Faith in wrong man can mean decades in wilderness

David Moyes
David Moyes
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Q: When was the last time Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday were in the FA Cup fourth round draw and Manchester United weren’t?

A: I’ve no idea.

But I do know that for all the wrong ways there are to run a football club even the right way doesn’t always work .

For years United and Wednesday have been struggling to break back into the Premier League.

Manager after manager has been and gone and between the two clubs in the last 15 years only Neil Warnock has made a big impression.

Meanwhile, under one manager Manchester United have bloomed and prospered like no other. Huge crowds in a tip-top stadium, massive income and fanbase, trophies, a legendary youth scheme and the resources to buy the best players on the planet.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, at the moment, just about everything.

Out of the FA Cup, 11 points off the pace in the Premier League, on current form also-rans in the Champions League and if they get stuffed again at Sunderland tonight in the Capital One Cup they’ll be effectively out of all competitions - in January.

When was the last time that happened?

I don’t know that either, but that’s not important.

What all this tells us is that even a success machine with everything in place can go wrong.

When Alex Ferguson retired the choice of David Moyes to succeed him was almost universally hailed as a brilliant move for man and club.

Stability and continuity were key elements and practically all of football agreed that Moyes was the right man for all the right reasons.

But, through circumstance, fortune and poor form Moyes finds himself under a pressure not seen at Old Trafford since the early Fergie years or when Big Ron left in 1986.

Running a football club successfully takes hard work, knowledge and a certain alchemy or man-management magic. Not many people have that.

Moyes will probably come good, but he might not.

Continuity is key but faith in the wrong man can lead to decades in the wilderness. We all want successful teams but it’s as well to reflect on how impossibly difficult it can be to get things moving back in the right direction if that magic touch is lost.