Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

One more Manchester United loss could be fatal for Moyes now

In the spotlight: Losing to Man City has not put David Moyes under threat but defeat to Aston Villa on Saturday will change that

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 – back into the Champions League the season after next.

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 full knowledge that he might have to deliver heavy criticism of Moyes' team. He did not hold back.

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 appeal.

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 Bayern Munich this summer raises profound questions about how much more he can achieve with Dortmund.

United 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.

Assuming the top four will be Chelsea, City, Liverpool and Arsenal, 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 tie.

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.

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