While rivals revel in Manchester United’s uncharacteristic predicament, the true test of character begins for Malcolm Glazer’s ownership at Old Trafford.
Many, including United fans, have mocked, doubted, and gesticulated frantically to show opposition to David Moyes’s embryonic tenure, which has since been exacerbated by the Capital One Cup exit at the semi-final stage against struggling Sunderland.
Now we find out whether the Glazers foster the same mercurially volatile temperament as other majority shareholders, or whether they inherited the patiently ambitious and disciplined approach of the Edwards family that preceded them.
But I’m just not sure what people were expecting. If it wasn’t Moyes, then it would be another unfortunate soul enduring an identically microscopic scrutinisation. There was always going to be a teething period once a Czar of Sir Alex Ferguson’s stature departed a club of such magnitude. It’s a natural circumstance in the evolution of football management.
The same happened when Sir Matt Busby left the club after 24 seasons in charge, with Ferguson taking just under three terms to land his first trophy - the FA Cup - during the transformation. And there were people calling for the Scot’s head among that cycle of uncertainty. How history could’ve been changed!
The club as a whole is in transition, and ever-expectant, almost gluttonous fans need to adopt a sense of perspective. Chief Executive David Gill had played an integral role in United’s success and his voluntary exit saw two of the club’s most influential assets depart together last summer. That’s a huge hit for any business.
Manchester United in the modern era had been developed and polished to the exacting standards and philosophies of Ferguson’s regime on the pitch, and Gill’s methods and teachings off it. Everybody, in every aorta of the club, would have adapted to those values and a specific image that had been integrated through decades. Now they’ll require time to re-adjust.
The Glazers need to examine the club’s future studiously and methodically, working industriously and realistically to create a newly sustainable empire that will one day bear fruit and spark a rich generation. That was the plan when employing Moyes on a six-year contract, and I’d be surprised if they went back on that trust in a knee-jerk response to cries to axe the new man at the helm.
Yes winning the League Cup would’ve been a great riposte to those that doubt his credentials, but it’s by no means the be all and end all in what is trying to be achieved at Manchester United. Moyes is ambitious, determined, has an admirably uncompromising work ethic, and after casting the shadow of the world’s most decorated manager at one of the most famous club’s on the planet, the former Everton boss deserves time.
Five defeats at Old Trafford at this stage of a campaign, coupled with the growing possibility of attaining no silverware, is unprecedented for United but it has helped highlight the club’s flaws, or more specifically the squad’s.
It needs rejuvenation, and it requires his own stamp. Even in Ferguson’s final seasons the squad he’d assembled was growing stale. In 2011/12, United only won the Community Shield while losing 6-1 against rivals City on home soil. They were also dumped out of the League Cup by Championship side Crystal Palace, again at Old Trafford, and failed to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League, eventually losing to Athletic Bilbao over two legs in the Europa League. And even last year, they only managed to impact on the league in an alarmingly underwhelming campaign that saw relegated Wigan lift the FA Cup.
Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs, Nemanja Vidic, Nani, Ashley Young, Anderson, Antonio Valencia, among others, are no longer suited or able enough to feature for Manchester United. The signing of Juan Mata is a start, with the Spaniard potentially sitting behind Robin Van Persie alongside Wayne Rooney and Adnan Januzaj, but that is just a molehill in a potential mountain of change.
Moyes doesn’t covet the same respect as Ferguson yet, but he has the ability if given the backing and support. United fans need to wake up, smell the coffee, and try experiencing the trials and tribulations of lower league clubs and fans who rarely experience such luxury.