optimism, now bogged down in gloom and misery. Over the years a pantheon of greatness has now become a desolate, barren wasteland. Like the fall of Constantinople before it, Manchester was besieged and broken, what was once United is now torn apart. This is the legacy of the ‘Reign of Moyes’, four years have passed and with it all the hope and expectation that was considered part of the furniture.
It is as if it were yesterday that Ferguson told everyone at the club to get behind the new manager, they all said he was cut from the same cloth. Nonsense. You could see it from the moment he walked into the stadium, the fear in his eyes. Two months he had that summer to find worthy recruits and what did he do? Bring in Fellaini. Thankfully the midfielder only lasted that one season, the diagonal run out of the play against Bayern Munich was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Well, that’s the last we saw of Europe, the memories are hard to recall now but the sweet embrace of the music… it still echoes around the place if you listen carefully.
… Like a fish out of water he was. It didn’t help that the shadow of Ferguson loomed large, but Moyes handled that transition like a car crash. There was still hope in the first season, Mata came in January and his relationship with Dave was beautiful (De Gea, not that charlatan Moyes). Danny Welbeck was on course to become the world beater the fans had long awaited and… Well, that’s about it really. The best defenders were on their last legs back then, the midfield was a concept Moyes seemingly had failed to come to terms with because it was bypassed every game. Apparently some of the players mentioned he wanted a ‘false 6’ and ‘false 8’.
Out of Europe and with a chance to focus on rebuilding the side and concentrating on the league, Moyes called the whole squad in for a meeting. He apologised for the tough year, it seemed genuine and even swore that he would strengthen the side with new additions. That’s when he ushered in Leon Osman and Leighton Baines! Some players laughed, others cried, a couple walked out in disbelief.
Needless to say, that summer didn’t inspire any confidence but the board wanted to remain true to their philosophy of stability. It wasn’t the worst season ever, the club did finish 13th in 1989-1990, 25 years later there was a respectable 12th. There was no FA Cup to go with it mind you. If this was their idea of stability, a couple of seasons with Mourinho was definitely a better alternative, he had confidence that one. In the last home game of the season against Chelsea, he sat in Moyes’ dugout and told him to ‘Piss Off’ because he was more welcome than him. It was true.
Countless takeover rumours and even more fly-by banners each emblazoned with an artistic #MoyesOut were instigated, yet there he remained for a third season. The Glazers must have loved the publicity of it all, the world’s longest PR stunt was set to continue.
Some still believed that all he needed was ‘time’ a reminder for those select few “You can polish a turd, but it is still a piece of shit.” As the season got underway, it actually seemed like there might be a revival, who knew that playing your best players, in their best positions would reap such rewards? Although claims that Moyes was now a genius because he was finally managing the team were always going to be premature. He didn’t have the mentality needed for a big club, throwing on defenders as soon as a lead was established only to see the opposition; huff and puff till they blew the United doors down. False hope, it’s awfully cruel. With Europe on the horizon, the tactical nuances that had escaped Moyes throughout his short but memorable tenure came round to bite him on his derrière.
You could see the foundations of the club being stripped away by the fourth season, players who were the backbone of success had decided to set sail for greener pastures, and those with any significant potential were prized away by clubs that could manage a top-half finish. Wayne Rooney was still around, fatter every season, in his pockets and his waist. Who wouldn’t stick around for £200k+ a week, especially when the manager treats you like a demi-god. Moyes even let him try his luck in goal one game after Demichelis had him in his back pocket for a half. The 7-0 loss to City wasn’t pretty, Moyes’ insistence that as underdogs it was a respectable result was a far uglier sight (Brendan Rodgers would never admit to that!).
The board and their insistence for stability, they were unwavering, even in the face of relegation they sided with the ‘The Chosen One’ it took Ferguson four years to get his first title, in the same time Moyes had taken the Champions to the Championship. The unthinkable happened, relegated on the last day of the season…
They say every cloud has a silver lining, relegation is usually the exception to that but in this case the board finally relented to the demand for Moyes’ head (a few remain upset that the plea wasn’t taken literally). In England’s second tier but free of the parasite that brought the club to its knees, it is time to rebuild. A ‘Theatre of Despair’ shall dare to dream once more.