Patience appears to have finally run out at Old Trafford with David Moyes’ sacking as Manchester United manager now imminent.
Eleven Premier League defeats, a failure to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in 19 years and little sign of any serious progress means the United board are compelled to act.
The season that followed former manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure has been tougher than expected.
Liverpool 1-0 Manchester United, Premier League, September 1, 2013
With Liverpool making their best start to a Premier League campaign in nearly two decades, United were coming to terms with the loss of Wayne Rooney to a head wound.
They lacked creativity at Anfield and Moyes suffered his first loss as United manager.
“I thought we played really well. Apart from the lapse in concentration for their goal, we played well,” Moyes said, putting a brave face on defeat to bitter rivals.
Manchester City 4-1 Manchester United, Premier League, September 22, 2013
The “noisy neighbours” humiliated Moyes in his first taste of a Manchester derby when United were outclassed by Manuel Pellegrini’s side from start to finish. A late Rooney free-kick may have been a brief highlight, but the manner of the defeat started the alarm bells ringing.
“I just told the players the way I would have told them at any other club if I didn’t think they were doing well,” Moyes said.
“They’re good players, they’re good pros, they know when they’re bang at it and when they’re not.”
Manchester United 1-2 West Brom, Premier League, September 28, 2013
From humiliation on one level, to another on a completely different scale. Moyes’ shaky start continued as West Brom secured their first win at Old Trafford since 1978, leaving United to reflect on making their worst start to a league campaign in 24 years. Moyes refused to buckle though, insisting they could still get things right.
“You’re always going to have bad results in football, it is how you deal with them,” he said. “We will move on and look forward to the next one.”
Manchester United 0-1 Everton, Premier League, December 4, 2013
Moving on was something United certainly failed to do as Everton returned to Merseyside with all three points after Bryan Oviedo struck four minutes from time. Moyes’ former club took with them another landmark: their first win at Old Trafford in 21 years, and the travelling fans made the most of it as they taunted the Scot on the touchline.
Manchester United 0-1 Newcastle, Premier League, December 7, 2013
Just four days later, languishing ninth in the table and 12 points off the top of the Premier League, United tumbled at home to Newcastle. Fortress Old Trafford had lost its intimidating aura completely by now, with Yohan Cabaye’s goal giving Newcastle their first league win there since 1972.
Somehow, Moyes remained defiant. “I stand firm that we will be very close to [the title], and will be in and around at the end of the season,” he said.
Manchester United 1-2 Swansea, FA Cup third round, January 5, 2014
United hoped for better in 2014 but the crises kept coming as a Premier League defeat by Tottenham at Old Trafford on New Year’s Day was followed by the loss of another silverware target.
Swansea secured something which could only just still be considered an upset by scoring in injury-time, despite only having 10 players left on the pitch. Like West Brom, Everton and Newcastle, the Welsh side also ended an Old Trafford winless record, celebrating their maiden victory at the ground.
“When you lose games at any club, it’s difficult,” Moyes said, his tone finally revealing the turmoil behind the scenes. “We’ve got a big game on Tuesday.”
Sunderland 2-1 Manchester United, League Cup, January 7, 2014
The “big game” United now looked forward to was the opening leg in the semifinals of the League Cup, but it went from bad to worse. Defeat by Sunderland ensured United lost three matches in a row for the first time since 2001.
Sunderland, not surprisingly, celebrated another landmark win in a season that has seemed to deliver one for everyone except United.
They brought to an end a run of 21 games without a win against United stretching back to 2000 and Moyes’ side went on to lose in a penalty shoot-out in the second leg.
Olympiakos 2-0 Manchester United, Champions League last 16, first leg, February 25, 2014
United, by this stage 11 points off a qualification place for next season’s Champions League via the Premier League, saw their hopes of gaining entry by lifting the trophy seriously damaged in Greece, leaving nowhere for Moyes or his players to hide.
“I take responsibility, it’s my team and I’ll always front it up,” Moyes said. “It was the worst we’ve played in Europe.” They redeemed themselves spectacularly in the second leg through Robin van Persie’s hat trick but sustained a knee injury in doing so. He has yet to play again since.
Manchester United 0-3 Liverpool, Premier League, March 16, 2014
Twenty-four hours prior to his side’s crunch match with their fierce rivals, Moyes indicated it would not be long before United were once again challenging for top honours.
Even Brendan Rodgers, the man who has revitalised Liverpool and spearheaded their assault on the Premier League title, insisted his adversary would come good in the long run at Old Trafford.
Two Steven Gerrard penalties and a late goal from Luis Suarez, combined with the sending off of Nemanja Vidic, gave the away side a 3-0 victory.
Fans started to question whether Moyes was the right man for the job, as did United’s board. The whispers started; key boardroom figures raised the prospect of sacking Moyes for the first time.
“It’s difficult to explain it,” Moyes said of Liverpool’s victory. “I felt as if the players were in good shape and good fettle going into it, but we didn’t get to the standards required to beat Liverpool.”
Manchester United 0-3 Manchester City, Premier League, March 25, 2014
The reaction to Liverpool came and went, but United responded. They beat Olympiakos at Old Trafford to advance to the last eight of the Champions League.
They impressively won away at West Ham to get their Premier League campaign back on track.
Patrice Evra even said the spirit was back and United were handed a tantalising European quarterfinal against Bayern Munich. United could rule Europe, Moyes said.
But any whispers of a turning point were quickly shushed by the blue side of Manchester.
Edin Dzeko’s double condemned United to a second successive league defeat at home, gave City the bragging rights for the second time this season and left Moyes wishing his side were something more.
“We have played a very good side, playing at the sort of level we are aspiring to,” said Moyes. “We need to come up a couple of levels ourselves because at the moment we are not there.”
Bayern Munich 3-1 Manchester United, Champions League quarter-final second leg, April 9, 2014
The defeat to City saw United fans club together and fly a banner stating “Wrong One: Moyes Out” over Old Trafford during their next home game. Moyes admitted that fans were entitled to do so, yet his side ran out 4-1 winners against Aston Villa.
A spirited 1-1 draw against Bayern in the Champions League first leg followed and Moyes hailed his side, saying they would go toe-to-toe with their opponents in Munich.
And they did Patrice Evra fired United into a shock lead at the Allianz Arena, only for them to blow their advantage with another display of awful defending.
Bayern cruised to victory and ensured Moyes would finish his first season in charge without a trophy.
“When you are a schoolboy, you get told make sure once you score you don’t concede right away and we conceded too quickly,” Moyes said of United’s lead lasting just 22 seconds.
Everton 2-0 Manchester United, Premier League, April 20, 2014
Moyes’ first visit to Goodison Park since leaving his role as Everton manager was preceded by a fierce war of words with his replacement, Roberto Martinez.
Moyes stated Martinez had reaped the rewards for his work, while the Spaniard indicated Moyes would be wrong to blame United’s squad for their poor form.
Coach Phil Neville, who spent eight years playing in Everton blue, admitted United had failed this season. Leighton Baines, the player Moyes had spent his first summer in charge of United trying to pursue, said Everton played more positive under their new boss.
It showed; United were insipid. Everton mixed things up tactically by being quick to launch balls towards Romelu Lukaku, who made hay against centre-back pairing Phil Jones and Jonny Evans.
A Baines penalty and a Kevin Mirallas strike sustained their chances of a top-four finish and ended United’s once and for all.
“We played very well in the first half,” Moyes said afterwards. “To go in 2-0 down wasn’t what I expected.”