It was during an episode of farce on Bondi Beach in July, days into David Moyes’ reign as Manchester United manager, that it became evident the Scot had misjudged the magnitude of his new job.
Having left behind the frenzy of Bangkok on the first leg of United’s tour, Moyes, who was sacked as United manager on Tuesday, had decided to take his squad on an impromptu trip to Bondi – a stroll around the beach to stretch the players’ legs.
Fans run alongside Manchester United's squad with David Moyes in the middle. Photo: Dean Sewell
On a similar summer trip to Sydney with Everton, Moyes had taken players on the same bonding session and it passed without incident. But this was United, and while an Everton squad containing Australia international Tim Cahill went unnoticed among the surfers and sandcastles, Moyes’ new team were mobbed and besieged by supporters, to the extent that the manager had to hide his players in the rooftop bar of a nightclub until security arrived to restore order.
It was akin to a supply teacher taking a group of unruly sixth formers on a day out, with the leader’s authority undermined from the outset. United’s security staff and local police usually work in tandem when such trips are planned, but Moyes was unaware of this and a tour that had already made him uncomfortable due to the demands of sponsors and supporters had just delivered a stark example of the monster he now managed.
Moyes failed to heed the lesson of Bondi, however, and as his doomed reign progressed, he walked into every pitfall in his path.
Moyes lacked the edginess with the media that his predecessor Sir Alex Ferguson was so adept at. Photo: Getty Images
He had taken over from Manchester United’s legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson. During 27 years at Old Trafford, United under Ferguson won 13 Premier League titles, two Champions League titles, five FA Cups, four League Cups and one FIFA Club World Cup in 2008.
Initially, Moyes was too reverential, too awestruck by his new surroundings, allowing himself to be caught on a microphone saying ‘‘wow’’ as a five-minute montage of United’s glorious history was played to an audience at a dinner at Sydney’s Westin Hotel.
Moyes also hinted at inner doubts about his suitability for the job, even claiming to be fearful of what he had taken on. ‘‘There has to be an element of fear that comes with managing a club like Manchester United,’’ he said in Sydney. ‘‘You would have doubt if anybody took over this job, but in my own way, I’ve got to say I feel it’s the right job for me at the right time and hopefully I’ll make it work.’’
Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand is mobbed by supporters on Bondi Beach in July. Photo: Dean Sewell
Gary Neville, United’s former captain, claimed in his newspaper column in December that Moyes would have to ‘‘let United change David Moyes rather than David Moyes change United’’, but as he toiled away, the sense emerged that the manager was doing the opposite. His first decision as manager, to remove Ferguson’s coaching staff and transplant his Everton backroom team, was a sign of his determination to do things his way, but it was the first of many decisions that left players and staff at United confused and concerned.
On the pitch, there were few signs Moyes was getting it right. A1-0 victory over Arsenal in November failed to kick-start United’s season the way it should have, and a brief flurry of victories in December came to a shuddering halt against Tottenham on New Year’s Day, when a 2-1 defeat sparked a shocking run that led to seven defeats in 14 games, culminating in the 3-0 loss to Liverpool.
Inevitably, Moyes was compared to Ferguson the manager as well as the man. Despite Ferguson’s fearsome reputation, the Scot possessed a compassionate side. Moyes proved a distant figure, however, described by those who saw him daily as a man consumed by the job and lacking the personal touch of his predecessor.
Moyes received a hostile reception upon his return to Goodison Park on Sunday. Photo: Getty Images
He rarely snapped in front of the media, but when he addressed journalists as ‘‘s---houses’’ earlier this month following the publication of a letter he had written to supporters, apologising for the team’s performances, it was an outburst that highlighted the strain he was under.
That strain was evident from day one, from Bangkok to Bondi and through to his final games at Old Trafford. A decent man and one with integrity, Moyes ultimately proved to be the wrong one for Manchester United.
The club will bounce back, but after such an experience, can the same be said for David Moyes?
Crowds watch Manchester United stretch on Bondi Beach. Photo: Dean Sewell
The Telegraph, London