Manchester United is not quite North Korea
Never mind asking why David Moyes has been sacked, after a pretty dire 10 months as Manchester United manager. The question remains, how was a manager with long experience but no track record of success appointed in the first place? Answer: he was not so much appointed as anointed, by the retiring manager, Sir Alex Ferguson. Hence the appearance at Old Trafford of that much-derided banner hailing Moyes as ‘The Chosen One’, which bizarrely was protected by security guards during a recent home match.
Thus was a retiring employee of the club permitted to act like a dying dictator and select his own mini-me successor, regardless of the superior merits of other candidates. The Cult of Fergie had already led to United renaming the biggest stand and a road to the ground after Sir Alex. Now it enabled him to remake the next manager in his own image. It was a wonder the players were not all ordered to have Fergie haircuts. But, as I pointed out last season in the United fanzine, Red Issue, after Ferguson tried to tell fans what songs to sing, just because it now had the glorious leader’s name emblazoned across it was no excuse for ‘mixing up the North Stand with North Korea’.
All of this nonsense was Ferguson’s reward, not only for the fantastic success he brought United on the pitch, but also more importantly for the loyal and unconditional support he gave off the pitch to the real rulers of Old Trafford, the widely despised Glazer family who own the club. Now, as with the Glazers’ use of United’s earnings to service their debts, it is the fans who are paying the price for Ferguson’s delusions of establishing a dynasty. The abrupt de-selection of his ‘Chosen One’ should surely lead to the fall of the Cult of Fergie, leaving our former leader to enjoy his well-earned retirement, despite the mad talk of him having a hand in the next appointment. Perhaps Fergie and Moyes should just be grateful that United is not really North Korea, where failed members of the ruling ‘family’ tend to receive a different sort of pay-off.
Continuity can require revolution, not risk aversion
The buzzword around Moyes’ appointment as United manager was ‘continuity’. Ferguson’s team had just won the Premier League by 11 points, a remarkable thirteenth league title in 21 seasons to go with two European Cups and assorted other trophies. So all they needed was to find another manager in the Ferguson mould and Carry On, United, right? Not quite.
Continuity in terms of success had to mean more than getting another dour Scot for a manager. What was required after such a long reign, with the squad fast passing its sell-by date, was more like a revolution – of the sort that Ferguson himself led first at Aberdeen, where he broke the Glasgow Old Firm’s grip on Scottish football, and then at United, where he knocked Liverpool ‘off their fucking perch’. Instead, United went for the risk-averse (and cheaper) option of appointing Fergie’s mini-me, the inherently risk-averse and defensive-minded Moyes, who treated every match as an away game. In so doing, they missed the chance to get José Mourinho, who was desperate to secure the United job and could have been just the man to shake up the crumbling remains of United’s empire. Which was why, of course, Sir Ego Ferguson could not allow the Special One to succeed.
You cannot buy the league on the cheap
There has been much disparaging talk of first United and then foreign megabucks clubs such as Chelsea and Manchester City trying to ‘buy the league’ by acquiring big-money signings on astronomical wages. Yet the truth is that all top clubs ‘buy’ success to one degree or another. What has changed is that the price has gone up. United arguably ‘bought’ the first Premier League title when Ferguson paid just over a million quid to sign bargain-of-the-century Eric Cantona from Leeds in 1992. Two decades later, it cost City’s Arab owners more like a billion pounds to assemble the squad that became champions in 2012.