Yesterday was a horrible day. Not because my legs felt like they were made of concrete after a 10-mile run or because I started feeling the symptoms of man flu, but because despite forcing myself to support Manchester City for 90 minutes, all I was left with was a bitter taste in my mouth.
That taste quickly became nauseating once I realised just how close Liverpool are to win a first league title since 1990, barely 12 months after Fergie steered us to number 20 last season before calling it a day. Were Liverpool to win the league, it would be utterly devastating for a number of reasons: nobody saw it coming and media love-in with the scousers is already in full swing, even though they haven’t won it yet.
As if the thought of Steven Gerrard lifting the only thing he desperately wants isn’t depressing enough, thinking of how far back United have fallen in nine months is utterly shocking. We have, of course, lost to our rivals before but even in the darkest seconds of that day in May 2012, we could somehow find solace in the fact that we had been in it until the very end and that Fergie will find a way to turn things around.
Aguero’s winner was as devastating a blow as we could ever imagined, but this season is shaping up to be even worse and, unless something remarkable happens between now and the end of the season, we’ll be drinking ourselves into oblivion in four weeks, trying to forget that a side that finished last season 28 points behind us has cruised to the title, while United have spent months “trying to make it difficult for the other team”.
It’d be perhaps a tad exaggerate to blame David Moyes for Liverpool’s title run, for Brendan Rodgers, painful as it might be to admit, deserves credit as do his players, but it’s undeniable that Moyes has played a catastrophically pivotal role in ensuring United will finish behind Liverpool for the first time in two decades.
While the notion of them being parsimonious in the transfer market is rather flawed – Liverpool have spent £50m on players in each of the last three seasons – Liverpool have bought well and have shown the guile and ambition that remain taboo subjects under Moyes, while United have splashed £27m on a human bog brush.
What’s even more harrowing, though, is the way in which United have relinquished their superiority over Liverpool, a side which, according to Fergie, “needed between seven and eight players to be challenging for the title”. Fergie’s forecast might have been overly optimistic, but Moyes has single-handedly managed to destroy two decades worth of certainties in nine months.
As if seeing them cruising to the title isn’t bad enough, the thought of United surrendering to them without even putting up a fight is simply sickening, particularly as the three points Moyes kindly gifted them in March could prove pivotal in the title race. While Liverpool could become the first team since Everton in 1985 to make the leap from seventh to champion within 12 months, United have already ensured the tag of worst Premier League champions since Blackburn finished seventh in the 1995-96 season.
I really wanted Moyes to succeed and do well when he was appointed and I stubbornly defended him up until last month, but were Liverpool to win the league, then he’d surely have to go. He’s already overseen a 48-point swing between United and Liverpool, while Everton have gone from being 26 points behind United at the end of last season to be nine ahead of us this season and flirting with a top four finish.
While Liverpool have shown this season what can be achieved under a manager with a modern football philosophy, the way they had come to resemble mediocrity and dysfunctionality should warn the United’s hierarchy against persisting with Moyes this summer.
The shambles that unfolded at Anfield during the Graeme Souness and Roy Evans’ eras showed how detrimental it can be for a club of such size and expectations to give time to a manager when he’s clearly out of his depth.
Trusting Moyes with a £150m or £200m transfer budget will not guarantee any improvement, it’d only ensure that whoever comes after him will have to manage the players Moyes will bring in this summer, thus only prolonging the wait for a competitive United side to resurface from the doldrums of this season.
As for the shallow and arrogant opinion according to which United do things “differently” and “do not sack managers”, the Glazers and Woodward could do with learning something about the club’s history. After Sir Matt stepped down in 1969, Wilf McGuinness took on the job for just over a season, before Sir Matt returned for a second, short lived, stint at the helm.
Frank O’Farrell’s reign lasted exactly 18 months between June 1971 and December 1972, before Tommy Docherty lasted five years in charge between 1972 and 1977, thus becoming the first manager since Sir Matt to survive for more than 18 months in the Old Trafford’s dugout.
Fergie was the exception rather than the rule and allowing Moyes to carry on with his plans could turn the next decade into a nightmare of epic proportions. It has taken Liverpool 24 years to be in pole position to win the league and United can’t afford a similar ordeal.
Hoping Manchester City or John Terry will lift the title is depressing enough as it is, let’s not make a habit of it.