Manchester United gambled in the summer.
They put their faith in a manager with Premier League experience but with no record of real success. At least, not the kind of success United are used to.
Had it paid off, they might have found another Sir Alex Ferguson. A manager who could build an empire over 10 or 20 years. That was always the hope.
That's the problem with gambling. The rewards always make the risk look attractive.
But 11 months later, the decision to appoint David Moyes looks misguided. Finishing the season without a trophy is one thing. Ending it in mid-table, with no prospect of Champions League football next year, is another entirely.
It was a gamble to appoint him. But it has become an even bigger one to let him carry on. One it now appears United are unwilling to take.
There has been very little this season to suggest that Moyes can be a success at Old Trafford. Even his most ardent supporters have been reduced to clutching at straws, pointing to the odd good performance or acceptable result as if it were a beacon of hope.
The table doesn't lie. And neither does a record of one win from 12 games against the Premier League's top six.
The danger with gambling is that it's always possible to recover your losses. You can always make back what you've lost.
It's tempting for a punter who has lost £500 on the roulette table to stick £1,000 on next time. You get blinded by the potential rewards without thinking about what might happen if it all goes wrong.
But United aren't just gambling with £1,000 this summer. It's more like £100 million.
It looks like he will soon be sacked, but if Moyes were somehow to survive, he would have to be given the money to rebuild United's squad. He would have to be allowed to pursue some of the world's best players who command big fees and big salaries.
If it came off, the United board might finally get the Ferguson clone they wanted last summer. But if it didn't, they would be forced to sack Moyes, appoint someone else and back the new man with the cash to bring in his own players.
What might have cost £100 million this summer could turn in to £200 million or £300 million.
United's board will be taking a huge punt if they give Moyes another season. Just like the gambler slapping down more money in the hope he can cover his losses.
Like any bet, there's a chance it might pay off. As long as Moyes stays in his job—and he's clinging on by the skin of his teeth at the moment—there is always the possibility, however remote, that he can turn it around.
But the odds are now stacked against it.
All information obtained firsthand.
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