By Andrew M. Mwenda
Why Manchester United should fire its new manager to avert a disaster of epic proportions
Last week, Manchester United was knocked out of the UEFA Champions League. The club is also trailing on the English Premier League (EPL) table at seventh position. This means the most successful football club in England will not qualify for next season’s UEFA Champions League, the most competitive football league in the world. These failures have powerful implications on the club’s future financial position but equally on its ability to retain some of its best players.
Manchester United’s woes began with the hiring of David Moyes as club manager, ironically on the recommendation of Sir Alex Ferguson, the club’s most successful manager. Since Moyes took over, the club’s performance has gone to the dogs. His sympathizers claim he took over a club with a weak team; that he has been given little money to buy new players, and that he should be given time to reorganise and build his own team. These arguments are actually excuses for Moyes’ incompetence.
The claim that Moyes inherited a weak team is ridiculous. The team he took over had just won the EPL title – the most competitive national league in Europe. Therefore, even if the team Moyes inherited had weaknesses, its last season’s performance would predict that by now it should be number three or four on the league table and able to qualify for the UEFA Champions League for the next season. As I write this article (Monday morning on April 14th), Manchester United is number seven, 20 points behind leaders Liverpool.
The claims that Moyes needs time to build his own team are not born of objective measure. The new manager at Everton, Robert Martinez, has taken the club to fourth position on the league table with 66 points and five games to go – ahead of Manchester United by nine points. He has not bought any new players worth mentioning here; he has had the same time “to build his own team” as Moyes has had at Manchester United and actually is using the same squad that Moyes left behind and which finished sixth on the league table last season. Spurs and Chelsea too have new managers but their performance has not collapsed.
The point is that both Moyes and the team he inherited at Old Trafford have a record. As already argued, the team had won the EPL last season with 89 points – the maximum points this season’s high-flying Liverpool, can get. And they took the title after playing 34 games. This same team lost the title on goal difference in 2011/12 with 89 points and had won it the previous season, 2010/11. Therefore, the team’s record is clear. Now let us examine Moyes’ eleven-year record at Everton.
In 2003/04 season, Everton under Moyes finished 17th (on the verge of relegation) with 39 points. In the 2004/05 season, Everton finished 4th with 61 points – the best performance on the EPL table that Moyes ever recorded at that club. From then, he proceeded to prove that he is a mediocre mid-table manager for the rest of his career at Everton – finishing 11th with 50 points in 2005/06 season; 6th with 58 points in the 2006/07; 5th with 65 points in 2007/08; again 5th with 63 points in the 2008/09; 8th with 61 points in the 2009/10; 7th with 54 points in the 2010/11; 7th with 56 points in the 2011/12 and 6th with 63 points in the 2012/13. He never won any trophy at Everton.
Therefore, in his career, the best position on the table Moyes ever got was 4th and only once; and the highest points he ever earned were 65 and again only once. If Manchester United finishes this season at Number Seven or Six on the table with 60 or 65 points, this has little reflection on the quality of the players but the competences of its new manager. To expect that Moyes would therefore perform wonders at Old Trafford cannot be found in his record at Everton. His only achievement as a manager of a club was to have stayed there for eleven years.
Defenders of Moyes also argue that even Ferguson took some years at Manchester United before he began to win titles. They also bring forth evidence of the English press calling upon Ferguson to be fired for these failures. But these arguments compare mangoes and oranges. Ferguson inherited a club in 1986 that had not won a major league titlein 19 years.
Ferguson had had an excellent record as a manager before coming to Manchester United. He had managed Aberdeen and helped them win the Scottish Cup in the 1981-82 Season – the first time the club had won this title in 15 years and again in 1982-83, 1983-84 and 1985-86. He had won the Scottish League Cup in 1985-86 and the Scottish Premier Division title in 1979-80, 1983-84 and in 1984-85. He led Aberdeen to the European Cup Winners’ Cup 1982-83 season beating Bayern Munich in the quarter final and then defeating Real Madrid in the final. Later that December he led Aberdeen to win the European Super Cup. By the time he left Aberdeen, Ferguson had a lot of silverware to boast of – 10 trophies in all.
Thus, when he joined Manchester United, there was a clear record of success by Ferguson to give hope to fans that he can turn things around. That is why, even when Manchester United was performing badly in the English league in the late 1980s, there was a basis to give its new manager the benefit of the doubt. Even when the press called for his sacking saying three years of excuses must come to an end, any reasonable observer would have retained confidence in Ferguson.
Moyes record above also speaks for itself. Hence there is no reason to believe that he can do better at Old Trafford.His current performance is consistent with his record of eleven years at Everton. Even if he were given the best players in the world, there is no evidence that Moyes can win anything. Indeed, it is now clear that he was the problem at Everton given that the club’s performance has significantly improved since he left. With 66 points in the bag already and five games to play, Everton has earned the highest points ever in the EPL. Therefore to save Manchester United from disaster, the club should fire Moyes immediately.