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Should David Moyes have been given more time?

One year on, were Manchester United right to sack the struggling Scotsman?

Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

It's been a year since Ed Woodward took "David Moyes, Manchester United manager" out behind the woodshed with shotgun and spade. His departure at the time was widely unmourned by United fans and understood by everybody else, and whether by luck or judgement, his replacement Louis van Gaal, is on course to deliver the immediate return to the Champions League that United's accountants demanded. Whether he'll be able to deliver a title challenge remains to be seen, though he at least seems confident.

Given that birthdays, anniversaries and the like are times for solemn reflection and humility in the face of our inevitable doom, it's been no surprise to see the massed United congregation, and one or two journalists, turning their mind to the question: was Moyes, perhaps, slightly hard done by? Was he, perhaps, not actually that bad? Should he, perhaps, have been given more time?

Ever in tune with what the people want, we at TBB have been thinking things over and have reached a conclusion. It may shock you. It may anger you. It may lead you to hurl your laptop/monitor/mobile device/close family member who is reading this to you out of the nearest window. But we don't care. The truth is the truth. And the truth is this: David Moyes needed more time.

Sort of.

If Manchester United were an institution entirely devoted to answering the question "Is David Moyes good enough to manage Manchester United?" then absolutely, he should have had more time. He should have been kept in post for at least two seasons, maybe three or four, until he had the squad that was truly his, until he'd had the chance to do the business he wanted, until he'd been given time to adjust his expectations and techniques and methods to his newly-refined position.

That David Moyes is a good manager is not in dispute. Whether he could be a great one, a Manchester United one, has not yet been fully tested. You can't make a fully-informed, totally fair assessment on one season, and that rule goes as much for managers as it does for players.

But. Manchester United are not an institution for the investigation of David Moyes' managerial capacities. Manchester United is a football club, and that football club has a business attached — let's at least pretend things are that way round — and neither football club nor business could permit Moyes the luxury of a fair crack. Because Moyes didn't just have a bad year: he had a bad year that contained within it almost nothing that amounted to evidence that the chance of another bad year would be worth taking.

Yes, there was a lot of bad luck and circumstantance involved. It wasn't Moyes' fault that the grown adults he was charged with managing decided, in a few cases, to act like overpaid manchildren, or that Liverpool decided to have a great season, or that Everton decided to have a good season. (Well, looking at the state of their defence now, perhaps that was his fault.) Nor was it his fault that he was left with an unbalanced squad that only Alex Ferguson could manage, that Ed Woodward was still trying to get the hang of the Big Chequebook, and that the dressing room was leaking like a pinata in the rain. He was, when it comes to some things, both stitched up and let down.

But if there was a lot to excuse, then equally there wasn't much to cling to. All the things that Moyes was supposed to be good at — defensive resilience, obduracy, the grafting of a bit of flair onto a solid core — were conspicuous by their absence, as was ... well, anything else, much.

He isn't a bad manager. Perhaps he could have been a great one, or at least a good enough one. But he cocked up the first year, and he was working for a club that couldn't take the chance that he might cock up the second. Nothing at a football club is ever one person's fault, and yet everything at a football club is always the manager's fault. Appointing him was a gamble that looked risky at the time; playing that gamble through to the end would have been borderline negligence. He needed more time. He made no case that he should be given it.