Is David Moyes's time up at Manchester United? Not yet, but almost, writes Unibet columnist Iain Macintosh...
It is important at a time like this to take stock of the positives. So, let’s see what we can find, eh?
1, Manchester United only conceded two goals.
2, No-one died.
4, Did we mention that they only conceded two goals?
The negatives, sadly, will take a little longer to catalogue. Even in a campaign as disappointing as this one, United’s defeat in Greece was a real stinker. All the fight has gone out of this team now. You can see it in the way they play, their traditional cavalier spirit replaced by a haunted conservatism. They don’t make runs for each other. They don’t fight for each other. It’s as if they’ve been hit too many times and they’re just hoping the next blow brings the sweet embrace of unconsciousness.
All season we’ve debated whether or not these players are good enough, but it’s irrelevant now. They’re not even trying to prove their worth. All of which rather begs the question, is it time to think the unthinkable?
David Moyes has just over five years left to run on a contract thought to be worth approximately £5m a year. Ordinarily, it would be insane to consider paying a man £25m not to turn up to work ever again, but given the cost of an extended period outside of the Champions League places, it might now be considered quite prudent.
If there was any sign, any sign at all, that progress was being made, it would be easy to argue for more time. It’s not like there isn’t support in the media for Moyes. Most observers knew that this would be a difficult succession. Most of the summer columns suggested that a wobble would be entirely expected. Some of us, ahem, even got a bit snotty about it.
But a wobble was supposed to mean third or fourth place. Maybe even a closely fought fifth. It wasn’t supposed to mean fighting it out with Everton and Tottenham for a place in the Europa League, a competition that Liverpool’s form suggests does more harm than good.
United will have to spend in the summer, but the idea that all of this can be cured with £100m is laughable. That kind of spending might have worked last year when United would have benefited from a thunderous statement signing, but it won’t work now. They need a complete re-fit. A dual swoop for Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba would cost at least £100m alone. And then there’s the defence to consider.
United’s catastrophic decision to hold back in the summer of 2013 will have far-reaching consequences. They are desperate now and everyone knows it. Not only will they have to pay higher wages to convince players that the Champions League isn’t all that, but every agent in the world is going to play them like a second-hand accordion. Expect a lot of deals to suddenly collapse when yet another suit walks into the room and demands a six figure “consultancy” fee.
United are going to discover, as Liverpool did before them, that every season spent outside of the Champions League makes it harder to get back in. You only get poorer while four other clubs get richer. If the Glazers are going to spend what needs to be spent, which will mean reinvesting a significant proportion of the money they’ve already siphoned out, they’re going to need to be sure that the man picking the team is the right one.
This isn’t the time to sack Moyes, but it isn’t the time for blind faith either. Serious questions need to be asked of him. The players are a shambles and should be disgusted with themselves, but you can’t blame them alone. This has gone far worse than anyone could have imagined. If it doesn’t improve soon, if there is no resurgent end-of-season run of victories, it may be time for United to cut their losses.
United are 3.00 to turn around their Champions League tie against Olympiakos - bet now.