So goodbye David Moyes. I know I’m not alone among match-going Reds in appreciating the dignity with which you conducted yourself in your time with us and the respect you always showed for the great traditions of our club. Perhaps that was part of the problem: maybe you were overawed by the club you found yourself with and never really felt able to impose your own blueprint on things. Certainly your approach to tactics suggested that: caught between a desire to uphold the United way and a natural tendency towards caution. Your last stand at your old club illustrated this, and the result was a something and nothing performance that gave the impression of no clear direction which, for many, made the news of your departure inevitable.
I supported you from the beginning, however, and would have carried on doing so. Partly that’s because I believe that’s what the supporter of a football club ought to do, partly because I detest the modern trend of not giving a manager enough time to complete the job he’s been given and partly it’s because I don’t believe the problems we’ve experienced this season were completely your fault.
You were given a six year contract. There was no reason to do that unless those running the club felt you needed time and wanted to assure you of their backing during what was always going to be a difficult period following the retirement of Alex Ferguson. And that seemed only right and proper as neither your great predecessor nor the departing David Gill had done an awful lot at the end of their tenures to ensure a smooth transition. You were left with five players, including three-quarters of the first choice defence, with only a year on their contracts, and a disgruntled Wayne Rooney who’d been needlessly wound up by his previous boss. There was a lot to sort out in those early months, taking up time you really needed to concentrate on building your own squad.
Then there was that difficult business of the transfer window. I’m not denying you didn’t make mistakes yourself. You certainly could have done without that public pronouncement about Fabregas. Yet, again, that ought to have sent some messages to the board and the owners that there might be a problem that both you and Ed Woodward were new to your jobs and some kind of support structure around you both might be necessary. And, again, keeping Rooney turned out to be like a transfer negotiation in its own right. I know your previous boss was a fiery character, and it served him and the club very well, but I could never understand why he allowed a situation to fester that he knew was only going to make things difficult for you. As a result, fatally for the rest of the season, you weren’t able to recruit the players you wanted and thus were denied a major opportunity to impose your own identity on the club.
Clearly this caused a problem or two. Obviously there were people in your charge who weren’t on your side. Team line-ups were often being leaked often six hours ahead of kick-off: if a pipsqueak bogger like myself could access them, there will have been no problems for a rival manager to do so. No question this was coming from within the squad and Twitter has been alive with allegations about the individual concerned. I won’t go into that here but the culture of leaking – virtually unknown during the Ferguson years – has become so endemic to the operations of the club this season that local journalists were briefed about your departure in the most murky way possible well ahead of an official announcement, a tactic that would have had the great Matt Busby turning in his grave.
I agree you made mistakes yourself. Your removal of the old coaching set-up looked to me like a decisive act at the time, but I have to say there’s no evidence that the new one made a great contribution to things and there was a lot of experience and knowledge in that old dug out that you might have put to use. But then you ‘d been assured you had time, and the elevation of Phil Neville and Ryan Giggs suggested your eye was on the long-term. If you believed that, you were guilty of naivety, because there was no way the current owners were ever going to accept no Champions League football and a dropping share price. But again, if these things were always going to be deciding factors as to whether you were given a longer tenure, why a six year contract?
There are, I know, many United fans who are pleased with the news of your departure. Not the majority of match-going Reds, however, who have given you our loud support throughout your tenure. I think we knew how difficult it was going to be to succeed the greatest manager in football and, the way things have panned out, other factors combined to make the task even harder still. The episode has confirmed, for me, that there are many other issues that need sorting out at this great club of ours and that many other people within the hierarchy of the club need to take a long hard look at themselves too. If that doesn’t happen, I fear that removal of the manager will turn out to be little more than an example of the kind of scapegoating all too prevalent in football now. I hope, in short, that the owners and the board don’t delude themselves into thinking that you’ll be leaving the club and taking all of our current problems along with you.
Goodbye and good luck.