Following the sacking of David Moyes from Manchester United this week, we reproduce an article written by our columnist Mark Ssali about the Welshman’s abilities even before he took over at Old Trafford. In the article, published on May 11, 2013 shortly after the resignation of Sir Alex Ferguson, Ssali argued that the job was too big for Moyes. Read on...
Never mind the billions of ordinary mortals, even among the few truly universal icons seldom will one rouse a global stampede of these proportions without being pronounced dead.
Sir Alex Ferguson is finally gone from the dugout, but you could be excused for thinking he has taken leave of mother earth altogether.
So, pity the man who has been asked to fill his ginormous seat for, bluntly put, there is not a backside big enough under the circumstances.
As I wrote this two days ago, to say that the rumour was rife that David Moyes was that man was to grossly understate matters; he most likely has been unveiled by now, but the move had not been made official back then.
Everything about Ferguson’s reign at Manchester United embodies what it means to build an institution, yet the dynamics of institutionalism are what have worked against the club in their quest to find anywhere near the perfect replacement they need.
Because of the legacy he has built in just under 27 years of unmatched success, no institution worthy of its name was ever going to cut that kind of man loose completely, and so he will stay around the same way Matt Busby did and Bobby Charlton still does.
It is an open secret in England that the club has also let him hand-pick his successor, a right he has more than earned and a move which makes sense in that society, at that club, under those circumstances, but one which I have misgivings with, and here is why.
Because of the inevitability of it all, United’s hierarchy was meant to have done meticulous homework to identify and court an heir to throne, weighing up the changing demands of general management and on-field dynamics of the modern game.
Ideally, the best manager ever would be the one that possesses Pep Guardiola’s football mind and Fergie’s man-management acumen, that amazing ability to instill discipline, belief, fierce competitiveness and hunger in teams, to motivate players into overachieving, consistently performing beyond ability and expectation for years on end.
While that man can only be created in a virtual world by machines and gadgets the world of cutting-edge technology keeps throwing at us, there are milder versions that actually exist in the real world.
David Moyes is not one I am afraid, a man in whom Fergie must clearly have seen the qualities the old man himself personifies, but one short on the others that a United manager needs going forward, to keep the club on top in England and the major force in Europe they have so desperately desired to establish themselves as.
Taking that choice out of Fergie’s hands might have so angered and alienated the retiring legend, and yet the club desperately needs for him to stick around and guarantee continuity and re-assure the multitudes already shaken by his decision, from the owners and shareholders, through sponsors, down to the players and fans.
And so United have played it safe both ways, and the result is a successor picked from close to home, with a knowledge of the inner workings of the English Premiership who will internalise and adapt to the United way pretty quickly, one who brings with him no excess baggage and is almost certain to be accepted by all of the British society concerned – the media, fans, the FA, other managers, referees, players, the works.
Sounds perfect for the transition and is evidently what informed this decision, yet I can’t help but feel the task is too big for the Scot.
The step up from being hailed for using a small, cheap squad to get enough points for a Europa slot, reach the top four once and contest the odd FA Cup final, to having to win every midweek and weekend is too big I believe; from never having won a trophy to chasing on four fronts, being disappointed by winning just the Premiership a tough ask; from operating on a shoe string budget and looking out for loan-player opportunities to being in the market for 30 million pound players a shock to the system.
Granted, Ferguson and Charlton will be in the backroom offices with a huge influence and in the stands to give the institution the feeling of power, continuity, longevity, ambition and all else that, say, Uli Hoeness, Karl Heinz Rumenegge and Franz Beckenbauer give to the mighty Bayern, but even with the many pluses this can have its minuses as we have seen in Germany – just ask Lothar Matheus, Jurgen Klinsmann or Luis Van Gaal.
At the end of the day Moyes will insist on being his own man anyway, and the question is will he be man enough for Manchester United?
Can he attract the big name signing that is Robin Van Persie’s equivalent or superior, a Falcao for example? Can he say with any conviction that a Wayne Rooney is not for sale and get him to commit as Fergie did before? Can he invoke respect and fear among his troops, intimidate opposing managers and bully referees? Even with his admirable efforts at Everton in those stakes, can he get a team of Welbecks, Youngs, Cleverlys and Valencias to finish ahead of one of Agueros, Silvas, Nasris and Tevezs, or one with Hazards, Matas and Oscars? Can he out-think and out-plot a Jose Mourinho at home or a Jurgen Klopp abroad? …
I sure don’t think so.
@markssali on twitter