Manchester United have a reputation for "doing things differently" where handling managers is concerned. Whereas other clubs will willfully sack their manager at the first hint of poor form, "the United way" demands more class and a long-term approach that allows the man in charge to fully immerse himself in the culture of the club. It's "not arrogant, just better," as one vile terrace banner proclaims.
Writing in his Daily Mail column earlier in the season, Gary Neville rather excitedly said United "stand against the immediacy of modern life." He went on to argue that the Glazer family had given David Moyes a six-year contract, suggesting they, too, believe United are different, and that giving time to a new manager is the key to long-term success.
Of course, Moyes was sacked this week after just 10 months in charge. Poor results were clearly the driving factor, but the incessant negativity, bizarre press conferences and talk of player unhappiness will all have contributed.
His players almost certainly let him down, but few can argue the decision wasn't justified, given the staggering ineptitude he showed. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong, and he's paid the ultimate price.
What the sacking has shown, though, is what most people outside of Old Trafford have always known: They're no different from any other club.
It was easy to rise above knee-jerkism when Alex Ferguson was in charge. He won everything while inspiring his staff and striking fear into the opposition. His wonderful ability to sign the right players and eek every drop of talent out of his squad meant few could live with him. He saw off Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and City during his 26-year spell and turned a club that was struggling when he arrived into one of the biggest, most successful in the world.
United fans found themselves looking down on their trigger-happy rivals, particularly City, who dismissed 14 managers during Ferguson's reign. Chopping and changing sets you back, they said, blissfully unaware of how it feels to be led by a man clearly out of his depth.
United's experience with Moyes may finally bring an end to the idea that they operate differently. Should City have stuck with Alan Ball in the '90s? No, he was an unmitigated disaster, as was Mark Hughes much more recently. Their ineptitude cost them their jobs, not some wrong-headed philosophy from City's powers that be.
Even Roberto Mancini, the one City manager in those 26 years to go toe-to-toe with Ferguson and deliver major trophies for the Blues, can't complain with his dismissal, given the dressing room revolt that threatened to turn into all-out war during his final season. Senior sources at City felt the decision was taken out of their hands, that Mancini simply had to leave, given the number of players expressing their unhappiness.
The notion that United were somehow different to—somehow purer than—other clubs was an easy assumption to make from their Ferguson-era high horse. Without the luxury of having the greatest manager of all time in charge, United fans have now seen the reality of dealing with an under-performing boss, and it would seem they're just like the rest.
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