In 1995, Blackburn Rovers won the Premier League title and were thus England’s representatives in Europe’s biggest club competition for the following campaign; Fergie’s United qualified for the group stages of the next 18 tournaments.
It was a remarkable record, aided by the expansion of UEFA’s tournaments and a softening of the qualifying criteria, but nonetheless testament to the powerhouse Sir Alex Ferguson had created at Old Trafford.
In one fell swoop, David Moyes has eradicated that. With the same squad that won the league at a canter last season, United are now officially unable to qualify for the Champions League.
A 2-0 defeat at Everton – who Roberto Martinez has managed to improve since Moyes’ tenure – made it mathematically impossible for United to finish fourth, and poured further scorn on the beleaguered Scot’s pre-match claims that they could still do it.
1970 - Everton have done a league double against Manchester United for the first time since the 1969-70 season. Rare.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 20, 2014
The arguments have been well worn: United were patient with Fergie, but Fergie had taken over a struggling team that required a total refit; Moyes took over the champions, a dominant force at home and in Europe, ripped out their soul and morphed them into a turbo Aston Villa.
Moyes is 50 years old. He is also rather stubborn, as successful managers often are (it’s easy to forget, but he was a success at Everton, and at Preston before that). He won’t change – he just has to hope football changes or, more realistically, he can spend a good £200 million on superstars this summer, superstars who would win matches even if they trotted out playing 3-5-2 long ball.
Would you trust Moyes with that money? His continued chase of unrealistic targets does not bode well. For starters, all that happens when you spend (another) summer chasing Toni Kroos and Cesc Fabregas is that you don’t end up buying them, panic, and pay over the odds for an Everton player.
He has also managed to alienate most of the first-team squad - pretty much everyone bar Juan Mata has been linked with a transfer or retirement in recent weeks.
Furthermore, following the defeat to Everton, Moyes continued to claim his side had played well, when patently they had not:
"We played very well in the first half. We had passed the ball really well, kept the ball but we didn't have the final pass, the killer through ball that was needed in the final third. I didn't think we deserved to go in 2-0 down at half-time, that's for sure."
Crikey. Talk about misjudging the mood - and not for the first time.
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results
The quote is attributed to Albert Einstein, although there is no evidence that the great scientist ever said that. It is a useful mantra though, and one other managers – such as Arsene Wenger – would do well to heed.
United’s supporters should heed that advice too.
They pride themselves on loyalty, a loyalty which has bizarrely seen many turn against the man who brought them unprecedented success, as if somehow his presence in the stands proves a far-reaching conspiracy to protect his legacy at the expense of the club’s future.
MUFC's league record against the top eight so far this season? P13 W1 D4 L8 F7 A22.
— Andy Mitten (@AndyMitten) April 20, 2014
Get real. United are failing because the men who run the club are not football men; they are failing because the man coaching the team is not a Manchester United coach. The Glazers are good business people, but they need guidance in football matters. They are not getting it, other than from a pair of OAPs whose time in football is up.
United are failing because the one group of people who can actually effect change at the club are backing the wrong horse.
When BSkyB attempted to take over England’s and arguably the world’s biggest club at the time, fans got together, formed action groups and blocked the purchase. They were right to do so, knowing that the motives of such corporations are not always ‘clean’, and that it would result in a monopoly that could ultimately have killed English football.
They need to show that unity and resolve again – because Moyes is not the man to take the club forward. He never has been, and to tell yourself anything else is simple delusion.
Reda Maher – on Twitter @Reda_Eurosport
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