Who Goes First: Martino, Moyes or Seedorf?

Sam Pilger@sampilgerContributing Football WriterMarch 25, 2014

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 22:  David Moyes the Manchester United manager looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Manchester United at Boleyn Ground on March 22, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Between them, AC Milan, Barcelona and Manchester United boast a total of 60 domestic titles and 14 Champions League trophies, but so far this has been a relatively disappointing season for these three superpowers of European football. 

At this vital stage of the season, the future of their three managers, Gerardo Martino, David Moyes and Clarence Seedorf, remain in doubt, and it would certainly not come as a major surprise if all three were to lose their jobs this summer. 

But who of them will go first?

David Moyes has the hardest task of the trio following British football’s most successful ever manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

So far this season Moyes has presided over United’s fall from the reigning Premier League champions, who won by a margin of 11 points last season, to an almost unrecognisable team languishing in seventh 11 points outside of the top four.

In the wake of United’s ugly capitulations to both Olympiakos in the first leg of their Champions League tie and to Liverpool in the Premier League nine days ago, Moyes came under serious pressure at Old Trafford.

By winning the second leg 3-0 against Olympiakos last week and progressing to the Champions League quarter-finals before also beating West Ham this weekend, Moyes has relieved some of the mounting pressure on him.

Is this the start of better times or a mere stay of execution?

United have already had several false dawns this season, so Moyes will be desperate to prove he can finally offer United some stability.

On Tuesday night United face their neighbours Manchester City at Old Trafford. Another embarrassing defeat would heap all the pressure back on Moyes, but a win, a precious win, which would be only United’s second against a team in the top nine of the Premier League this season, could transform Moyes and United.

It would provide some crucial momentum ahead of United facing reigning European and World Champions Bayern Munich twice in the space of eight days. 

If United can put on two credible displays against the Germans in the Champions League and even pull off a surprise victory, as well as engineer a mini-revival in the Premier League, Moyes might be entrusted to lead the club in to a second season.

But if Manchester City and Bayern Munich humiliate him in the next fortnight in the same manner as Liverpool, there is a real chance the United board could decide it would be too great a risk to leave him in charge for next season.

Manchester United might not win a trophy this season, but for the rest of the season Moyes is fighting for a greater personal prize: his job, and for now, he still remains the master of his own destiny.

How Moyes must envy the position of his Barcelona counterpart Gerardo Martino, who could still win the treble of the Champions League, La Liga and the Copa del Rey.

Jon Super/Associated Press

Despite this relatively healthy position, Martino was still under intense pressure in the build-up to their visit to the Bernabeu on Sunday to face Real Madrid.

If Barcelona had lost on Sunday, they would have fallen seven points behind Real Madrid and effectively would have been out of the title race.

Failure is not tolerated at the Nou Camp, and being banished from the title race in March is even worse, so despite still being in two Cup competitions, a seven-point gulf between them and Real Madrid would have been too great for Martino to survive.

But Barcelona triumphed 4-3 on Sunday night and now the gap between the Catalans and the two Madrid teams stands at a single point.

Once again Martino has the genius of his compatriot Lionel Messi, who scored a hat-trick against Madrid, to thank for keeping his job.

Martino remains safe while his side is on course to win a treble of trophies this season.

As reported by The Independent last week, the Barcelona vice president Manel Arroyo admitted there is a break clause in Martino’s contract that could be activated by either party in the summer.

The situation is simple: Martino stays if he wins La Liga or wins the Champions League and pushes the Madrid sides all the way in La Liga, but failure to land either trophy will certainly lead to the Barcelona hierarchy using that break clause.

Paul White/Associated Press

Over at the San Siro, Clarence Seedorf has endured a truly dreadful start since he was appointed AC Milan manager in January.

The Dutchman has won only four of his 13 games in charge as Milan have slumped in Serie A and have been knocked out of the Champions League by Atletico Madrid.

On Sunday Milan drew 1-1 with Lazio to extend their run to five games without a win.

As it stands, Milan are 12th in Serie A, 12 points from the relegation zone and a staggering 42 points behind the leaders Juventus with Milan having only won nine of their 29 games.

It was enough to prompt Seedorf to meet the club’s most committed ultra fans at the San Siro who were furious after watching their side lose again to Parma nine days ago.

It would be grossly unfair to blame Seedorf for this mess which he largely inherited from his predecessor Massimiliano Allegri.

Last week AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi guaranteed that Seedorf will remain at the San Siro.

“Seedorf is not up for discussion; he will remain our coach even next year,” he told ANSA via Goal.com.

This is football’s famous vote of confidence which is rarely adhered to if there are not quickly signs of improvement, and it has not helped Seedorf that he has been unable to lift his squad since January.

Despite Berlusconi’s backing, Seedorf has to show he has some idea how to halt Milan’s slide before the end of the season.

There was great skepticism when Seedorf was appointed, which has not abated, and Milan could still dispense with him and admit the experiment of appointing a man with no previous coaching experience had been a mistake.

Who will go first? It will be the embattled Clarence Seedorf, but don’t yet rule out Moyes and Martino both following him in the summer.


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