Mackay's short-term future is secured as owner Tan changes tune in Cardiff's latest farcical song and dance
Weight of public opinion and prospect of a £3m settlement combine to save under-fire manager's job -- for now
The story of Vincent Tan's transformation from insurance salesman to billionaire was celebrated in a musical staged in Kuala Lumpur last year. The best song composed about him, however, was reserved for the Anfield Road end and sung by 3,000 Cardiff City fans on Saturday to the tune of Achy Breaky Heart: "Don't sack Mackay, Malky Mackay, we don't think you understand. If you sack Mackay, Malky Mackay, you're gonna have a riot on your hands."
It rolled out over and over again across Anfield during Liverpool's 3-1 win and Cardiff's owner remained impassive to one of the most determined defences of a manager ever mounted by fans of a Premier League club. Unlike most protests of this kind, however, it succeeded, if only in staying the execution. Mackay and his back-room staff took the plane back to Cardiff Airport on Saturday night still refusing to go.
Twenty-four hours after what seemed to be his final match in charge of Cardiff City, Mackay was granted a dramatic stay of execution by Tan when chairman Mehmet Dalman revealed the Scot will remain as manager "for the foreseeable future".
Tan has promised representatives of the Cardiff City Supporters Trust a face-to-face meeting on Saturday, which is more than he has given Mackay so far. Ultimately, the combination of crowd unrest, the universal condemnation within football and the fact that even Dalman wanted Mackay to at least limp on until the end of the season led to yesterday's statement. A contract that would have cost up to £3m to settle is still in force. Had the Cardiff manager been a more Machiavellian, a more Clough-like figure, he would have resigned in Anfield's press room on Saturday and then pressed for the vacant position at West Bromwich Albion. Jeremy Peace, the West Brom chairman, is a demanding employer but, compared to Tan, he is a man Mackay could have done business with.
Sven-Goran Eriksson, who was being inked in to succeed Mackay, can do business with most people. Since leaving England, he has been employed by the ousted prime-minister of Thailand, Thaksin Shinawatra, a Thai billionaire at Leicester and a convicted fraudster who wanted him to take Notts County into the Premier League. He even entertained the idea of managing North Korea. Compared to that lot, the prospect of managing at a club who were prepared to spend money in the January transfer window might have seemed appealing. At 65, Eriksson has little to lose, although his £2.5m contract at his present club, Guangzhou, would have had to be settled.
The other leading candidate, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, is renegotiating his contract after taking Molde to two Norwegian titles. He recently passed up the opportunity to take charge of Legia Warsaw. The post went to Henning Berg, whose bruising experience at Blackburn should inform Solskjaer of the consequences of dealing with people who think they know how to run a football club.
It is inconceivable that Solskjaer's mentor, Alex Ferguson, would have wanted him to work for someone as capricious as Tan, whose attempt to replace Iain Moody as the club's director of recruitment with Alisher Apsalyamov, a 23-year-old from Kazakhstan whose experience of football was limited to video games, ended over work permit problems.
The appointment as director of football of Cardiff's former manager, Dave Jones, who sued Tan over his dismissal in 2011, may still go ahead. Nevertheless, Tan's once-revered image at home is sliding: "More Comedy in Cardiff" was a headline on the Malaysian Insider website.
As Mackay waited to shake hands with Liverpool's players, whose win put them top of the league, it was hard to imagine their club's owner, John W Henry, could have taken a decision that could have been as bloodily futile as Tan's attempt to remove his manager. The Liverpool owner's sacking of Kenny Dalglish was a full-blown regicide and the decision to replace him with an Ulsterman whose greatest achievement was measured not in European Cups but in a couple of seasons at Swansea appeared reckless. They could, to quote the Cardiff fans at Anfield, have had a riot on their hands.
Instead, for the first time since January 2009, Liverpool are top of the Premier League. Then, Rafa Benitez's drive to the title was spearheaded by Fernando Torres. This time, Brendan Rodgers has Luis Suarez and a far less formidable array of opponents than Benitez faced. The comparisons with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo did not seem so fanciful to his manager on Saturday. Suarez is on course to overtake Alan Shearer's record of 34 goals in a Premier League season. Those goals earned Blackburn a title and it is not fanciful to imagine Liverpool's reward could be the same. (©Independent News Service)