The Return of The Chosen One
Former United boss Moyes has a point to prove when he sets foot in Old Trafford again tonight
Judging by the vitriol aimed at David Moyes on online forums and social media during his ill-fated managerial spell at Manchester United, you would naturally assume that the Scot should brace himself for a less-than-warm welcome when he takes his Sunderland side to Old Trafford tonight.
Moyes' 10-month tenure at arguably the biggest football club in the world is widely seen as an abject failure.
However, in hindsight, was it really that bad?
Under Moyes, the club reached the Champions League quarter-finals, the last four of the League Cup, and, in terms of entertainment value - something that is cherished at the Theatre of Dreams as Louis van Gaal found out to his cost - the Red Devils plundered four goals or more on six occasions.
Inheriting a successful yet ageing team from a legendary manager bore an uncanny resemblance to the situation at Liverpool in 1991 when Graeme Souness took over from Kenny Dalglish.
Souness has since admitted that he tried to change too much too soon, and he was subsequently fired three years later having added just a single FA Cup to the Anfield trophy cabinet.
By contrast, Moyes perhaps moved too slowly when it came to showing legendary 30-something players the door.
Moyes admitted that, had he known his job would be under threat after just 10 months, he'd have done things very differently.
Having seen Sir Alex Ferguson ride the storm of disapproval during much of his first four years at the football club, "The Chosen One" naturally assumed that his six-year contract actually meant something.
However, football has moved on apace since Mark Robins saved Ferguson's job in a famous FA Cup tie against Nottingham Forest in January 1990.
United had lost at home to Crystal Palace the previous month, which led to the unveiling of a banner in the Stretford End that accused Ferguson of presiding over "three years of excuses" at Old Trafford.
That season's FA Cup run was make-or-break for a man who many now rate as the greatest manager of all time.
As well as saying "thanks and all the best for the future" to several of his elder statesman, Moyes would surely have delved deeper into the transfer market to add to the brace of signings (Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata) he made.
And surely he'd have made a concerted effort to snare Cesc Fabregas from Barcelona, rather than dallying at the last minute and allowing the Spanish playmaker to join Jose Mourinho's Chelsea instead.
Moyes spent "just" £64.6 million (S$114.8m) on Fellaini and Mata, but since then another £400m has been invested in the playing squad as van Gaal and Mourinho strived to rediscover the winning formula.
Two days after Moyes was axed, he texted well-known Man United reporter Andy Mitten with the following message: "Andy. Would you please let it be known how much I appreciated the support I got from the real United fans? They were incredible. I am sorry I couldn't give them the results they are all used to. Thanks. D Moyes."
Mitten promptly published the text.
"The response was massive, with 80 per cent of United fans sympathetic and saying things along the lines of 'fair enough, it didn't work out, we wish him well'," Mitten wrote in the Daily Post newspaper.
The majority of United fans who actually watched the team at the stadium were patient with Moyes right up until he was axed in a fashion unbecoming of such a great football club.
Tonight marks the first time he sets foot in Old Trafford since that fateful day in April 2014, when it seemed as if the whole world knew his fate before he did.
And Moyes should have a spring in his step when he returns to his old stomping ground after lifting Sunderland off the foot of the table, thanks to four wins in seven games.
If Moyes can lead the Black Cats to 17th place or better come the end of the season, it will rank as arguably his greatest managerial achievement.
Expect the real United fans to give the Black Cats boss a very warm welcome on Boxing Day.
Richard Lenton is the lead presenter at Eleven Sports Network. Join Richard and his studio guests for Eleven's live coverage of the Premier League, which includes tonight's clash between Manchester United and Sunderland (10.30pm), and the Wednesday morning showdown between Hull and Man City (1.15am kick-off, Singapore time). For more details visit www.elevensports.sg