Old Trafford’s new gaffer

2013-05-30 09:40

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Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure from Manchester United ushers in the David Moyes era. It’s time for a man with a similar – but different – skill set…

Sir Alex Ferguson’s strengths:

Man management

Sir Alex was able to manage up and down. He could just as easily induce Man U striker Ole Gunnar Solskjær to push for a last-minute goal as talk the board into dropping £30 million (about R420 million) on defender Rio Ferdinand.

Youth policy

Bravely replaced a generation of complacent, underachieving boozers with hungry young unknowns who delivered the treble in 1999.

High standards

Wayne Rooney was once dropped for going out to dinner five days before his next game. And fined on top of that. And given extra training.

Weaknesses:

Temper

The same fury that ‘hairdryer-ed’ players into playing well, also got him into trouble. He got numerous fines and touchline bans, including a five-match ban and a £30 000 fine (about R420 000) in 2011.

Ruthless

When Ferguson decides it’s time for you to go, you’re dead to him. Players like David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo were sidelined and sold while still playing good football.

Resembles a slice of bacon

With a face that pink, there are no male-modelling prospects for Sir Alex. Luckily, this is not a significant weakness for a man worth £34 million (about R480 million).

David Moye’s strengths

Frugal

He makes astute player acquisitions on tight budgets. Since his arrival at Everton in 2002, he averaged a net spend of just £800 000 (about R11 million). This skill will be relevant if Uefa’s financial fair play regulations are ever enforced.

Team builder

Moyes has built a talented squad that has lifted Everton to the top end of the Premier League and captured fans’ imaginations.

Fergie’s mate

Long admired by his fellow Scot and touted by him as a possible successor. Should get support from outgoing staff and existing club structures alike.

Weaknesses

He’s no europhile

Despite noble performances and the odd showing in Europe, there have been no trophies for Everton and no Euro success. Valiant failures will not be a good look for Man U.

Slow to rotate

He sometimes finds a team selection he likes and plays them relentlessly. He must learn how to manage Man U’s vast player, scouting and budget resources across numerous competitions.

He’s not Sir Alex

He’s effectively coming off the bench to replace God. Matching Fergie’s achievements is nigh impossible, but given the structures Ferguson has built, he may get close.

Leaving a legacy

Sir Alex ended his glittering Man U career with a 13th Premier League win. And if you’re looking for other sports managers who accomplished what he did, for as long as he did, you’d be forced to look pretty hard.

American football coach Vince Lombardi led the Green Bay Packers to five NFL Championships and two Superbowl wins between 1959 and 1967 and had the Super Bowl Trophy named after him. Basketball’s Phil Jackson won 11 NBA championships with the Bulls and the Lakers.

Team principal Jean Todt steered Ferrari to 14 Formula One championships… But in terms of sporting success, as well as impact on the popular culture of the planet, no one comes close.

That Manchester United, a football club from England’s grim third city, currently claims to have 659 million followers and has been valued at $3 billion (about R42 billion) is largely down to his achievements.

When Alexander Chapman Ferguson took over at Man U in 1986, the club had not won the First Division since the 1966-1967 season. The players were overrated, undermotivated and not shy of a pub.

He let go several players who weren’t delivering, launched a youth scouting programme that covered every inch of Manchester’s playing fields and made some canny purchases.

The results were slow to arrive, and it took clever management of board expectations as well as on-field performances to hang onto his job for the four years it took before the club’s win in the first-ever Premier League season in 1992-1993.

But Ferguson had achieved more than most managers do in a lifetime before he even arrived at Old Trafford as a 45-year-old.

He had already won three Scottish Leagues, four Scottish FA Cups, a European Cup Winners’ Cup and been awarded an OBE (in 1983).

He led United to 38 trophies, including 13 Premier League titles, five FA cups and two Uefa Champions League titles. The legendary team of 1998-1999 captured the unique treble of Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League.

Alex Ferguson

Much of Fergie’s early success hinged on his youth policy.

Two separate groups of young, homegrown players became known as ‘Fergie’s Fledglings’. The second group, which came into the team in the 1995-1996 season, included Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Gary Neville, Phil Neville and Paul Scholes.

It was these players who would deliver the hallowed treble three years later, alongside cunningly acquired players such as goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, Dwight Yorke, Ole Gunnar Solskjær, Jaap Stam and captain Roy Keane.

The triumph was achieved with incredible commitment, self-belief and determination instilled into the team by the manager. This was best exemplified by the team’s two goals in injury time to overturn a 1-0 deficit to win the 1999 Uefa Champions League final. This was a prime example of the ‘Fergie Time’ phenomenon, where injury time often stretched like elastic until United got the goals they required for victory.

Sir alex was knighted for the treble in 1999, ostensibly leaving him with little more to achieve. Indeed, he hinted at retirement as early as 2001, but rifts with the board were healed and his career went into a Fergie Time of its own as he set about building a new team all over again.

This phase saw the purchase of future legends like Rio Ferdinand, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Edwin van der Sar and culminated in a second Champions League title in 2008.

It was another game of high drama, won after penalties, as much by United’s tenacity as by Chelsea’s John Terry falling on his arse mid-penalty.

Sir Alex shows a sense of symmetry in his career planning. He announced plans to quit in 2002 when it looked like United might win another Champions League final in Glasgow.

When that failed to materialise, he retracted his resignation and stayed on.

Then he might have left at the end of the 2011-2012 season, but Manchester City pipped Man U at the post with a win in the last minute of the season.

‘I would not want to put the new manager into a situation where he was taking over a bad team,’ he told ClubCall.com.

And so, once more unto the breach. There were more youth players, alongside evergreen club legends Giggs and Scholes, the acquisition of goal magnet Robin van Persie and, sure enough, his 13th League title, secured at a canter with several games to spare.

Sir Alex leaves on a high, with the club he helped build in as good shape as it’s ever been, few issues bar the vexed status of Wayne Rooney, and still able to keep his hand in as a director and club ambassador.

He hands over to his replacement, David Moyes, a club that now has 20 First Division and Premier League titles, 11 FA Cups, three European Cups, a couple of dozen others and has become the biggest sports brand in the world.

No pressure, Mr Moyes. No pressure.

You might not know this, but…

  • Sir Alex was born on New Year’s Eve 1941.
  • He once owned a pub called Fergie’s. It had a bar named The Elbow Room, a reference to his barging style in his playing days as a striker.
  • He boycotted the BBC for seven years. He refused to talk to the UK broadcaster after they made allegations about his son Alex, a sports agent. He lifted the ban in 2011.
  • He was almost sacked before an FA Cup third-round clash with Nottingham Forest in 1989. United won 1-0 and he lived to fight another day.
  • He won the first-ever English Premier League. English football was restructured in 1992-1993 and the Premier League became a corporation with 20 clubs as shareholders. Man U won it four of the first five years.

The famous Fergie honesty

  • ‘If he was an inch taller he’d be the best centre half in Britain. His father is 6ft 2in
  • – I’d check the milkman.’ – appraising Gary Neville.
  • ‘Youse are all f****n’ idiots.’ – to journalists who questioned his acquisition of midfielder Juan Veron.
  • ‘I think he is very concerned about his CV, he refers to it quite a lot.’ – on fellow manager Rafael Benítez.
  • ‘My greatest challenge was knocking Liverpool right off their f****n’ perch… and you can print that.’ – his answer to suggestions that regaining the title in 2002-2003 would be his greatest challenge.
  • ‘Could I have two bullets?’ – his answer when asked ‘If you had one bullet and Victoria Beckham and [Arsenal manager] Arsène Wenger were in the room, what would you do?’

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