There’s a freedom in failure, a licence to do what’s necessary to get back to success. Long term it might just be best for Man Utd and David Moyes to properly experience it.
The Glazers were granted an incredible gift after buying Man Utd when Alex Ferguson decided that his socialist background somehow didn’t mean he should object to the amount of debt placed on his football club (since the takeover close to a billion pounds has been paid out in fees and interest according to some estimates) and got on with the business of winning titles on a comparative shoestring. This doesn’t bode well for David Moyes’ chances of carrying out the massive surgery on the squad needed to get them back to where they need to be. With the Glazers’ history of doing just enough it’s easy to see a scenario where they sneak into fourth place and go through another transfer window failing to sign anyone of note.
Better then to fail completely, have a great big bush fire of a season. Finish seventh and out of Europe completely. Let the fans and media wail that the Empire of Old Trafford has reached its’ end. Moyes can hold his six year contract in front of him like a shield and point out that the squad he inherited obviously wasn’t good enough. With the fear of missing out on Champions League football for another season the Glazers would surely have to grant him the money his rebuilding needs. Without the demands of Europe to worry about he could ship out the dead wood and replace it with fewer players of higher quality. Going for the title the season after would be easier without the extra games, especially compared to nicking a Europa League spot and having to do the dreaded Thursday-Sunday schlep. And it’s not like coming from seventh to win would be unprecedented. In Italy Juventus’ current dominance was started from finishing seventh the season before their first league title. Dortmund finished fifth then won the league twice and got to the Champions League final the year after. They were both clubs in worse positions than Man Utd are now. They used their failures as fuel for their revolutions. Does anyone really think that Man Utd don’t have it in them to do the same?
The main question over whether this is possible has to be Moyes. Dortmund and Juve had Jurgen Klopp and Antonio Conte respectively, coaches who are now seen as the equal of anyone in Europe. When they took over they were seen as inexperienced and untested at the highest level, just like Moyes now. After doing distinctly below average with the team he inherited from Ferguson Moyes should be given the chance to show what a Man Utd team built by him would look like. Failing in his first season might perversely be his best chance of getting the chance to do it.
And does anyone really think that they’re ready to have a serious tilt at the Champions League anyway? If Ferguson thought they were anywhere close he would have surely taken the chance to try and add his name to the list of managers to win it three times. He looked at what was needed to turn the current squad into contenders and understandably decided he’d had enough. The timing of it left Moyes with problems he had no chance of fixing right out of the gate, problems big enough to require a full scale rebuilding job, not a January top-up.
Whether Moyes would get the opportunity to rebuild is anyone’s guess. Man Utd made such a big deal of him being given time to build a legacy as Ferguson's anointed chosen one that it’s unlikely that they’d backtrack so completely now. And to give the fans credit they’ve taken their first real taste of (mild) failure better than many would have predicted, with very few calling for Moyes to be given the boot. Whether this good will extends to the Floridian billionaires who call the shots only time will tell. It’s clear that taking the time and expense to float ten percent of the club on the New York Stock Exchange wasn’t with the intention of having the share price drop through the season often and low enough to make it onto the back pages.
Financially there should be no question that they could afford the hit of one season without Europe. The commercial deals signed over the last ten years would be enough on their own to keep most Premier League clubs in the black. And the lure of being Man Utd should be enough to attract high calibre players without being able to offer them Europe. They would still be Man Utd. The walls to Old Trafford would still stand. They’d still be on TV every week. Ferguson would still be in that odd position in the stands, just over Moyes shoulder. Giggs would still be knocking about somewhere. After twenty five years of not having to think about it, a season wasted might be the most worthwhile one they could have.