Sunday 28 December 2014

Jose Mourinho the only true heir to Fergie

Moyes is a decent, upright man but he had the wrong jeans for the Man United job.

Published 27/04/2014 | 02:30

It was just a pair of jeans, really, that told us everything we needed to know about Moyes. Illustration: Jim Cogan
It was just a pair of jeans, really, that told us everything we needed to know about Moyes. Illustration: Jim Cogan
David Moyes will be tormented by his 10 months at Old Trafford. Photo: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

THE first thing to establish here is how right some of us were about the inevitability of David Moyes' failure. This is an honest approach, and like all honest approaches, it is refreshing.

The dishonest way is that of the top economists, who will tell you how right they were about whatever matter they are discussing, before going on to say that their being right is really not the important thing, right now.

In this there are actually two lies – firstly they probably weren't right at all, or they were only half-right, and secondly, there is never anything more important to them, right now, than this assertion of their own rightness. Two lies, and they haven't even started yet.

We don't do that here. So in pointing out how right we were about Moyes all along, not only are we getting to the essence of our craft, we are being doubly honest in declaring that really, it wasn't that hard.

It was just a pair of jeans, really, that told us everything. When Moyes was summoned to the mansion of Sir Alex Ferguson to be informed that he was now manager of Manchester United, he fretted that he would not have the opportunity to change from the jeans which he was wearing into something more appropriate for a visit to the home of the master.

That was it. We had seen enough. Already some of us were thinking, not of the succession to Ferguson, but of the succession to Moyes.

The man who is concerned with such petty-bourgeois trivialities may well find some measure of success as the captain of his local golf club. But to manage the hydra-headed monstrosity that had been created by Fergie, a man would need to be something of a hydra-headed monster himself, the kind of person who doesn't concern himself with dress-codes.

Instead the compliments received by Moyes last week spoke of his decency, his straightness, his hard work , qualities which would recommend him highly for a management role at his local Vincent de Paul shop – though not if the previous manager had been Sir Alex Ferguson.

Again we reach that obstacle which is rarely encountered in any other area of human resources. It is indeed vaguely possible for the manager of any global corporation to be decent and well-rounded and fair-minded, essentially what we call "a good man".

It is extremely rare, though not impossible.

But if he is following Sir Alex, he will need to have something else. Something that they won't be discussing at Harvard, during their Fergie seminars. A kind of a darkness, I guess, a quality noted by Patrick Kavanagh during a dispute with some entrepreneur who seemed to him "a highly insensitive fellow". The sort of fellow, for example, who will be insensitive enough to intimidate and to abuse referees and officials during a game, indifferent to how bad it looks for a man of some importance to be behaving so horribly, insensible to everything but the result of a football match.

Watching Jose Mourinho and his crew "working" the officials during last Saturday's league game, and in most other games, again it was clear that there is only one appropriate successor to Sir Alex, and it is not any of the ones identified most strongly by commentators last week.

They should have given it to Mourinho originally, but they were undone by a strange kind of self-delusion, a failure to acknowledge certain self-evident truths.

It was said that his "bad behaviour" was an issue, unbelievably so in view of the fact that Ferguson had been perhaps the most badly behaved football manager in the last 50 years. And there was the "bad football" which Mourinho allegedly played, which differed from the style of Ferguson, who, like Manchester United managers before him, had favoured good football.

But the reason that Ferguson favoured good football, was that that was his way of getting results. If he could have got better results playing bad football, he would not have hesitated for a moment. And after what Man Utd fans, addicted to success, have suffered after a few months of that decent, upright and hard-working man David Moyes, they will not give a damn what sort of football is played, if it gets them out of this morass.

With Mourinho, it is perfectly possible to outline the following train of thought – the most important thing to him now is not that Chelsea win the semi-final of the Champions League next Wednesday, but that Chelsea beat Liverpool today. The most obvious guide here is Mourinho's public statement that his priority now is the Champions League.

With Mourinho, as with Ferguson, public statements are entirely unrelated to abstract ideas such as accuracy.

He also suggested that he would play a weakened team against Liverpool. Which means in all likelihood that he will play

the strongest team available to him. He will do that, because he knows that the one thing above all others that would endear him now to United is to bugger up Liverpool's title charge.

And he wants to endear himself to United, because he still wants that job, so bad.

I am not saying that these are his actual intentions, but I am saying that with Mourinho, as it was with Ferguson, such a Byzantine scenario is completely plausible.

That is enough.

Sunday Independent

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