Moyes shrivelled beneath United spotlight
LONDON- With his pallid complexion and haggard appearance, David Moyes bore the look of a man clinging on for dear life long before his sacking as Manchester United manager on Tuesday.
Despite being hand-picked as Alex Ferguson's successor by the man himself, Moyes struggled to convince from the start and quickly found himself facing questions about his suitability for the role.
The honeymoon period was desperately brief -- victory over Wigan Athletic in the Community Shield, a 4-1 success at Swansea City on the Premier League season's opening day, and then the wheels came off.
By the end of September, United had lost at Liverpool, been humbled 4-1 at Manchester City, and gone down at home to West Bromwich Albion for the first time since 1978.
By New Year's Day, they were 11 points off the pace in the league. By late January they were out of both domestic cup competitions.
Elimination from the Champions League by Bayern Munich on April 9 effectively brought their season to an end.
All the while Moyes looked on, apparently powerless, and United's fans quickly came to lament his passivity in front of the media.
Where they had grown accustomed to the bullish rallying cries of Ferguson, Moyes was a manager who seemed to lace every sentence with qualifying words like "hopefully" and "maybe".
As early as October, reports had emerged that he was being told by officials from within the club to stop letting photographers catch him with his head in his hands.
Like Ferguson, he seemed determined never to publicly criticise his players, but faced with the scarcely believable disintegration of the Premier League era's outstanding team, his words rang hollow.
"We were the better team at 2-0 down in the first half," was one such verdict, uttered after Sunday's one-sided 2-0 loss at his former club, Everton.
Having been urged to "stand by our new manager" by Ferguson, in his final address to the Old Trafford crowd, United's fans were initially supportive.
- Figure of fun -
A banner branding him 'The Chosen One' was unveiled on the Stretford End and he was even granted his own song, but the supporters' backing soon wavered.
Last month, a small plane was flown over Old Trafford calling for Moyes to be sacked and while many fans found the stunt distasteful, it demonstrated the extent to which the 50-year-old had become a figure of fun.
His departure will prove particularly chastening for Ferguson, who thought that in his fellow Glaswegian he had found a manager hewn from the same material as himself.
Moyes built his reputation on a fierce will to win and a knack for rooting out transfer bargains, and the relative success that he delivered at Everton earned him the grateful appreciation of Goodison Park.
"Evertonians owe everything to David Moyes," said Everton chairman Bill Kenwright in 2009. "He took on our club when it was on its knees."
After failing to make the grade as a player at Celtic, Moyes settled at Preston North End and having started studying for his coaching badges at just 22, he worked his way up the club's coaching structure before being appointed manager in 1998.
He led Preston to promotion to the English second tier in his third year and then took the club to the brink of the Premier League, only for them to lose to local rivals Bolton Wanderers in the 2001 play-off final.
It was the first major disappointment of his managerial career, but within a year he was at Everton, where he quickly endeared himself to fans by describing their team as "the people's club".
His willingness to work to tight financial constraints made him a perfect fit at Goodison Park, but his 11 years without a trophy there were to prove an unfortunate harbinger of what was to come at United.
Speaking before Moyes's appointment had been confirmed, former United manager Tommy Docherty said: "If it is David Moyes, then I congratulate him and feel sorry for him.
"How can you follow the impossible?"
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