Manchester United v Swansea City - FA Cup Third Round

The news, via the Telegraph‘s Mark Ogden, in case you missed it:

David Moyes is facing the sack as Manchester United manager with the club’s owners, the Glazer family, preparing to call time on the Scot’s disastrous tenure at Old Trafford.

Just 11 months after being handed a six-year contract as Sir Alex Ferguson’s hand-picked successor at United, Moyes is understood to have lost the backing of the Glazers and senior executives at the club, with Sunday’s 2-0 defeat at Everton proving the final straw.

Apparently Ryan Giggs is set to takeover in his stead, though this is all unconfirmed.

There were obviously many issues at play with Moyes’ relatively brief tenure as Man United manager, including a record eleven defeats and the almost certain loss of Champions League football. Certainly the 1-0 home loss to Everton at Old Trafford last December was the first sign of a major break from the Alex Ferguson era. Rumours had been circulating as early as a few weeks ago that Moyes would be sacked in June. Today’s news will force United’s hand on the issue.

Even so, Moyes’ coming sacking should not gloss over weaknesses in a squad, which was arguably in need of serious overhaul going as far back as the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid in 2009. There is an argument to be made that any manager, no matter how talented, would have struggled to replicate Ferguson’s feat in winning the 2012-13 Premier League trophy with the same team.

Yet—surprise!—it’s also possible that Moyes was also not the right manager at the right time, inept, aloof, forcing European Cup winners to watch videos of Everton players in order how to relearn their football (if Red Issue Forum is to be believed). Man United fans were more than willing to allow for a poor start, with a few more stumbles than the season previous perhaps, but they needed some plausible sign the club was on the verge of a positive change. Those signs never came, and the press have long since abandoned him.

Yes, both views are equally plausible, and what’s worse for aggrieved United supporters, they may go hand in hand. The irony may be that both are side effects of the brilliance of Alex Ferguson’s 26 years in charge of the club.

On the one hand, Ferguson’s incredible ability to motivate may have papered over cracks in the side (remember—United won the league last season in a year Anderson Silva was required to make 9 league appearances) and disinclined the club’s higher ups from taking a hard look at major flaws in the team, flaws that were not only expensive to fix but carried with them huge risks as well. And why would they look at them? That was always the manager’s job, and he was gone.

On the other, the god-like anointing of Moyes by Fergie may have stifled some dissenting voices who may have wanted a certain, then available Portuguese firebrand to takeover instead. The larger than life influence of Ferguson on the club may have blinded the board to a succession that was more based on hope than experience.

In either case, the issue here involves the Ferguson Model itself—clubs forever waiting for a genius manager to arrive and make everything better, only to sack them when they fail. From what I’ve heard, the club isn’t going to make the same mistakes post Moyes and are working to ensure a more long-term approach to succession planning in order to help support whichever manager comes in next. This strategy will go hand in hand with an ambitious summer transfer plan which will likely dispel rumours that the Glazers’ are more interested in debt service than improving the squad. The post-Ferguson era may only now be beginning, a year too late.

The question here is what is United going to be about in the next three seasons? The next five? Ten? This summer will almost certainly be more vital to deciding the future of Manchester United Football Club than most, if any, in its history.