Regardless of what discourse, snobbery and reverse snobbery might have you believe, it's possible to like both porterhouse and Skips; each has a purpose, and rarely are they interchangeable. And people are the same, tolerable, lovable and brilliant in different circumstances and contexts, the trick in aligning them correctly.
So, there is no guarantee that Sir Alex Ferguson would have done better at Everton than David Moyes, in the same way that if you need to escape the Championship, Mick McCarthy is your man – provided you're prepared to sack him immediately afterwards. Accordingly, were Fergie to return, United would quickly improve, because managing that club at that level is what he does. Of course, it will never happen; the foxy old so-and-so knew precisely what he was leaving, such that there's more chance of his admitting culpability than returning to be shamed by it and his successor.
Because, quite simply, things could not have gone any less well, the performances extracted by Moyes unimaginably horrific to the point of extreme hilarity. Had United been managed by Basil Brush, Moira Stuart, Clive Gibbons, or no one at all, it's hard to conceive a less optimal state of affairs, and consequently, he could have few complaints if advised that his future lay elsewhere. And it might even do him a favour, given the games to come – along with Olympiakos, both Liverpool and Manchester City visit Old Trafford in March, so things will likely get worse before they get worse still.
In 27 league games so far this season, United have yet to produce a single suitable display, such that last weekend's struggle at Palace was deemed adequate. But the reality is that they've made no discernible improvement; the purported "good run" around Christmas came against poor teams, and the level and nature of performance has remained roughly the same, though results have varied. Meanwhile, in Europe, things have been only marginally better, and only thanks to Leverkusen expecting to play Manchester United, not Moyes's United. Domestically, only Arsenal have made this error, the upshot of a profound and longstanding inferiority complex – but it is clear that they will have overcome their fear by the time the teams next meet.
And fear would be where Fergie would start, restoring it not in opposition players but his own. Because their overwhelming indolence indicates that they clearly have none for Moyes; it's not that he's lost the dressing room, more that he never had it to begin with. If nothing else, the accompanying abuse and punishments would satisfy supporters for whom the intersection of enough with enough was reached some time ago – even if the insubordination, though indefensible, is understandable. For several, their careers at United are precious to them, and at stake; if Moyes stays, they go. So, were making his position untenable their only option, it might be thought worth the embarrassment, given the irredeemable failure of this season in any event.
But should the resultant incandescent rage fail, there'd always be the crutch of disappointment. Guilt ought already to be operational, on account of the manager whose job they're losing, and those investing time, money and liver following them – but letting down a parent brings with it an inimitable aspect.
Once the players were suitably crushed and broken – a swift and pleasing process that would benefit from rapprochement with Roy Keane – it would be time to rebuild them. Though there have been trust issues regarding Moyes, more significantly, they have stopped trusting themselves, losing all confidence, conviction and aggression – a team you'd be delighted to encounter down a dark alley.
In particular, they have forgotten how to defend, attack, and transition between the two, wandering through games in a fugue state before delivering interviews as soporific as their performances. What's required are stern and unambiguous reminders as to who they are, what they represent, and the spirit that demands, along with coaching and tactics tailored to their abilities and needs, rather than a pre-existing pro forma that was reasonably successful at Everton.
Specifically, the notion that football is a simple and enjoyable game would be re-established, good players trusted to be good at playing, attacking combinations practised properly. And when defending corners, some men would be left upfield, not just to enable a swift counter, but to prevent opponents, first from piling into the box, and then from being given a second chance to threaten, after the ball has been cleared straight back at them. To facilitate all this, the conveniently available René Meulensteen would return, with his various replacements taking their pick of the myriad jobs inevitably offered to men of their pedigree and potential.
Attention would then turn to individuals, beginning with the defence. Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand are well past their best, and under Moyes, likely to leave in the summer. But Fergie always understood the value of players who know how to live, prepare and win – a major distinction between him and Arsène Wenger, who broke up his last championship side too soon. So, at least one of the three would stay – in any event, Evra would be a far better deputy than Alex Büttner – but ideally a centre-back, too. And more important even than that would be the rejuvenation of Rafael da Silva, one of United's best players last season and a reliable bundle of enthusiasm, energy and bronca, turned into a listless lump of impotent resentment by a manager who clearly doesn't rate him.
In front of them, the need for two magnificent midfielders is too obvious to be neglected, but the same has been so for so long that it would be absurd to assume an epiphany. Nonetheless, in the potential meantime, it's fair to expect improved deployment of resources, to protect the defence and supply quick possession for the better players in front of them.
Speaking of whom, Adnan Januzaj would undergo an immediate change of circumstance. Spending the Olympiakos trip reclining at home, exhausted after his month off, so conserving energy for the games of even less significance which begin in 12 days' time, he will be absent less frequently. Though Fergie rested Lee Sharpe and Ryan Giggs whenever he could, he was able to replace one with either the other or Andrei Kanchelskis, and they were not as important to their team as Januzaj is to his. Even so, they were rarely, if ever, excluded from the biggest games – their fearlessness was trusted, and gaining experience preferred to experience.
Next, a decision would be made as to the futures of Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie; given the relative permanence of Januzaj and Juan Mata, United's need for pace is such that there is room only for one of them. Rooney is younger, but has played more, looked after himself less well, and shown signs of decline; Van Persie has suffered more serious injuries, is less versatile and dynamic, but better in his position.
Either way, neither is required as a stalking horse. With Fergie back, the club sells itself to new recruits, no longer so beholden to individuals as to consider outside impressions when allocating contracts. And having seen the charisma void created by his exit, Fergie might now consider it the critical quality to demand of his eventual replacement, and recall it as the foundation of his best teams.
Which is not to say that with his return, everything would suddenly be resolved; and perhaps the control would be less, the reputation damaged, the aura faded. Yes, United would be better – but yes United would still be walloped by any half-decent team lucky enough to make their acquaintance.