So Manchester United let go their decent man manager David Moyes after just ten months in the job. And with him goes the myth that somehow United where above the petty desperation that has infected other Premiership clubs (he’s the tenth to lose his job this season).
Like the idea that the club was founded on a base of home grown players, the generous time of grace Alex Ferguson had was rooted in the past and a completely different league system where taking the lion’s share of the prize money was not the only key to success.
The contrast with Moyes hasty defenestration is remarkable, especially when some people are giving him stick about not developing the youth side of the team.
This appointment by anointment failed because Ferguson failed to take account for the fact the climate change that he exploited so well requires not another young him, but the multidirectional skills of a modern CEO.
Simon Kuper pretty much nails the reasons (£) for the success of the UK’s most high profile PLC success which may also now constitute some of its biggest problems:
…United’s golden age may be over. From 2008 through to 2011, the club enjoyed statistically its best period: three English titles and three Champions League finals, one of which was won. Those days aren’t coming back, not even if the Glazers meet expectations by spending close to £200m on new players this summer.
Given the inflation at the top end of the transfer market, and United’s need for several world-class players, even £200m might not be enough to match Chelsea or Manchester City. Ferguson could compete with them despite United’s lower spending, but then Ferguson was an almost unmatched overachiever.
Money buys success in football and several clubs now have more money than United. From 1997 through 2004, United topped the consultancy Deloitte’s “rich list” of European football clubs ranked by revenues. In 2012-13, United dropped out of the top three for the first time since Deloitte began compiling the list. Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich now have higher revenues.
Moreover, Chelsea, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain have oil-rich owners who pump money in rather than sucking it out. By the logic of the market that means there are six clubs in Europe more likely to win the Champions League than United.
In the domestic league, by the same logic, the club’s natural position is now third behind Chelsea and Manchester City. (Less wealthy Liverpool will probably win this season’s Premier League, but their overachievement is probably unique in recent English history.)
United’s biggest problem isn’t David Moyes. It’s money.
Andrew Hill follows up with a few bullet point lessons from ‘Assistant Professor Moyes’:
Lesson One. Never, ever, agree to take over from a legend. Someone is bound to end up disappointed. (Just ask Jeff Immelt at General Electric – and he’s had nearly a decade and a half to convince shareholders it doesn’t matter that he’s not Jack Welch.)
Lesson Two. If you must take over from a legend, do try to make sure that said legend is either dead, distant or otherwise unable to turn up every week to watch how you’re doing your job. (Chief executives whose predecessor was recently elevated to the chairmanship may sympathise.)
The road back to the European cash cow is now at least 18 months away. Unprecedented in the recent history of the club. Yet they can ride the loss of earnings easily enough. The trouble is the whole business model is based on cleaning debt and allaying the anxiety of shareholders.
That’s a lot of expectation for any new manager to take on.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty