David Moyes has been sacked by Manchester United. The long expected firing came about after Moyes and United were defeated at Moyes’ return to Goodison Park and Everton Football Club. The firing has been a topic of conversation for a long period of time as Moyes and United struggled all season long, never reaching the heights expected at the club during Alex Ferguson’s long tenure.
Ferguson’s run included 12 league titles, five FA Cups, and two Champion’s League titles. One can find all different rationales for the disastrous season from not being to select a proper, consistent, winning line-up to simply failing to bring in any trophies at all. Conspiracy theorists discuss the probability of a Ferguson plot to hand Moyes a stacked deck against any possibility of success, thus further enhancing the legacy of Ferguson.
Moyes is the latest in a long line of coaches faltering when following a legend. Gene Bartow followed a legend with the UCLA men’s basketball program, succeeding John Wooden. Not many may remember Bartow fondly despite the fact that Bartow had a better winning percentage (52 wins, 9 losses, winning percentage of .852) than Wooden (620 wins, 147 losses, winning percentage of .808). Admittedly, Bartow did not win a NCAA National Championship while Wooden won 10.
Phil Bengston and Dan Devine could not bring similar results as Vince Lombardi attained with the Green Bay Packers and even beloved former Packer heroes Bart Starr and Forrest Gregg could not find success leading Green Bay.
Moyes is too good of a coach to be unemployed for long. Already, his name has been discussed regarding stepping in at Tottenham, Newcastle, and Aston Villa. Many United supporters feel that Moyes’ selection was a mistake.
One question remains though, Could anyone have been successful following Ferguson?
Anyone taking charge of a program following in the footsteps of a legendary coach needs to heed the examples of Moyes and those other coaches listed above. Consider each position carefully. Manchester United, as well as Moyes, will see better days ahead. Moyes served as a transitional coach and this will help the next coach as United evolves into a new team with a new cadre of players.
Dr. William Steffen is the chair of Sports Coaching at the United States Sports Academy. Dr. Steffen has served as a longtime teacher, professor and soccer coach at the collegiate and high school levels. His teaching and research expertise among other things includes sports psychology, leadership and motivation. Dr. Steffen served as the head’s women’s soccer coach at the University of Oregon for nine years and has nearly 20 years of coaching experience, including head and assistant coaching stints at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, North Carolina, Lyndon State College, University at Albany, Greensboro College, Furman and Duke.