"You have been the most wonderful experience of my life, but it is now your job to get behind the new manager."
Those were the words Sir Alex Ferguson spoke to the Old Trafford faithful during his farewell speech at the end of last season, and so far the fans have responded.
They were behind David Moyes when the Red Devils defeated Swansea City on the opening day of the season, and they’ve even been behind him during some truly low points – a 4-1 dismantling by fierce rivals Manchester City, and back-to-back home defeats at the hands of Everton and Newcastle just a couple of examples.
But it’s now time they stopped getting behind their manager, because he’s the wrong man for the job - and the defeat to Swansea in the third round of the FA Cup is the last piece of evidence needed. The United board need to hold their hands up and admit they made a mistake, thank Moyes for his efforts, and part ways.
Manchester United aren't a club to make snap decisions – they did honour the Scot with a six-year deal, after all – but, with over half of the season gone, a change needs to be made if they are to resurrect their shambolic campaign so far.
There’s no shame in admitting defeat, which is what the club would be doing if they handed the former Everton boss his P45. Selecting a man to lead the Red Devils, to follow in the footsteps of one of the game’s greatest managers, was never going to be an easy decision.
Many thought that taking on the United job after Sir Alex was a poisoned chalice, so you’ve got to take your hat off to Moyes who has conducted himself with the utmost professionalism, paying respect to a nigh-on impossible job. But admit defeat the club must now do, and they must follow in the example of one of their greatest rivals.
The 20-times league champions would be reluctant to take any tips from Chelsea, but there are lessons to be learned from the Blues. Andre Villas-Boas was named manager of the London-based club in June of 2011, but the Portuguese manager – who cost them over £13 million in compensation from Porto – failed to impress at Stamford Bridge.
After less than a year in charge and with Chelsea languishing in sixth place, three points off fourth-placed Arsenal, AVB was relieved of his duties. And it was the best decision owner Roman Abramovich has ever made.
Assistant manager Roberto Di Matteo was placed in charge – a man whom the players admired and respected. The little Italian had just over two months to resurrect Chelsea’s season, though few gave him a chance of succeeding.
But, proving his doubters wrong, Di Matteo guided Chelsea to FA Cup glory with a 2-1 win over Liverpool before collecting the biggest trophy of them all – the Champions League - making Chelsea the first London club to ever get their hands on European football's biggest prize.
"But he was sacked after just a couple of months of the following season," I hear you say.
And yes, you’re right, he was. But it still can't be denied that the difficult AVB decision provided the shake-up that Chelsea needed to spur themselves into action and rescue what was certain to be a doomed season, on domestic and European fronts.
If the idea of attempting to emulate Chelsea isn't favourable to them, United would do well to consider Liverpool’s fate over the past 20 years. Then they may soon change their tune.
"King" Kenny Dalglish, who had a similar iconic status at Anfield as Ferguson did at Old Trafford, resigned as Reds manager in 1991, with Graeme Souness the man selected to replace him.
Under Dalglish Liverpool had been league champions three times and FA Cup winners twice, and had never finished lower than runners-up during the Scotsman’s five-and-a-half years in charge.
But during three-and-half unfruitful years in charge of the Reds, Souness could only guide Liverpool to a highest finish of sixth. The manager was sacked midway through the 1994/95 season, and the once-great club have searched for a league title ever since. Liverpool’s first season under Souness was an embarrassment and he should have been shown the door, but he wasn’t – a fine example of a manager being afforded too much time.
But game has changed since they gave all that time to Ferguson at the start of his regime in the eighties.
Sacking Moyes would be a financial burden but any compensation due would pale in comparison to the figures they would lose if they slip out of the Champions League reckoning.
Consistency and reliability look to be a thing of the past, and if United wish to remain at the top table of English football, then they may have to swallow their pride and replace their man at the helm, because if they don't, years of mediocrity could follow.