You have to hand it to Manchester United. Patience isn’t a foundational principle at most Premier League clubs, but they have somehow stood strong on the issue of David Moyes’ rocky start to life at Old Trafford far longer than some would have expected.
Perhaps lessons were learned in giving Sir Alex Ferguson a grace period of mediocrity in the late 1980s and watching him flourish into the world’s most respected manager in the 90s and noughties.
Maybe it’s more to do with the fact that, as out of his depth as Moyes has looked in his first six months as United boss, there isn’t exactly an amplitude of better managers on the market.
While United are struggling to keep up with the pace of their rivals both at home and in Europe, plenty of football’s top dogs have been known for giving managers marching orders for less.
United may want to be the sensible ones, with an Arsenal-esque threshold for honour-less seasons, but a ruthless sense of when to wheel out the guillotine is a big club must-have if these statistics are anything to go by…
Between 2000 and 2005, Barcelona had five different managers. Having become accustomed to a particular level of greatness under Louis Van Gaal, Bobby Robson and Johan Cruyff, they turned to Spaniards Lorenzo Serra Ferrer and, when that didn’t work out, appointed occasional caretaker Carles Rexach on a permanent basis. That didn’t go so well either.
Louis Van Gaal returned but left halfway through a season with Barcelona 3 points above the relegation zone. Radomir Antic steadied the ship before new president Joan Laporta hired Frank Rijkaard for the 2003/04 season.
Rijkaard could have been sacked in his first season at the club but with a bit of perseverance, he managed to guide them to second in La Liga and shaped a new-look Barcelona side which combined a Catalan backbone with a mix of international stars (sound familiar?). They won the league twice and the Champions League once in his first three years at the club.
The Dutchman bit the dust in 2008, having failed to win anything for two years in a row. Overall, he had won almost 60% of his league games as Barcelona boss, but his sacking would pave the way for the arrival of an ex-player by the name of Josep Guardiola and the beginning of a period of tenacious world dominance for the Catalan side.
Roman Abramovich’s trigger happy ownership style is well-documented, but far from saddling the club with the heavy burden of instability, his flighty nature breeds success. Carlo Ancelotti, Roberto di Matteo and Rafael Benitez have all fallen foul of the Russian oligarch’s fickle favour.
Each of them, especially Ancelotti, added notches to Chelsea’s title, but it was never enough.
It’s worth noting is that all three boasted league win percentages at least 5% better than Moyes is currently maintaining at United.
Even André Villas Boas – arguably the most deserving of the sack – posted a win percentage of 48.1%, which compares favourably with Moyes’ 46.2%. Ancelotti, Di Matteo and Benitez didn’t finish lower than 3rd, while United are currently in an unfamiliar seventh place.
In Spain’s perpetual top two catfight, Madrid have gone toe to toe with Barcelona in the managerial merry go round as well as in the table. Just ask Juande Ramos, who lasted less than a full season at Real Madrid, finishing a devastating (!) second – nine points behind the Blaugrana – before getting the chop.
His replacement didn’t fare much better. Manuel Pellegrini couldn’t improve on second place – Barcelona were simply too good – and having been knocked out of the Champions League by Lyon, he was dumped for José Mourinho.
Mourinho may have been the man to end Barcelona’s apparently unstoppable winning streak, but he also had a mind of his own and a loose tongue. It was hardly a surprise when the working relationship turned ugly and he headed back to Abramovich’s warm embrace.
With Mourinho having been hotly tipped to take over at United, we can only imagine where the Manchester side would be if Moyes hadn’t got there first. Probably not seventh.