David Moyes' Manchester United future safe 'for now'
The catastrophic manner of Manchester United's defeat to Manchester City has brought no immediate review of David Moyes' position and the security of his job for now remains unchanged.
A number of Sir Alex Ferguson's retired former players are understood to have reached the view that the club needs to act swiftly to change manager and that United would be wrong to give Moyes the £150m summer investment intended to deliver the club – on course to miss out even on Europa League qualification for next season – back into the Champions League the season after. Paul Scholes' decision to make a first appearance as a Sky Sports pundit on Tuesday – for a game which his former club seemed likely to lose – was made in the full knowledge that he might have to deliver heavy criticism of Moyes' team. He did not hold back.
Scholes' willingness to work with United's Under-19s team in this season's Uefa Youth League, travelling to Real Sociedad and Shakhtar Donetsk as Nicky Butt's assistant, revealed a desire to renew his involvement. But after United's elimination at the group stage that came to an abrupt end.
The level of abuse directed at Moyes and his predecessor Ferguson by United fans was substantially greater during the 3-0 defeat to City than in the dismal loss to Liverpool by the same scoreline. The chant of "20 times, 20 times Manchester United" – an allusion to the club's number of domestic titles – was accompanied by ironic cheers on Tuesday, while after the Liverpool loss it was sung in defiance, for fully 20 minutes. The club are by no means impervious to the views and mood of the fans. They will be taken into account this summer, despite the club's official stance that Moyes will be leading the effort to rebuild for next season.
The determination to stick to the course and the manager United have decided upon suggests that the elevation of Ryan Giggs from coach to interim manager, with Ferguson assuming an advisory role, is unlikely. Giggs' appointment would, in turn, be likely to restore Scholes to the hub of the club. For many supporters, the idea of Gary Neville also returning after this summer's World Cup, completing a Class of '92 managerial takeover, would be appealing.
But handing the future to Giggs, when a second season's absence from the Champions League could consign United to the wilderness, would constitute a huge gamble. The Borussia Dortmund manager, Jürgen Klopp, would not be such a risk. Though sources in Germany suggest he would be unwilling to break his contract, his loss of striker Robert Lewandowski to newly crowned champions Bayern Munich this summer raises profound questions about how much more he can achieve with Dortmund.
United, who are guaranteed their lowest points total in the Premier League era, are now dependent on a collapse in form from Tottenham Hotspur if they are to achieve the sixth-place finish they require to qualify for the Europa League. It is understood that they will undertake this summer's US tour regardless of any Europa League commitments, dividing up the squad between the two in order to meet footballing demands and commercial commitments.
United will train in Los Angeles and play LA Galaxy before moving to Denver, Colorado, for their first game in the International Champions Cup, in July. Though they may have to play a Europa League third qualifiying round, or play-off, United will travel to Washington DC, Detroit and possibly Miami, where the Champions Cup final is to be held.
But to reach the Europa League – which brings the new attraction of automatic Champions League qualification for next season's winners – United must make up a five-point deficit on Tottenham or the six-point advantage established by fifth-placed Everton. Assuming the top four will be Chelsea, City, Liverpool and Arsenal, a fifth place would deliver United straight into the Europa League group stage and sixth would send them into a play-off game. If Arsenal do not win the FA Cup, fifth would mean a Europa League play-off game and sixth would mean an additional third qualifying round game.
Victory at home to Aston Villa on Saturday could help, with Spurs facing a tough trip to Liverpool on Sunday. Defeat to Villa would put United under immense pressure to review the manager's position.
Belfast Telegraph Digital