‘Stand by your man’ were the final orders Sir Alex Ferguson barked out to the Manchester United supporters before being replaced as manager by David Moyes.
While most of the keyboard warriors on football blogs and social networking sites are not following Ferguson’s instructions, the majority of the match-going supporters are heeding the advice of Moyes’ legendary predecessor.
The question is however, how much more doom and gloom can United fans take before they begin to turn on the new man?
A summer of non-activity from the new manager and new chief-executive Edward Woodward (apart from the last-minute capture of Marouane Fellaini at a hugely inflated price) should have given some indication as to how the season would go. Last season’s squad may have won the Premier League at a canter but their usual title competitors greatly underperformed. Also, would United have captured the title had it not been for the contribution of one man, Robin Van Persie?
No Manchester United supporter expected an easy transition once Moyes stepped in to fill the biggest shoes in English Football. However, not many would have been expecting the club to be languishing in 7th in the league towards the end of January, six point off the top 4 and out of the F.A. Cup at the first hurdle.
All this means that tonight’s Capital One Cup semi-final 2nd leg at home to Sunderland takes on huge significance. Trailing 2-1 from the first leg, if United manage to put in a decent performance at Old Trafford (a rare commodity of late) they should be able to clinch their place at Wembley where they would face arch-rivals Manchester City in a first ever domestic cup final involving the two sides.
The Red Devils would no doubt be touted as huge underdogs against a side who have already notched up a century of goals this season. However, if Moyes can’t lift his troops to seize the opportunity to get one over their rivals in a Wembley final as well as clinch his first ever major trophy as a manager, he really has no chance.
If he can manage to defy the odds and take home this particular piece of silverware, he could well be afforded the luxury of significantly more time to turn things around. If United can achieve this, as well progress to a quarter or a semi final in this season’s Champion’s League (Greek side Olympiakos lie in wait in the round of 16), and clinch an all-important place in the Premier League’s top four, it will surely go down as a decent first season in charge for Moyes.
If they can’t get past Sunderland tonight, however, will the Old Trafford crowd still stand firmly by their man? Or will the whispers of derision start to increase by a few decibels?
United’s manager will no doubt be breathing the biggest sigh of relief in the stadium if the job is completed.