'Why should we expect Manchester United to be different? They haven't been for a long time now' (From The Northern Echo)
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'Why should we expect Manchester United to be different? They haven't been for a long time now'
GONE: David Moyes' departure provides proof that Manchester United are now no different to anyone else
IT used to be said that Manchester United were different. Not any more.
If this week's messy dismissal of David Moyes has taught us anything, it is that United's claim to ethical superiority over their rivals at the top end of the English and European game is defunct.
Whereas the Old Trafford club could once claim to be distinct from the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City, whose unfettered access to overseas funds has seen them abandon notions of loyalty or patience in an increasingly frantic pursuit of immediate success, the last four days have proved they're now just the same as everybody else.
Yet the fact that has come as a surprise to so many people is in itself surprising. The truth is that Manchester United lost any sense of uniqueness when the Glazers completed their takeover of the club in 2005.
Since then, they have been just another big English club in the hands of distant foreign investors. And when distant foreign investors don't like something, they act decisively to rectify the problem, with no regard at all for abstract ideas about loyalty, history or the perceived right way to do things.
In fairness, the 'distant' and 'foreign' part of the description is perhaps misleading, as there are plenty of English owners who have made morally questionable decisions about their football club with a wilful disregard for how their actions will be perceived elsewhere. Just act supporters of Newcastle United.
It is the business part of the equation that is the key, and once a football club sells its soul to the highest bidder, it also cedes any control over the previous working conditions and norms that might have served it so well down the years.
The Glazers couldn't care less about the continuity that served Sir Alex Ferguson so well, or the promises that were made to Moyes when he signed a six-year contract less than 12 months ago.
Their only loyalty is to their bank balance, which is turn means keeping Manchester United's shareholders happy. Moyes? A mere cog in the wheel. And clearly one they felt needed replacing if this season's slump was not to evolve into a longer-term malaise.
The distinction between the instability of the last year and the stability that characterised the whole of Sir Alex Ferguson's reign is obvious, but it shouldn't be assumed that the Glazers let Manchester United's most successful manager continue to reign for eight years of their ownership because they felt a sense of loyalty borne of his previous achievements.
They allowed Ferguson to continue ruling as was his wont because the policy brought results. For as long as Ferguson continued to win titles, qualify for the Champions League and enable the club to retain a profile that kept investors and sponsors happy, it was business as usual. Had Ferguson encountered the same problems as Moyes, however, he would have been dismissed just as quickly.
That is the way of it in a world where news of Moyes' impending departure broke a matter of hours after it became mathematically impossible for Manchester United to qualify for next season's Champions League.
That was the tipping point, more than any embarrassing home defeat or rumours about Moyes' failure to control the dressing room. They were clearly factors, but results dictated Moyes' departure. Results on the pitch, and the fear of results that were deemed imminent on the stock exchange. So no different to any other club that has swapped the support of a custodian for the corporate ideal.
MOYES' exit was followed by the now customary statement from the League Managers' Association bemoaning the dismissal of another manager and branding Manchester United's handling of the situation as “unprofessional”.
There is no doubt that the timeline of Moyes' departure was deeply unsatisfactory, with stories of his exit leaking into the media the day before he was actually informed of his fate.
But the LMA should look at the conduct of their own members before they attempt to take the moral high ground when it comes to managerial changes.
Both Moyes and Ferguson have publicly admitted that they met to rubber-stamp the transition of power at Old Trafford while Moyes was still contracted to Everton, indeed their crucial face-to-face meeting at Ferguson's home is understood to have taken place a matter of days before a Merseyside derby. I don't see too much respect being shown to Everton there.And having constantly championed Ferguson's support while he was still a manager, the LMA appear to have completely overlooked the fact that their supposed guiding light is believed to have been involved in the process that led to Moyes' exit on Tuesday.
You can't have your cake and eat it, but that is exactly what the LMA appear to want to do.
AND while we're on the subject of Ferguson, why did he have so much influence over the coronation of his successor anyway?
Clearly, given his extensive experience of life at Old Trafford, it was wise to consult him over the identity of his replacement. But he was always going to be too involved and entrenched in a certain way of doing things to provide an impartial view.
How many other multi-billion pound businesses would appoint the key figure within their organisation on the say-so of just one man, who has no previous experience in recruiting candidates for a similar position?
I don't necessarily agree with those who claim that Ferguson's presence at matches undermined Moyes from the outset, but there is absolutely no doubt that the 72-year-old continues to retains far too much power. He is even going to play a key role in what happens next.
It is time for Manchester United to move on. Retain Ferguson to perform ambassadorial duties and smile for a few photographs by all means. But take all key footballing decisions out of his hands.
CHAMPS OF THE WEEK
There have been plenty of remarkable moments in Sunderland's season, but Saturday night's incredible win at Stamford Bridge topped the lot. Suddenly, the Black Cats' survival push is back on thanks to a performance packed with commitment, desire and skill.
CHUMP OF THE WEEK
Chelsea's assistant coach lost the plot in spectacular fashion in the wake of Fabio Borini's decisive penalty. At one stage it looked as though he was going grab referee Mike Dean around the neck, and when Jose Mourinho is having to act as peace-maker, you know you're out of control.
PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK
HARTLEPOOL vs MORECAMBE
Down to ten men on Easter Monday and trailing 1-0, it looked as though Hartlepool would be heading into their final two matches of the season in grave danger of slipping out of League Two. But Jack Compton and Jack Barmby scored to complete a magnificent turnaround that sees Colin Cooper's men safe.
CHARITY BET OF THE WEEKEND
Another blank weekend after Hey Big Spender failed to defy double-figure odds to get into the frame at Haydock. It's the last big jumps meeting of the season at Sandown tomorrow, so let's hope we can pull out a final winner. Follow @scottwilsonecho on Twitter for the weekend selection. Running total: £41.38.
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