EPL: Plain poor, all round

David Moyes was officially sacked, face-to-face, by Ed Woodward at around 8am (3pm Singapore time) yesterday, but the seeds of his departure were sown long before.

Indeed, some commentators worried that he appeared out of his depth as early as the pre-season tour of Australia when his awestruck: "Wow!", a reaction to a video montage of Manchester United's history was picked up by the microphones.

An Internet meme, a picture of a wide-eyed Moyes with the caption: "I have no idea what I'm doing!" soon began to sweep across cyberspace. It wasn't long before the joke became a reality.

As the Guardian's Daniel Taylor said this week: "A lot of analysis will inevitably feature on the way that Moyes has "lost" the dressing room. The truth is actually that he had never had the dressing room."

One story that circulated in the press box late last year suggested that Moyes had lost Rio Ferdinand from the moment he sat him down in front of a video of Phil Jagielka and told him to learn from the Everton defender.

Ferdinand, owner of 81 England caps and six Premier League winners' medals, was furious and their relationship never recovered.

In recent months, as the speculation over Moyes' future intensified, Ferdinand has apparently revelled in the uncertainty, tweeting enigmatic links to albums called "Rumours" or, in one instance, simply inviting his followers to speculate on the identity of the next manager to leave.

The question of whether Ferdinand was too precious and arrogant to adapt his game is, unfortunately for Moyes, entirely irrelevant. Man-management is a crucial part of a high-level position and the Scotsman fell painfully short.

Ferdinand was hardly an isolated example. In December, Danny Welbeck felt compelled to publicly refute Moyes' suggestions that he wasn't spending enough time on the training pitch and should be staying behind for extra practice.

"I have been doing that ever since I was at United," Welbeck said pointedly.

Other players let slip their frustrations. When asked why he wasn't playing more, Shinji Kagawa told reporters to talk to Moyes.

Robin van Persie complained that Moyes' tactics were squeezing his space on the pitch, making it impossible for him to perform.

More still kept their remarks quiet, leaking them out anonymously.


In the week before the final exit, it was rumoured that an MUTV interview with Luis Nani had been so vitriolic in its criticism of the manager that the in-house TV station were forced to cover it up.

It didn't help that Moyes had removed the men who might have served as his allies as soon as he arrived.

By releasing Rene Meulensteen and Mike Phelan, he removed two men who would have been better able to advise him and who might have served as a crucial safety barrier between himself and the players.

As it was, Meulensteen would return to haunt Moyes, denying him a victory against Fulham with a last-minute equaliser and then publicly describing United as "easy to play against".

There have been suggestions that many of the players knew Moyes was doomed even before kick-off at Goodison Park on Sunday.

It's a theory that was certainly supported by the abject nature of their display. United were awful.

But then came the aftermath of the 2-0 defeat by Everton: A preposterous post-match interview with Moyes insisting that his team had played well and were unlucky to lose the game.

In the boardroom, in the dressing room and in living rooms across the world, foreheads were slapped in frustration.

But, for United's powerbrokers, the result brought one bonus.

With no Champions League football a minor clause in the contract, one that no-one seriously believed would ever need to be activated, that allowed Moyes to be removed at the cost of "just" a year's wages.

Moyes could be paid off for £4.5 million (S$9.51m) and removed without issue.

On Monday afternoon, shortly after lunch, the UK's Manchester correspondents began tweeting en masse that Moyes was set to be sacked, their suggestions supported by their employers who all ran authoritative and apparently well-sourced stories that the axe would swing in the next week.

United responded by insisting that Moyes had not been sacked, but when pressed on whether he would be sacked in the future, they clammed up, which, naturally, intensified speculation across all mediums.

By dawn yesterday, the story was leading even the front pages of some newspapers.

Moyes is said to be hurt by the manner of his dismissal and it has been suggested that he discovered his fate the same way everybody else did; by reading it online. He is right to be upset. He deserved a cleaner exit than this.

But he cannot have been surprised to have been sacked. The signs had been there for some time.

This article was published on April 23 in The New Paper.

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