LONDON, (Reuters) – Manchester United’s succession planning for life after Alex Ferguson was left in tatters yesterday when manager David Moyes was sacked after 10 troubled months of failure and frustration at a club used to seamless success.
Moyes, appointed with a six-year contract on the direction of retiring fellow-Scot Ferguson last July after 11 years at Everton, did not even get to complete his first season as the club’s American owners, the Glazer family, ran out of patience.
Announcing his departure in a terse, two-line statement, United thanked Moyes for “the hard work, honesty and integrity he brought to the role” at Old Trafford but his spell in charge will be remembered more for dire performances, humiliating defeats and a failure to qualify for the all-important Champions League for the first time since 1995/96.
United have lost six home league games, won only one match in 12 against the Premier League’s top six and will finish outside the top four for the first time since 1991.
Midfielder Ryan Giggs, 40, was appointed to take interim charge of the team for the final four games of the season with United mired in seventh place, 23 points behind league leaders Liverpool.
Speculation immediately turned to who might take over at Old Trafford, with the club’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward leading the recruitment process.
A decision on Moyes’s successor will be taken by the board as a whole but senior figures, including Ferguson, will be consulted. Dutchman Louis van Gaal was installed as the bookmakers’ favourite.
The former Barcelona, Ajax Amsterdam and Bayern Munich boss is coach of the Netherlands but has already said he will stand down after the World Cup in Brazil and has talked of a move to the Premier League.
Other leading coaches distanced themselves from the role, with Juergen Klopp saying he was happy to stay with Borussia Dortmund and Pep Guardiola also indicating he had no desire to walk away from a Bayern Munich side he has forged into probably the best in world football.
That is the level United fans and owners expect to be operating at but, a year to the day after securing their 20th English league title, they are instead scrambling to try to qualify for the “also-rans” Europa League.
Tuesday’s announcement was widely expected after being leaked to British media on Monday – a day after United’s meek 2-0 loss at Moyes’s former club Everton.
The manner of the defeat, and of many of the other 14 under Moyes’ troubled 51-game stewardship, would have been unthinkable under Ferguson, as newspaper stories that many of the current squad had no faith in their manager seemed to be borne out by their lacklustre displays in recent weeks.
The sacking of Moyes, less than a year into a contract of a reported four million pounds ($6.73 million) per year, is an indication of the profit-focused approach of the Glazer family.
While able to accept the $50 million shortfall caused by missing the Champions League – partly due to a huge new shirt sponsorship deal with General Motors – the prospect of giving Moyes a close-season transfer money pot in a market where the best players might not want to come, proved an unpalatable one.
United’s shares, which trade on the New York Stock Exchange, were up just over six percent at $18.80 at 1924 GMT, signalling investor relief at the decision to sack Moyes.