David Moyes is probably enterting the point now at which any normal manager would be sacked - the signs that players are turning against him have begun as teething troubles have grown into really serious problems. Rio Ferdinand's thinly-veiled criticism of his own manager, Rene Meulensteen helping to put the boot into his former club, and Wilfred Zaha also taking a barely-disguised swipe. This is to say nothing of the rumours of unrest among other senior players.
Moyes is in an odd position as United manager - unlikely anyone else, he can be reasonably sure that, for a couple of years, it is the players who will be shipped out long before the coach. That should have prevented the players from speaking out - unlike a normal manager, they can't get him the sack, and they can only hurt the club and themselves by doing so. But with several veterans approaching the ends of their tenures, that's not the case.
Now, talk is circulating, by the mouth of Ed Woodward himself, that a big change is coming. A figure of £100m for United's summer transfer budget has been circulated twice in the press, with Woodward hinting at big moves, but also that there could be big and severe departures.
Moyes' problems and limitations are well-documented, but much of what has happened has been outside his control. The fact that United players all wanted José Mourinho means that he was always a second-choice (if that) from the start, and would have to win them over. Anything but a great start was liable to end up with the club in serious trouble.
And so it has proved. It ultimately rests on Moyes to motivate his players, but there has been a distinct lack of fight from most of them. Rio Ferdinand has been pathetic, Michael Carrick has regressed, Tom Cleverley has been awful, Patrice Evra started off well but got much worse, and even Nemanja Vidic has looked hugely shaky. For the older players, they have already won it all, and are aware they have no future. There is little worth fighting for from their perspective, as they set their eyes on semi-retirement.
That, of course, does not excuse the players getting the knives out at all. Ferdinand, Evra and Vidic will all certainly leave at the end of the season, and Moyes will probably be glad to see them go. But it cannot stop there. If Moyes is to still be in the United job by next September, he will have to have a colossal reversal of fortune, something which is almost unparalleled in managerial history. In order to erase his bad start, he will need to erase those who are responsible. In short, Moyes needs a purge of Stalinist proportions.
All the black marks against Moyes' name ultimately come down to the same thing: so far, he has not been ruthless enough. Many United fans feared that a new manager would want to give his current players a fresh start, thus potentially delaying a long-overdue overhaul. That is exactly what happened, when Moyes really needed to wield the axe swiftly and liberally. If he knew he was coming in as an unfavoured candidate - and he really should have - then the very first thing he ought to have done was to destroy the experienced clique at the top of the United dressing room hierarchy.
A well-executed purge will not only grant United the overhaul they need, but effectively allow Moyes to press the reset button. He will probably only have a year to get it right, but he will have a far less poisonous atmosphere around the place in which to do it - essentially, it would be reloading the game from an earlier save. Such are the advantages of managing a club as vast as United which can easily shrug off the loss of wealth and prestige from one horrible season. Maybe, in time too, Moyes will come to appreciate that.
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