8 May — Sir Alex Ferguson, manager of Manchester United since before the dawn of time, announces that he will step down at the end of the season. Apparently 38 trophies is enough for anybody, and it's high time that somebody else has a chance to win one. English football is overcome with emotion and admiration, even those parts of the press that Ferguson spent his entire career criticising, mocking or ignoring.
9 May — United announce that David Moyes, manager of Everton since shortly after time began, is Ferguson's choice to succeed him at United. The incoming man's honesty and integrity are praised. Optimists claim that there are important similarities in character between the two men, while cynics note that there are important similarities in nationality.
"I went in and the first thing he said to me was, 'I'm retiring'. I said, 'When?' because he was never retiring, and he said, 'Next week!' His next words were, 'You're the next Manchester United manager'. I didn't get the chance to say yes or no. As you can imagine, the blood drained from my face."
19 May — On the last day of the 2012/13 Premier League season, Moyes's final match at Everton is a 2-1 defeat away at Chelsea, which luckily for everybody involved is definitely no kind of harbinger of anything. United, meanwhile, send their old manager off in comical fashion, drawing 5-5 at West Bromwich Albion. The sun shines, United are champions, and all is right in the world.
11 August — Manchester United 2-0 Wigan Athletic, Community Shield One game, one trophy; the only way is down. While newly-relegated Wigan under newly-appointed-and-soon-to-be-sacked manager Owen Coyle could not have provided more obliging opposition for Moyes's first high-profile almost-competitive game, United have been presented with a tricky early-season fixture list, including the visit of Chelsea and away trips to Liverpool and Manchester City.
"I find it hard to believe that's the way the balls came out of the bag, that's for sure. I think it's the hardest start for 20 years that Manchester United have had. I hope it's not because Manchester United won the league quite comfortably last year that the fixtures have been made much more difficult."
17 August — Swansea City 1-4 Manchester United First day of the 2013/14 season, and Manchester United notch up a comfortable away win. Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck scored a brace apiece, and while United's build-up play looked a little stodgy in the first half, the win is largely hailed as a sign of things to come. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. United finish the opening weekend on top of the league; it is the only time Moyes's side will ever see the summit.
1 September — Liverpool 1-0 Manchester United A week after a disappointing 0-0 at home against Chelsea, United lose 1-0 away at Anfield. Though Liverpool had yet to turn into the rampaging, counter-attacking unit that would go on to top the table, they were comfortably better than a United side that never really got going. Robin van Persie missed a presentable chance to equalise towards the end of the game, the beginning of a troubled season for the Dutch striker.
2 September — Last day of the summer transfer window. Having spent the final hours desperately attempting to sign anybody that was both a central midfielder and not clinically dead, and following the adventures of three mysterious imposters who arrived in Spain and attempted to buy Athletic Bilbao's Ander Herrera without anybody asking them to, United end up signing Marouane Fellaini from Everton for £27.5m, a cool four million more than a release clause that had expired the previous week. "He is a player with great ability and strength and I think he will make a real difference to our squad," says Moyes. Reports later emerge that Moyes had initially identified Fellaini as not being being good enough, before panicking when every other midfielder in Europe refused to pick up their phone.
17 September — Manchester United 4-2 Bayer Leverkusen Though things weren't going to well on the domestic front, Moyes began his first campaign in the Champions League with a win that was comfortable and even classy at times. Hindsight will suggest that perhaps European sides were less quick to notice that United weren't quite themselves. Still, it seemed at the time to be a genuine sign that there might be something in the appointment. A feeling that lasted approximately five days.
22 September — Manchester City 4-1 Manchester United The first true humiliation of Moyes's reign comes just a few miles across the city, as Manuel Pellegrini's City side tear United into tiny pieces. Inferior in every department, United defend like children and attack like old men, with Wayne Rooney's late consolation goal the solitary moment of competence any of them manage to muster. Still, City are a good side ...
"It is not frustrating because I will sort it. I will fix it. I will turn it around. I have got no doubt about that. We know we have to improve. I am still getting to know them. They are really good team, they won the Premier League last year, but we need to make sure we improve."
28 September — Manchester United 1-2 West Bromwich Albion ... whereas West Brom are, well, not. A late goal from Saido Berahino condemns United to their first home defeat of the season, and provides an early indication of the problems that Moyes's side will face at Old Trafford throughout the season. While the crowd generally remained largely supportive, or at least avoided complete mutiny, the carefully constructed aura of intimidation and terror around United's home simply melted away over the season.
