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Target On: David Moyes

 Posted by on April 22, 2014 at 11:28 pm  Manchester United, The Ball is Flat
Apr 222014
It was always going to be difficult to replace the most succesful manager in the history of Manchester
United, but to be anointed as the golden successor David Moyes must have known that he would not be given the same level of patience that his predecessor was given. Ferguson finished in the top of the table only once in his first four years after assuming the role, but rattled off a resume in his 26 years at the club that is second to no one, with close to 40 titles in that span. It must have been what replacing Sir Matt Busby must have been like in 1969. Wilf McGuinness only lasted a little over a year on the job. It was so daunting that even Busby himself couldn't do it either lasting only 6 months in a caretaker role. For more than a decade afterwards, Manchester United would struggle to make the transition to life beyond a legend, winning 3 FA Cups and sharing one of two Charity Shields in the following 17 years. They even suffered the ignominy of relegation in that term before winning the second division title in 1975.
Moyes's record at United this year isn't as bad as many are making it out to be. He may be 17 points
behind first place Liverpool and 13 points behind local rivals Manchester City, but he still has a chance
to finish in the Europa League qualifying slots. We can hail him for his role in this year's Champions
League competition. His problem isn't even getting results against those clubs that Manchester United are supposed to beat. In 13 games against teams at the top of the table Moyes has exactly one win and that was at home against Arsenal in November. They've been shut out at home by Chelsea, Liverpool, Everton and Manchester City. It's no wonder the fans have turned against him and there's a vocal minority group that's put much of the blame against Sir Alex Ferguson for anointing him as his successor, which has led to a few interesting events. The notoriously media-shy Paul Scholes has come out in support of the manager, as have other club legends like Gary Neville and even Ryan Giggs who has (if you believe the media) suffered loss of minutes under Moyes.

Now, I don't have any insight into what's going to happen at United but I can set up a few scenarios that I think are likely. The most likely solution is that United keep Moyes for another year and give him money to spend in the Summer. It's a conservative option and considering how the Glazers work it's their preferred method of operation. Then again, if they get bumped out of the Champions League (embarrassed even) by Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich, they don't look to make 4th so it's likely they won't be in the Champions League next year, and their sponsors start calling to renegotiate deals, I think there is a possibility growing everyday that Moyes might not be long for his job. If he is sacked it is likely that they will hire from within, handing the job to a Phil Neville or Ryan Giggs until the end of the year and let them audition for a longer term.

Short-Term Fix: If they fire Moyes and they are desperate enough to regain a place quickly, the
conservative choice would be to hire a coach from this sort of list: Carlo Ancelotti, Fabio Capello, Jupp
Heynkes, Marcelo Lippi, Louis van Gaal, Cesare Prandelli or Guus Hiddink. Ten years ago or so when
Ferguson had contemplated retirement it might have made sense to hire a personal friend like Lippi but
he's of an age (as is Capello) where the rigors of club management are beyond him. The same goes for
Heynkes and Hiddink essentially, but Heynkes is an interesting option. He righted the ship at Bayern
after van Gaal left and he's well respected by his players so he'd solve the fractured dressing room.
Prandelli plays an attractive brand of football that is atypically Italian and would slot in well with the
ethos at United, but I wonder if the language barrier would be an issue. It's become less necessary to
speak English in front of players and the media are more accepting of coaches with limited communication skills but we aren't talking about Mauricio Pochettino at Sunderland or Pepe Mel at West Brom. This is a multinational corporation like Manchester United. Which leaves the mercurial Louis van Gaal. At his best he can galvanize a club like Ajax and win the Champions League or win the treble in Germany with Bayern. At his worst he can drive a club, its supporters and players against him like what happened at the end of both his Bayern and FC Barcelona stints. That said, I think he has the right sort of presence to take over at Manchester United, but as is usual he won't stay long so there's a long-term trade-off.

Long-Term Solution: the lack of stability with any of the above-named managers leads me to believe that it would be better to consider a long-term plan similar to what Liverpool have done with Brendan Rogers. If there is anything to be learned from replacing Sir Matt Busby in 1969 it's that you can't go home again. You need to adapt the Manchester United aesthetic, keep what is right about the club - it's traditions and beliefs - but make a break with the past. You can never replicate what Ferguson did so don't even try. It's why I believe this list filled with innovative managers is where they should go if they do replace Moyes: Jeurgen Klopp, Vincenzo Montella, Antonio Conte, Diego Simeone, Slaven Bilic, Didier Deschamps, Luciano Spalletti, Joachim Low, and Marcelo Bielsa.

I know it's an open field. Anyone of these coaches would be a marvelous fit, but if you want to have an immediate impact there are only two dominant candidates: Simeone or Klopp. Which philosophy do you want? Starve the opponent into submission, or run them into the same. If it were me, I'd pick Klopp.
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