No-one likes to see a once great player suffering through the decline of his own body. John Nicholson believes some difficult decisions lie ahead for Steven Gerrard...
Alan Pardew looks unhappy, the supporters are certainly unhappy and the players don't exactly look enthused either. It's better for everybody if the misery ends now...
The sack. At last. Thank god.
It's been coming since last July. The truth is Moyes should never have been appointed as the manager of one of earth's biggest football clubs. You didn't need to be 'a football man' to know that. You didn't need to be an ABU to know that. This isn't 20/20 hindsight. All you needed was to look at his record. It told us everything about what he was like, who he was and why he wasn't suitable. That's why so many of us called it out from day one as a stupid decision to appoint him. We were not hugely perceptive. It was so easy to see.
Football likes to think of itself as big business, but it isn't really - not compared to proper big businesses turning over billions. But if any club is big business, it's Manchester United. A global empire dedicated to selling poly-cotton duvets to people in Thailand as well as winning football matches needs a big man with a big personality and a big vision at the helm. Moyes was none of these things, self-evidently. From the start he looked like a little boy on his first day at the big school.
In awe of the post he had acquired (but surely knew he didn't deserve), from the get-go Moyes betrayed a terrible naivety and it just got worse and worse. In fact, with the exception of playing Adnan Januzaj, which could be assigned as much to good fortune as intelligence (woefully painted as some sort of genius by those desperate for United not to be as rubbish as they plainly were), Moyes did nothing, absolutely nothing right during his tenure. Nothing at all.
Post and pre-game interviews: embarrassing.
Training regime: hated.
Body language: beaten.
Demeanour: absolutely terrified.
I've watched football since 1966 and I have never, ever seen a top flight manager as inept and downright frightened of the job as Moyes has been. How has it been allowed to go on so long? It's been so obvious he was short of the mark by a country mile.
He sacked his inherited backroom staff - staff who had won the league - and replaced them with men who hadn't. The sight of Phil Neville on the bench advising Moyes was laughable and entirely symbolic of the parochial, small mind that Moyes was allowed to bring to the job.
Throughout this inglorious period, until very recently, Moyes enjoyed a blanket, blinkered support from almost everyone in the media. They criticised the players but not the manager. Indeed, no matter how awful the results and performances, Moyes was given a free pass, almost being written out of events as though he wasn't there at all. It started to seem odd; as though a memo had gone out instructing everyone to toe the same line. At one point, United's press team put out a story about how he had a 'high-tech bunker' (a bunker!) with whiteboards and a computer and proffered this as evidence of Moyes' modernity. Presumably those responsible had not heard of the concept of parody.
Even on Monday night, BBC 5lives' Mike Ingham was asserting that 'everyone' thought he was the right man for the job. This is an extraordinary version of events and is simply, categorically and provably untrue. This fiction about Moyes has been relentlessly pushed at us for 11 months and kept him in a job.
I know people who know Moyes and they tell me he is a lovely guy. I don't doubt it. This may well be why he was so unsuited to such a big role. When his appointment was announced I wrote it would 'crush him to ginger powder' and man, he looks like he's aged nine years in nine months. I got it wrong though. I thought he'd be gone by Christmas, but by Christ he should have been.
We were told to give him time, but why? United don't have time, ever. But no-one at the club seemed to realise this. They must win now, not in the future. The next coach will have no time. No honeymoon. Just win and win now. That's why you're paid £2.6million a year and this is what the job is. Be good immediately. There's no growing into the United job. The guff about legacy and six years to build was the dumbest pile of garbage I've ever heard in football.
That is not the modern world of football nor of business. There is no proof beyond Sir Alex Ferguson that a long tenure brings more success. Many of us have pointed this out for ten years at least, but hey what do we know, we just write on the internet. Gary Neville's epic phrase about United 'standing against the immediacy of the modern world' could have been crafted by George Orwell, but it always was utter drivel. They don't. They're just a big club and when big clubs lose a lot, they sack their manager. End of story. This is not hard to understand.
There should be no sympathy for Moyes because in no other walk of life could he ever have been so handsomely rewarded for such abject failure. You or I could have done as poorly for half the money. Had United had no manager for this season, they would not have been worse. In fact, I'd wager they'd have been better because Moyes isn't just poor, he's a dead weight, dragging the club into the mire. The fact Everton look so liberated from the yoke of his management at Goodison only rubbed salt into a wound viciously slashed open last summer. United have been bleeding ever since.
The real villains in this are two-fold. First and fore-most, the board for being craven to Ferguson. He's just an old bloke who was very good at managing a football team, not a god. His judgement is self-evidently not infallible.
Secondly, the fans who stuck with Moyes. They might like to think of themselves as loyal and noble but they were nothing of the sort. It was they who dragged this out for many months longer than was needed. There's no point in radically damaging your club - and make no mistake that is what has happened - for the sake of giving someone who is no good a chance. The fans should have known better. Tribal club loyalty was blinding too many people, as it so often does.
The most remarkable thing about Moyes' appointment was that, in a sport of such variables, the outcome was so very predictable. As I said last summer, United must appoint a big man for this big job. But honestly after this debacle, can they be trusted to do that? Who next, Sir Alex? Billy Davies is available. What a truly pathetic shambles this has been.
Johnny now writes superb northern crime novels. We love them. Check them out here: www.johnnicholsonwriter.com