(Reuters) - More than a decade of perceived over-achievement at Everton helped propel David Moyes into the Manchester United hot-seat but in a far more complex and unforgiving environment his shortcomings were ruthlessly exposed.
Having come from a club where expectations were modest and the budget slim, Moyes suddenly found himself at a club where second best had never been an acceptable option in 26 years under the iconic Alex Ferguson.
After 10 torturous months and with United not even second, but a distant seventh in the Premier League, Moyes was sacked on Tuesday, paying the price for a series of self-inflicted blunders that began almost as soon as he took charge.
In an attempt to show himself as his own man, Moyes cleared out Ferguson’s entire backroom staff, robbing himself of men who could have provided the mortar between the bricks as he set about building his own empire.
While that was perhaps understandable, his next move to sign former Everton stalwart Marouane Fellaini for 27.5 million pounds ($46.21 million) raised the eyebrows of most United fans wondering why yet another enforcer was added to a midfield screaming out for a playmaker.
Predictably, the towering Belgian turned out to be a complete misfit and his tepid performances went hand in hand with Moyes’s lack of tactical vision which had reportedly alienated senior players in the dressing room.
Moyes seemed completely at sea when rotating his squad, a concept Ferguson applied so masterfully during his trophy-laden spell in charge which landed 13 Premier League titles - some of them with players arguably less talented than their rivals.
Unquestioned loyalty to Dutch striker Robin Van Persie when he was clearly in poor form at the expense of goal-hungry Mexican Javier Hernandez and shunning Japan midfielder Shinji Kagawa also looked poor decisions when United lacked midfield guile and spark up front.
Accustomed to a conservative approach at Everton which produced few spectacular achievements but kept the club firmly afloat in the top tier, Moyes never quite seemed aware of the bold, attack-minded legacy left by Ferguson.
Mindful that Moyes had been given a huge pair of boots to fill and a squad in need of an overhaul, the board and most fans were still behind him at the turn of the year, despite giving up on any realistic chance of winning domestic silverware.
The humiliating home losses to Liverpool and Manchester City in March turned most of the hard core supporters against the 51-year old Glaswegian, whose tame acceptance of being second best was alien to United’s mentality.
The manner of a meek 4-2 aggregate defeat by Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals, in which United were thoroughly dominated by the German title holders, epitomized just how far a side once feared in Europe had fallen.
Confident and assured when he rode in to replace Ferguson last July, Moyes soon struck an uncomfortable and confused-looking figure when he admitted that the job of managing a club with the highest ambitions was harder than he thought.
It hardly helped that Moyes also reportedly ignored advice from his assistant and now the caretaker manager Ryan Giggs, asked to perform in a dual role amid a string of poor results while still keeping his place in the squad.
It came across as a desperate measure aimed at placating the fans as much as the January purchase of Juan Mata, a Chelsea reserve bought for 37 million pounds to rescue a dreadful season despite the fact he was ineligible to play in the Champions League.
Moyes also apparently failed to stamp his authority in the dressing room, where Ferguson’s firm hand and strict tutelage was replaced by a manager who offered too many lame excuses for defeats even against unheralded domestic rivals.
The painful defeat at his former club Everton, when a home fan dressed in a Grim Reaper costume and sporting a plastic scythe taunted Moyes close to the dugout, it was an ominous sign of what lay in store for the beleaguered manager who was simply out of his depth at United.
The Old Trafford faithful will now hope Giggs can restore a glimpse of United’s pride in the last four games of the season and that Moyes’s permanent successor, whether it is the seemingly evergreen Welshman or someone else, can quickly stop the rot and get the rebuilding process on the right track.
Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by John O'Brien and Martyn Herman