MANCHESTER, England (AP) — When Manchester United overlooked Jose Mourinho and chose David Moyes to be the successor to Alex Ferguson, the club gambled on a manager without a winning mentality or experience of European soccer – and with no trophies on his resume.
Instead, United went for someone with a track record of loyalty and building a dynasty, as 11 relatively successful years at Everton would attest.
It quickly became apparent, however, that Moyes lacked the gravitas for one of the biggest jobs in club soccer, that he was too satisfied with a mediocre level of performance, that he was in awe of the team rather than ready to rebuild it.
In short, he was a man out of his depth.
Take, for example, the away match at Liverpool, which came three games into the Premier League season. Liverpool won 1-0.
“I thought we played very well” was Moyes’ assessment of what most experts found to be a poor display by the reigning champions. With more performances like that, he added, United would surely finish “in or around the top four.”
It was to be a recurring theme.
United took Moyes out of Everton, but not the Everton out of Moyes.
Before United’s home match against Liverpool, Moyes declared the visitors to be favorites. “I was surprised,” Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers remarked on Moyes’ lowered expectations. “I would never say that at Liverpool – even if I was bottom of the league.”
What was to prove his last post-match news conference also came on Merseyside, this time at Everton on Sunday. United had just been beaten – actually, dismantled – 2-0 by an energetic, tactically aware Everton side.
“I couldn’t fault how we played,” said Moyes, wearing his now-customary haunted look. His overall analysis staggered those present and had United fans fuming on social media.
United fans probably saw it coming, though. Moyes admitted on the day he was presented as the new manager that “the blood drained from my face” when he was approached by Ferguson and told he would be the man to take the club forward.
The job and the task of rebuilding an aging team that Ferguson squeezed the best out of proved too much for Moyes.
Convincing Wayne Rooney to commit his future to United was regarded as the most pressing item on his to-do list. That was accomplished. He also successfully established talented winger Adnan Januzaj as a first-team squad member.
On a playing level, he achieved little else.
“Come on David Moyes, play like Fergie’s boys” was the chant United fans regaled their new manager with at the start of the season, but that never materialized.
With long balls, ponderous attacking play and a defensive mindset, Moyes’ United was incomparable to the teams of the Ferguson era that wowed fans across the world with their adventure and dynamism. Moyes wasn’t averse to fielding attacking players – the team just didn’t play attacking football.
United looked most comfortable under Moyes in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinal against Bayern Munich, when it defended deep, relied on spirit and work rate and looked dangerous on the counterattack. It was very much a Moyes-type performance from his Everton days.
By the end of his reign, it looked like the players had lost faith in his methods. Danny Welbeck reportedly wants to quit Old Trafford; Robin van Persie has openly complained about teammates running into his space; Patrice Evra has been poor this season but hardly got off on the right foot with Moyes after the new manager courted fellow left backs Leighton Baines and Fabio Coentrao last summer.
His only offseason purchase, Marouane Fellaini, has been a major disappointment, and Moyes’ other big-name recruit, Juan Mata, gave the team yet another No. 10 with Shinji Kagawa and Rooney already there. Often marginalized onto the wing, Mata hasn’t had the desired effect yet.
Chastening early season defeats were perhaps to be expected in the new era. But they have just kept on coming – United has lost 10 of its 22 matches in 2014, among them embarrassing losses to Olympiakos, Liverpool, Manchester City and Everton that has sent fans’ frustrations beyond tipping point.
And it wasn’t just the defeats, it was the manner of them.
There has been no sign of improvement, either, and that’s what ultimately turned the tide against Moyes in the board room.