One of the biggest mistakes of David Moyes’ ill-fated and ultimately short-lived contribution to the Manchester United history books was his orchestration of a backroom upheaval.
Let’s not forget the philistine tactics, poor man-management and overriding negativity, but the decision to dispense with seasoned coaches Mike Phelan and Rene Meulensteen was particularly misguided.
In their place he installed Steve Round, Jimmy Lumsden and Phil Neville – the latter of which is exempt from this debate through his status as a quasi-United legend, and remains at the club, at least for now.
But in Round and Lumsden what Moyes did was attempt to replace vastly experienced coaches, both in terms of the squad and winning trophies, with what were essentially his fellow perpetrators of consistent mediocrity.
Within months there were rumblings of discontent, players rumoured to be unhappy with various aspects of the new regime, and in particular, assistant manager Round.
Round, by some accounts, is a more abrasive character than Lumsden, but the sum of the pair and Moyes’ ‘hands-on’ approach were apparently what caused much of the training ground dissent.
Whether it was the fault of the players or the staff, or both, the deciding factor is that Moyes & Co. are gone now, replaced by Ryan Giggs and his new-look Class of ’92 backroom staff.
The major difference is that Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Neville all command the respect that Moyes could never glean, as evidenced by the instant turnaround of a 4-0 win over Norwich City on Saturday.
Spirits were raised, hope glimmered on the horizon and chants of ‘Giggs will tear you apart again’ echoed around Old Trafford as the fans saluted their beloved prodigal son – the real continuity candidate.
But then just three days later the Glazers did what they have been doing for the past nine years in going against the fans’ wishes, and entered into talks with Louis van Gaal.
The contrast between this weekend and last is palpable, both in the media and on the streets of southwest Manchester, the restored sense of belief replaced once again by unnerving ambivalence.
There is no doubt that Van Gaal is an accomplished manager – his six league titles, three in Holland, two in Spain, one in Germany, and Champions League, two UEFA Cups and one Super Cup confirm that.
However, by bringing in a man who has been described by many as somewhat autocratic, and even lacking in social skills by others, the Glazers run the risk of applying a short-term fix that may cause more long-term problems.
The first issue is that with Van Gaal’s imminent appointment, reportedly to be announced on Wednesday, comes the likelihood that he will want to bring in his own staff.
Names such as Patrick Kluivert, Danny Blind and Jaap Stam are cited as probable candidates, and all three without doubt carry huge weight in football.
And while the addition of such experience could prove to be a masterstroke, there is always the risk that the unrest which unfolded under Moyes, Round and Lumsden could resurface.
When Manchester City chief executive Ferran Soriano claimed on Thursday that ‘people don’t like him [Van Gaal]’ it seemed to have more bedrock than the usual City-United name-calling.
Robin van Persie will no doubt be pleased, but how will dressing-room heavyweights Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra take to Van Gaal’s divisive approach?
More importantly, how will Giggs?
Having been such a loyal servant to the club – 23 years since his debut, 943 appearances – before last week stepping up to tackle one of the highest-pressure jobs of them all, if anyone deserves preferential treatment, it’s Giggs.
Yes, he may not have the experience, but with Van Gaal not due to take over until Holland return from this summer’s World Cup, what if United win all their remaining under games in a similarly exuberant fashion as they did against Norwich?
Would the Glazers consider him for a permanent contract then, if it was not already too late? Or does his lack of management experience rule him out?
Moyes had plenty of top-flight management experience but no trophies to show for it and the Glazers gave him a run, on the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Though, look how that ended – it is doubtful that even if Ferguson did give Giggs his backing that the owners would heed his advice a second time.
But by entertaining the possibility of ostracising Giggs the Glazers run the risk of losing the spine of the club’s most successful era – the Class of 92 and all their highly valuable collective assets.
Then again, the Glazers have always been about business, and Van Gaal is clearly a choice made with a view to getting back in the Champions League and recovering the income that comes with it.
And as evidenced by Moyes and his ‘six-year’ contract, the Glazers haven’t quite grasped the concept of long-term planning.
Main image courtesy of DHL via YouTube, with thanks.