19 October — Excitement at the emergence of Adnan Januzaj had been tempered somewhat as his contract ran down, the thought of the willowy young multinational doing a Paul Pogba being almost too much to bear. But, after months of negotiations, Januzaj signed a new five-year deal, and while the negotiations had begun before Moyes took the job, it remains the perhaps the most positive aspect of his legacy.
10 November — Manchester United 1-0 Arsenal Wayne Rooney's corner and Robin van Persie's shoulder give United a 1-0 win over the title-chasing Londoners, and rounds out Moyes's best run in the league, a sequence of 13 points from a possible 15 that takes United back up to fifth in the table. However, any momentum is lost at the end of the next game, as Cardiff City nick an equaliser in the final seconds.
4 December — Manchester United 0-1 Everton Perhaps the beginning of the end. Everton arrived at Old Trafford having lost just once all season and, though the game was close, it was plain that only one side was labouring under the stresses and strains of transition. Evertons fans, angry at Moyes's pursuit of Leighton Baines, barracked their former manager throughout the game; later an Everton fan will allege that Moyes, medicating his sorrows in the time-honoured fashion, in a bar, felt the visiting fans were "a fucking disgrace".
7 December — Manchester United 0-1 Newcastle United A conspicuously unfit Robin van Persie stinks the place out as United lose their second home fixture in a row. Newcastle hadn't yet given up on the season, Yohan Cabaye was a cut above every other player on the field, and United's defence once again fell apart at the crucial moment.
"I think if I'd brought him off [against Newcastle] some people would say 'What are you doing? You are 1-0 down and you're taking off your top goalscorer.'"
5 January — Manchester United 1-2 Swansea City The FA Cup has always been a special competition for United. It sustained Ron Atkinson through his years of promise; it was what reportedly saved Ferguson's job back in the day. No team has ever won the thing more. But any hope that Moyes could find solace in the oldest and most noble of all the cups is killed off when Wilfried Bony, awarded the freedom of Manchester United's six yard box, nods home from close range.
7 January — Sunderland 2-1 Manchester United, League Cup semi-final first leg There comes a time in any struggling managers career when he decides that the best thing to do is to get all angry and het up about refereeing decisions. As opposed to, say, all angry and het up about Tom Cleverley being a pillock for sticking his leg out in the first place.
"It's up to the referees, they're making their minds up. It looks as if we're having to play them as well as the opposition at the moment. It's really terrible, it really is, we're actually beginning to laugh at them … We've got an opposition to play and sometimes we've got other people to play at the moment."
19 January — Chelsea 3-1 Manchester United Another tricky game against a decent side, another shambolic defensive performance. Samuel Eto'o's hat-trick gives footballer writers everywhere the chance to use the treasured double-apostrophe.
22 January — Manchester United 2-1 Sunderland, League Cup semi-final second leg An evening of high farce sees United go in front early, before a David de Gea brainfade gives Sunderland what seems to be a winning goal in the second-to-last minute of extra time. Hope flowers right at the death, as United-under-Moyes do a reasonable impression of United-under-Ferguson and Javier Hernandez scores at the very, very last to force penalties. What follows, though, stands as one of the worst penalty shootouts in living memory: seven out of ten spot-kicks are missed, the low (or high, high, high) point coming when Phil Jones, leaning back, nearly murders a fan sitting in the stands. Sunderland progress to the final after Rafael misses the final kick.
1 February — Stoke City 2-1 Manchester United A windy, miserable afternoon at the Britannia stadium sees Juan Mata, Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney start together for the first time. All three are overshadowed by Charlie Adam.
9 February — Manchester United 2-2 Fulham United fire an Opta-record 81 crosses into the Fulham penalty area. While the significance of that statistic has perhaps been overplayed -- many of the crosses came from poorly directed defensive headers; United did score the two goals they needed; and Darren Bent's late, stupid equaliser had nothing to do with United's crossing -- it nonetheless came to represent one of the consistent criticisms of United under Moyes. That the imagination had gone from the attack.
"I am thrilled that we have got Wayne Rooney to [sign a new contract, reportedly £300,000/week]. He has been fantastic. Everyone would want him in their team. There were clubs who did want him … but there was never going to be a chance he was going to leave Manchester United, certainly not on my watch."
