There is one simple reason why David Moyes should never have got the manager’s job at Manchester United.
The instant Alex Ferguson recommended the Everton manager’s name it should have been immediately removed from the list. Why? Because an egomaniac like Ferguson was never going to push for someone who might actually surpass his achievements.
After 27 years at Old Trafford, Fergie won the European Cup twice. José Mourinho won it twice in six years with two different clubs. What if José had taken over Manchester United and led them to European glory? What if José then equalled Ferguson’s record or even eclipsed it? Where would that have left Fergie? There is another reason why United’s decision to appoint Moyes was unforgivably stupid. In selecting David Moyes, they are simply repeating the mistakes of the past. History should have taught the directors at Old Trafford that you must replace a giant with a giant. Did the generation of failure which followed Matt Busby’s retirement teach them nothing? Frank O’Farrell, Tommy Docherty, Dave Sexton and Ron Atkinson — all four men were moderately successful managers who wilted under Busby’s long shadow.
It will be to Manchester United’s eternal regret that they took Ferguson’s advice. Evidently, Ferguson’s genius lies with picking players rather than managers. Yet, judging by his autobiography, Ferguson doesn’t even appreciate the reasons why he was so successful.
Since his retirement, he has repeatedly peddled the line that, in management, control is everything. Once a player threatens to destabilise the club he must bejettisoned. Ferguson used this theory to justify his decision to get rid of Roy Keane and David Beckham.
Yet, any dispassionate appraisal of Ferguson’s tenure quickly demonstrates his theory is a load of self-serving, pompous nonsense.
Contrary to his rhetoric, Ferguson repeatedly tolerated behaviour that was totally out of order.
Exhibit ‘A’ is Eric Cantona’s notorious karate kick at Selhurst Park. Exhibit ‘B’ is the night he picked up Roy Keane from a police station.
Crucially, they were at the peak of their powers when these transgressions occurred.
Because Fergie needed them to win trophies, he bent over backwards to keep them at the club. Groucho Marx once quipped: “Those are my principles and if you don’t like them, well, I have others.”
Fergie is like Groucho. His principles were flexible. He would bend and twist them to suit his self-interests. With Ferguson, it always comes back to Ferguson. Even when he talks about his veneration for the club, he is really referring to himself. Fergie loved to create the impression he served the club. But his actions contradicted his words.
If he was so devoted to the greater glory of the club, why did he get involved in an unnecessary legal squabble with the club’s primary shareholders? Fergie nearly derailed his beloved Manchester United over a horse. The secrets to Manchester United’s success will not be found in Ferguson’s book. Anyone looking for a successful management model to copy should save their money and spend a bit of time studying Crossmaglen. Like United, they have lost their all-conquering management team.
After leading the club to successive All-Irelands titles, Tony McEntee and Gareth O’Neill stepped down. Worse again, they’ve also lost their two best forwards. Jamie Clarke is in America and Oisín McConville has retired. That’s like United playing without Rooney and Van Persie.
Not only that, but Cross have also lost their Vidic and Ferdinand. James Morgan was injured in a car crash, while Paul Kernan is recuperating from a shoulder problem.
No matter. Cross still won the Armagh championship. Heading into Sunday’s Ulster quarter-final clash against Kilcoo, they were hot favourites. It made no sense. Yet, Crossmaglen’s woes were further compounded when it emerged before the throw-in that Aaron Kernan was injured. How could they win? Ultimately, Crossmaglen’s continued success is based on their ability to replace players.
For years, dedicated GAA men have driven to Crossmaglen’s training sessions hoping to discover the secret formula.
Truth be told, many were distinctly underwhelmed at what they witnessed. But the men who made that journey to Crossmaglen only made one mistake. They watched the wrong training sessions.
Logic dictates that if Crossmaglen’s success is based on producing super footballers then the area of the club that warrants the closest scrutiny is their conveyor belt.
At the GAA’s Annual Games Development Conference this year two members from Crossmaglen delivered a presentation about their club.
The main thrust of Tony Brady and Peter McMahon’s seminar was ‘the secret to Crossmaglen’s success is there is no secret’.
Maybe. But consider the importance they attach to the selection of their underage coaches. “We take our pastoral role as coaches very seriously,” said Brady. “It’s not just about football. We try to ensure that the coaches and the senior players know what is happening in the lives of these kids — how they’re getting on in school, at home — what they’re interested in, that sort of stuff. We put in the right kind of help, we don’t want an underage coach with a poor demeanour or dour manner.
“And we strive to have every underage player still active in the club when they’re 25.
That could be as a player or a coach or an administrator, or helping out in the social club.”
Put simply, Crossmaglen try their level best not to put eejits in charge of their children. The emphasis is on encouragement and inclusion. Crossmaglen aren’t overly successful at underage level, but they keep producing championship winners.
It also helps that they have proved adept at putting the right man in charge of their senior team. Following the incredible success of Tony McEntee and Gareth O’Neill, the wise men at Crossmaglen realised they needed a proven winner to step into the void.
They needed someone who could command the respect of the changing room.
They needed someone whose CV could carry him through a rough patch.
At Crossmaglen, the club picked Joe Kernan. Because at Crossmaglen, no-one is bigger than the club.
At Manchester United, Alex Ferguson, the man who preached servitude to the club, became bigger than the very institution he served.
United went for Fergie’s man. Cross picked a giant. United picked a minnow. The difference is already telling.
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