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Money Talks: Why Manchester United’s brand may determine if and when David Moyes is sacked

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It has been a week since United’s dreadful mauling at the hands of bitter rivals Liverpool. After the loss to Liverpool, it looked like Moyes’ time at the club could be numbered with a few journalists claiming that for the first time, officials at the club were concerned. However, a week is a long time in football and United’s turnaround against Olympiacos followed by their encouraging away win against West Ham has quietened his most vocal critics, if only for the time-being.

Optimism among the fans though has been guarded, understandably so  given how the season has turned out thus far. For every positive result or performance, there’s always been a negative not far behind. In a season of false dawns, the reigning Champions have shown maddening inconsistency in terms of results and consistency in terms of limp performances.

Manchester United's last 25 games. Via transfermarkt.com

Manchester United’s inconsistency. Via transfermarkt.com

Having said that, there is reason for optimism. In the last 2 games, we’ve seen the 2 qualities that United have been shockingly bereft of this season. They showed fight against Olympiacos to claw back from a 2 goal deficit and played some good football through the middle with the likes of Rooney, Mata and Kagawa linking up well against West Ham.

We’ve established that Moyes has certainly taken some of the heat off of himself but the real question is how much time does Moyes really have? For starters, the fact that this is actually a topic of discussion is startling given the fact that at the start of the season, Moyes had the most job security in the Premier League, barring maybe Arsene Wenger. The 6 year contract handed to him was a show of real faith and he has since been publicly backed by the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Bobby Charlton.

Moving back to the initial question, one feels that the answer could very well lie in how the Manchester United “brand” is impacted. The Glazer family aren’t the most popular owners but they certainly aren’t idiots. The exact manner in which they’ve adversely affected the economic situation of the club has been pointed out by many people who better understand the dynamics of bonds, PIKs, IPOs and so on and so forth. However, what they have done is never directly interfere with the footballing matters of the club. Whether carefully orchestrated or not, they have never been directly culpable for any perceived lack of transfer funding or indeed any of United’s on-field failings. In addition, they’ve always enjoyed the public support of Sir Alex Ferguson. Consider all this and you realize just why the anti-Glazer movements threatened to but never really had its desired effect namely driving the Glazers out.

The Glazers deferred to Sir Alex in the choice of his successor but one wonders how long they will stand by and watch especially if the business  side is affected by lack of on-field success. With the likelihood of absence of Champions League revenue next time around and an allegedly heavy transfer kitty in the summer, the Glazer family simply cannot afford to lose out on sponsorship money. To further understand this we spoke to Joshua Raymond, Chief Market Strategist at cityindex.co.uk and this is what he said,

“Well, Man Utd winning the Champions League game against Olympiacos has changed it a tad but essentially the story is their inability to get into the Champions League next year, and the instability of David Moyes as manager.

They face Man City next and if they lose that game, there will be even more pressure on Moyes, whilst they have also just been drawn against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, who are the favourites. So the picture is not looking any brighter for them next season.

A failure to get into the Champions League could cost them dear, not just in lost revenue, but also subsequent commercial deals and they would lose some degree of attractiveness in being able to acquire the players they need at a time when their squad requires major upheaval.

Interestingly, their shares have just seen their highest ever recorded short interest, meaning that the amount of people betting on their shares will fall is now at all time high levels. Net short interest is now at just short of 3m shares, which is 1.8% of the shares outstanding. As a percentage of the floated shares, its 17.8% are of short interest. So clearly investors and traders are expecting bad things.”

From a business perspective to purely football and indeed personal one, the belief that Moyes will come good has been replaced with the hope that he will. Excuses of settling down at the job and the fact that he doesn’t have the best of squads have long since become defunct. If managers are judged purely on the old adage of making a team more than the sum of its parts then Moyes has failed miserably. Yes, there are convincing arguments to be made that the squads of City and Chelsea are better than United’s. But despite the obvious shortcomings of the squad, it isn’t one that should be languishing in 7th place. At this juncture, I’d be disappointed for Moyes if he was shown the door but it’s a decision that wouldn’t surprise those who have tracked the progress, or lack thereof, of United this season. There is a sense of renewed optimism, which I share despite the general tone of this article, and it looks likely that Moyes will be given an opportunity to build his own side this summer and embark on another season as Manchester United boss. As a fan, I can only hope that he is indeed the right man for the job.

Arnab Ray

Arnab Ray

Arnab is an opinionated Bengaluru FC and Manchester United fan. Always up for a good football discussion/ petty argument.
Arnab Ray

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