David Moyes’s short and disastrous reign at Old Trafford came to an abrupt end on Tuesday when Manchester United announced he was leaving the club following a hugely disappointing 10-month spell as manager since replacing Alex Ferguson last July.
Announcing his departure in a brief statement, shortly after staff arrived for work at the Carrington training ground, United thanked the Scot for “the hard work, honesty and integrity he brought to the role”.
Newspapers had earlier reported the game was up for Moyes, trumpeting the ‘End of an Error’ after the American owners, the Glazer family, lost patience and decided to sack him.
Moyes, who turns 51 on Friday, was appointed on the recommendation of fellow-Scot Ferguson, who retired at the end of last season after 26 years in the job.
Ferguson had steered United to the title last season for the 13th time and 20th overall.
Moyes’s sudden departure evoked memories of the traumatic spell the Old Trafford club suffered between 1969 and 1971 when Matt Busby retired after 24 years as boss.
His hand-picked successor Wilf McGuinness only lasted 18 months before Busby took over the reins again.
It is highly improbable Ferguson will swap his lucrative career as an after-dinner speaker and business consultant for the dugout.
According to media reports, United have courted Dutchman Louis van Gaal, who will quit as coach of the Netherlands after the World Cup in Brazil in June and July.
Veteran midfielder Ryan Giggs, 40, who has been working as one of Moyes’s coaching assistants, could be put in charge for the final four games of the season.
Moyes, who was previously in charge of Everton for 11 seasons without winning a trophy, was given a six-year contract by United but they have lurched from one crisis to another.
A shockingly lame performance in a 2-0 defeat at Everton on Sunday was the final straw for the Glazers, with seventh-placed United failing to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 1995-96.
Until last week the view was that Moyes would ride out the wreckage of this campaign and be given money to invest in new players to revitalise an ageing squad in the close season.
There was little hint of the trouble to come in the early days of the season.
United won the Community Shield against FA Cup winners Wigan Athletic in Moyes’s first match in charge at Wembley in August before they launched the defence of their league title with a 4-1 win atSwansea City.
The first alarm bells rang when they were crushed 4-1 at home by rivals Manchester City on September 22 and defeat in their next home game to West Bromwich Albion, who had not won at Old Trafford since 1978, left them 12th in the table.
It was United’s worst start to a league season for a quarter-of-a-century.
Everton also won at Old Trafford for the first time in 21 years, Newcastle United won there for the first time in 41 years and Swansea won there for the first time ever when they defeated Manchester United in the third round of the FA Cup.
Although United went 12 games unbeaten in all competitions from the beginning of October to the start of December, fans were unhappy about their style of play and lacklustre performances.
That unbeaten run came to a halt with the home 1-0 defeats by Everton and Newcastle in four days in December and they started the New Year with three straight defeats in seven days to Tottenham Hotspur in the league, Swansea in the FA Cup and Sunderland in the Capital One (League) Cup semifinals.
The defeat by Sunderland was a new low. After losing the first leg 2-1, they won the return game by the same score at Old Trafford, saving the tie when Javier Hernandez netted in the last minute of extra time before losing 2-1 on penalties.
The few bright spots came in the Champions League.
United negotiated the group stage unbeaten and although they lost 2-0 at Olympiakos Piraeus in the first leg of the last 16, they turned the tie around with a 3-0 home win in the return with Robin van Persiegrabbing a hat-trick.
That was followed by two shattering 3-0 defeats at home to Liverpool and Manchester City, prompting disgruntled fans to pay for a plane trailing a banner over Old Trafford reading ‘Wrong One – Moyes Out’ in a game against Aston Villa.
United won that match 4-1 and most of the fans inside the ground applauded the manager.
But after going out of the Champions League to holders Bayern Munich and with no real improvement in their league prospects, Moyes’s days were numbered.
Whoever replaces him has a massive job. Ageing players like Giggs, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evraneed to be replaced, while others have not performed as they should have.
Without Champions League football, United might struggle to sign the elite players needed to take them back to the top.
When Ferguson left the Old Trafford pitch for the last time as manager, he told the fans in a farewell speech “Your job now is to get behind our new manager”.
Ferguson believed his fellow Glaswegian would continue his legacy but Moyes ultimately seemed to lack the guile and vision required of a United manager.
BREAKING: Manchester United announces that David Moyes has left the club. (part 1 of 2) #mufc
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) April 22, 2014