25 February — Olympiacos 2-0 Manchester United Perhaps the worst all-round performance of the fifty-odd overseen by Moyes. A fairly ordinary Olympiacos side were not expected to cause any trouble, particularly since they'd just sold their best striker to Fulham. But a cute deflected finish from Alejandro Dominguez and a belter from Joel Campbell were enough to embarrass United, who approached the crucial knockout fixture in Europe's premier club competition with all the verve and vigour of a stuffed walrus.
"Their league position suggests they are ahead of us and they possibly do come here as favorites. Liverpool are having a very good season and we will have to do everything we possibly can to beat them."
16 March — Manchester United 0-3 Liverpool The first of three must-win home games sees United well beaten by their most hated rivals. Perhaps most disappointing for Moyes is that the visitors don't even need to play at their galloping best, as United lose first their bottle and then their heads. Steven Gerrard scores two penalties, misses a third after Nemanja Vidic is harshly dismissed, and Liverpool could have had another couple. Dark clouds begin to gather over Old Trafford.
19 March — Manchester United 3-0 Olympiacos The gloom is averted temporarily as the returning Robin van Persie scores a hat-trick to see United safely through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League. While the win isn't quite as comfortable as the scoreline suggests -- United's defence was again shaky, and David de Gea had to make a number of sharp saves in the second half -- it nevertheless provides a welcome fillip, and perhaps saves Moyes from the immediate sack.
25 March — Manchester United 0-3 Manchester City It's not just that Edin Dzeko scores within 60 seconds. It's that by the time he does, David Silva has already had a shot blocked and Samir Nasri has hit the post, while United are standing around glassy-eyed and punch-drunk, as if their pre-match warm up had consisted entirely of good, firm headbutts into good, firm walls. Dzeko adds a second, unmarked at a corner, and then Yaya Toure adds a third, while the miserable Fellaini decides that since he can't get near the ball, he might as well elbow Pablo Zabaleta in the face.
"I think we've played a very good side and it's the sort of standard and level we need to try and aspire to get ourselves to at this moment in time. I think we need to play better. We're needing to come up a couple of levels at the moment and we're not quite there."
29 March — Manchester United 4-1 Aston Villa Some pillocks pay for a banner to fly over Old Trafford. Presumably the intention was for the seething crowd to look up, take inspiration, storm the dugouts, reclaim the club and proclaim Eric Cantona emperor. It doesn't happen, probably because Villa are rubbish.
1 April — Manchester United 1-1 Bayern Munich, Champions League quarter-final Let Moyes be Moyes! Finally presented with the opportunity to bunker down, play on the break, and generally stifle a superior side, United surpass all expectations by taking the lead. And though Nemanja Vidic's neck-snapping header is later cancelled out by Bastian Schweinsteiger, United fans come out of a game they had been expected to lose, and lose heavily, with a feeling that isn't a million miles away from optimism.
5 April — Newcastle United 0-4 Manchester United A thrilling if accidental vision of the future arrives, as an early injury to Ashley Young sees Shinji Kagawa, Juan Mata and Adnan Januzaj combine for the first time. Four goals and a lot of sexy tippy-tapping later, a wretched Newcastle have been dispatched and everybody's had a thoroughly pleasant day out. Except Alan Pardew, obviously.
7 April — Bayern Munich 3-1 Manchester United 22 seconds of bliss separate Patrice Evra's hilariously unlikely screamer and Mario Mandzukic's exasperatingly straightforward equaliser. But it is not enough to hide the fact that Wayne Rooney, squanderer of a number of promising attacks, has been selected despite being literally unable to kick the ball with any force.
20 April — Everton 2-0 Manchester United The final indignity comes at Moyes's old club. All the hallmarks of his United side are present and correct: idiotic decisions in defence; Wayne Rooney being in the middle of everything yet contributing nothing; predictable attacking patterns; a lack of pace and incision; the general sense of inevitability surrounding the defeat. And, of course, the ludicrous and apparently sincere statements made after the game that, in Moyes's view, United had been in control.
"We need to end the season on a high."
21 April — A number of high-profile football journalists all announce at the same time that Moyes's dismissal is imminent. A day of rumour-mongering and semi-denial begins, which leaves the manager trapped in a kind of quantum state of potential sackedness. Schroedinger's lame duck.
22 April — Moyes is finally put out of his misery when the club release a two-line statement over Twitter. He is thanked for his honesty and humility, which were the very attributes praised when he was awarded the job; at least he's hung on to those. Ryan Giggs is installed as interim manager for the rest of the season, while the club and the fans digest the aftermath of Alex Ferguson's disastrous hunch, and start to speculate as to who the next man might be.
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