The World’s Greatest Soccer Empire Is Crumbling, And It’s No Wonder Why

Disorder has engulfed an empire that has been all about stability. Yesterday morning, the rumors began circulating out of Manchester United, the world’s most popular soccer club, and into the media spin cycle. Its underachieving manager, David Moyes, was to be fired, a claim that was reported by more than a few reputable sources.

At the time, he hadn’t been sacked yet, but where there is smoke there is fire, and Moyes has since been burned, with his departure confirmed early this morning, just 11 months after the Scottish coach was handed a six-year contract by the reigning English Premier League champions. None of this, though, should come as a surprise.

From practically start to finish, Manchester United has made headlines this season for the exact opposite reasons than the club is used to and have broken records in all the wrong ways. Under David Moyes, the Red Devils have gained their lowest amount of points ever in the Premier League and have not qualified for the UEFA Champions League for the first time in 19 years.

Losses against inferior teams like West Bromwich Albion, Newcastle United and Swansea City at United’s formerly impenetrable home ground, Old Trafford, have highlighted a campaign that has made it hard to determine which is the bigger shock: the fact that David Moyes has led Manchester United to such depths or the fact that he was put in a position to do so in the first place.

For this fan of the game, it is unquestionably the latter, for reasons that go beyond hindsight. David Moyes’ reign came immediately after the retirement of United’s famed legend of a manager, Sir Alex Ferguson. Under “Fergie,” the Red Devils captured 13 Premier League titles, five F.A. Cups and two UEFA Champions League trophies during a 26-year reign that is unmatched in the British game.

Ferguson’s run set Manchester United’s bar for success incredibly high. And yet, when given the opportunity to choose his own successor, the former boss really couldn’t have reached any lower amongst the credible list of potential candidates. David Moyes’ lack of fit for a club the size of Manchester United’s came down to more than the mere fact that he’d never won a trophy prior to feeling the hot seat at Old Trafford. The Scot never coached the type of soccer that felt reminiscent of the great sides in Europe, certainly not with any consistency.

The fact that Moyes came from a more modest club has little to do with things, either. Brendan Rodgers made his first big move to his current team Liverpool, just two years after coaching in the level below the Premier League. The way he’d coached his previous team, however, made it seem as if he were reading out of Barcelona’s handbook. Now, Rodgers is on the brink of a league title with Liverpool.

Roberto Martinez, the manager of Moyes’ former club Everton, which handed United a 2-0 loss on Sunday, got hired in the summer after coaching a team that got relegated after finishing in the bottom three of the Premier League. But his team’s style of play looked like he’d applied a touch of Arsenal’s to it. Now Martinez is running neck-and-neck with that same club, looking to finish above them and steal a coveted place in the UEFA Champions League.

Moyes, meanwhile has taken a squad that won two Premier League trophies in three years and stagnated in seventh place. Every excuse afforded to him, all the while, has been poor.

The claim that the team the Scottish manager inherited is aging and simply had too many players who aren’t good enough is, itself, not good enough. It was this same group of players that was predicted to win and retain the title by more than a few experts before the season began. It’s unlikely that the players have aged by twos or threes since.

The idea that he hasn’t had enough time is hardly indisputable, either. Transforming into a dominant force after a poor start in one season is one thing, addressing reparable issues another. The latter should be expected, yet Moyes hasn’t done it. For Manchester United, one of the world’s traditional powerhouses, to look as clueless and tactically inept on Sunday as the team had six months ago is truly unacceptable.

The argument of bad luck, though, actually carries weight — particular in a League Cup semi-final against Sunderland — but not to the tune of six home losses and a seventh place finish.

Nearly every stance that has been used in Moyes’ favor has holes in them. Nearly all of them have taken focus away from the one true subject that hasn’t gotten enough attention. Because for all of the talk about time, a lack of resources and a need for new recruits, David Moyes has simple not done a good enough job in accomplishing the one thing that is totally within his power: coaching.

But then again, his managerial record never indicated that he could handle that responsibility at a club the size of Manchester United’s. It’s no wonder why, that under David Moyes, the world’s biggest soccer empire is crumbling.

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