WHEN a man wearing a Grim Reaper’s costume turns up behind you and starts waving an inflatable scythe in your direction, you know you have become a laughing stock.
And that is exactly what happened to David Moyes on Sunday when Manchester United slumped to their 11th league defeat of the season.
Eleven months earlier, on the very same ground, Moyes let his gritty Glaswegian guard down. Tears filling his eyes as he bade farewell to 40,000 Everton supporters, who were sad to see his 11-year spell in charge come to an end.
Thirty-five miles down the M62, the man who he was replacing also made a tearful farewell.
After a three-minute unscripted “ramble” as he called it, Sir Alex Ferguson thanked a packed Old Trafford for their support and then told them it was their “job” to “stand by our new manager”.
That is the only reason why the United supporters who have travelled over land and sea to watch their team this season have refrained from publicly calling for Moyes’ head.
Privately, the majority of United fans have wanted Moyes out for a while and it is easy to see why.
Ignore the positive spin from Moyes, this has been an utterly dreadful season for United - the worst in a generation.
Worst points total in the Premier League era, most league home defeats since 1978, no Champions League football for the first time in 19 years... And there are more. The list is as embarrassing as it is long.
But it is not just the league standing that has annoyed United fans - it has been the way the team has played.
Ferguson said in his farewell speech that he was looking forward to “enjoying watching the team, rather than suffer with them,” but watching United play this season has been a stressful and thoroughly joyless experience.
When he took to his feet after Sunday’s 2-0 defeat at Goodison Park, vice-chairman Ed Woodward must have wished Roberto Martinez was in the away dugout, rather than the home one.
Everton passed the ball well, moved it out to the wings and hit a shell-shocked United with devastating pace. It was like watching Giggs, Scholes and Beckham in their prime.
United were flat, their tempo slow and Tim Howard barely broke sweat all afternoon.
It was not the first time United have looked off the pace, of course. The defeats to Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea were painful, but cup exits to Sunderland and Swansea, plus the awful bore draw against Fulham hurt just as much.
To outsiders it looked like Moyes could not inspire the team. And one look at the UEFA media booklet handed out to journalists prior to Manchester United’s game against Bayern Munich shows why.
“Moyes started out with Celtic but spent much of his playing career as a centre-back in England and Scotland’s lower leagues,” the pamphlet read.
How can a man who achieved next to nothing in the game as a player command respect from a squad containing the likes of Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie?
Pep Guardiola, UEFA detailed, “Came through Barcelona’s youth ranks to win six Spanish Liga titles, one European Cup, a UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and two Copa del Rey trophies from 1990 to 2001.”
And that was before he won 14 trophies in his four years as Barcelona coach.
The difference between the two is remarkable.
And this is why Ferguson is just as guilty for United’s failings this season as Moyes.
Why did he not try harder to persuade Guardiola to succeed him during his infamous lunch meeting with the Spaniard in New York?
Why did he overlook Jose Mourinho, who has 20 pieces of silverware in his trophy cabinet (two more may be added in the coming weeks).
It is like being offered the keys to a new Ferrari, and opting instead for an Austin Montego.
Woodward must take his share of the blame too. Why did he and Moyes not secure the signings the club yearned for? Cesc Fabregas never wanted to come to Old Trafford, Leighton Baines - they knew - would never be prised from Everton and Thiago Alcantara slipped through their grasp to join Guardiola at Bayern Munich.
Instead United ended up with Belgium’s answer to Bambi on ice.
Privately, one highly-placed United official conceded the club lacked a coherent transfer plan following Moyes’ appointment, which is staggering.
Moyes did himself no favours with his appearances in public. His press conferences were dull and short. He was in denial on Sunday, claiming his team had passed the ball “brilliantly well”.
The Scot was evasive and often seemed to enjoy belittling journalists, which is never conducive to building a good relationship with the media.
The Scot cracked jokes about creme eggs, his milk-bottle tan and Maradona in recent weeks, but every jape seemed hollow. The difference between Moyes and Martinez in that respect is gigantic.
Moyes was always tentative in front of the camera. There word “try” and “hope” appeared too many times, much to the annoyance of United fans.
Manchester United are a proud club. Denis Law, George Best and Roy Keane never talked about “trying” to win. They said they would do it and they did.
This will not be the end for Moyes nor United. The club will not mess up a second appointment inside a year and Moyes will find another job soon, just not at such a demanding club.
Moyes may feel hard done by, having his six-year contract cut after 10 months, but United had no option but to fire him.
Once it became okay to mock a club with such an illustrious history, then it was time for the Reaper to tap Moyes on the shoulder.