"I need a new challenge and I want to use that chance to be a manager in England. I want to experience the atmosphere in England and I look forward to the stadiums there. I am 44 and it is the right time. There are offers but I haven’t signed for anyone yet. When I have a new club I will let everyone know.”- Pep Guardiola
As the self-coined ‘leader of the free world’ was invited to the floor of the US house of representatives on Capitol Hill, this week, to deliver what would be his very last State of the Union address, many Americans had already decided the value of whatever speech President Obama, and his speech writers had served up for the lawmakers and citizens at large. It is a bewilderingly most simplistic process, and its potency can fell even the most larger than life executives – it’s fondly called right track-wrong track. Many citizens through painstaking polls, and other smart social media questionnaires are asked to indicate whether they feel the country is on the right track, going in the right direction, or on the wrong track. It is not an exact science, and the results are an amalgamation of various perceptions of current and future realities, however, the implications of the result of this exercise is very real, and is normally acted upon. Manchester United board of directors must ask themselves this same query, and come up with an answer that is as laconic as it is clear. Are the Red Devils, under the guidance of Louis Van Gaal, on the right or wrong track?
I will offer small advice to this point, not that my opinions have any sway in the lofty circles of United directors, mostly just a public service as a devout supporter of this fantastic football club – United are on the right track, but going the wrong direction under Van Gaal. When Alex Ferguson departed with a plea to United supporters to stand by their manager, he inadvertently incited much complacency amongst fans, that most reds are reluctant to shine even the most meager of lights on the performances of their managers. Also in the vacuum, is the disastrous job in succession management executed by the board. The employment of David Moyes will go down in history as one of the most short-sighted, and ill-advised moves a major global sporting entity would make following decades of success. Much like Kodak or the Sony Walkman, the refusal to adapt and evolve because of a curious desire to replicate or cling to old traditions. The urge to replicate the retiring Scotsman with a younger version was more fairytale than sound transition planning. The Moyes production was supposed to be the ‘Return of the Clones’, but ended it up being ‘Snakes on a Plane’.
Here is one irrefutable fact for those reds out there still entangled in emotional debates. David Moyes was sacked by the Manchester United board with a better run of games, and less financial backing than what his successor has enjoyed. Moyes never lost more than 2 games in a row, took United to the semi final of the League Cup, quarter finals of champions league losing out to Bayern Munich, and won the Community Shield trophy which still represents the last trophy United have won in 4 years. United won 19 games at the end of the Moyes-Giggs era, Van Gaal managed to guide the club to 20 wins in his first season in charge. This season after 21 of 38 matches, United are currently on 9 wins and are on pace to finish with relatively the same or less wins than last season.
The Red Devils have crashed out of Champions League down to the Europa league, failing to emerge from a modest group of European light weights. They are out of the League Cup, and are only in contention for the FA Cup and Europa league which nobody realistically believes Van Gaal can win. In Rome, Rudi Garcia has just learned the hard lesson of modern football management, Garcia, let go by Roma this week, even after securing second place league finishes for two consecutive seasons. Roma, like United, had once been at the top of the Serie A last year, but getting dumped out of Italian cup competition, further compounded by a miserable 7-game run where he was able to secure only 1 win, sealed his fate with the club and convinced them that they were in need of a fresh direction. Van Gaal in comparison struggled to reach top 4 last season, but with Woodward doubling down on the war chest, the Dutch coach was able to climb to the top of the table last year for a brief stint.