Tuesday, 14 May 2013

A football club is not like instant noodles

"In today's world, instant results are what owners want. That's why mega-rich clubs like Chelsea and Man City will never achieve long term success. They change managers as often as a mother changes her baby's diaper."

That is what I wrote in an entry last week after learning that Sir Alex Ferguson would be retiring at the end of the season. As the red half of Manchester celebrates the longest serving and most successful manager in English football history, the blue half of Manchester is facing a scenario that has become too common in the world of football today; Roberto Mancini was sacked just 1 year after winning the Premier League title
Mancini shown the door one year
after winning the league. Image: ESPNFC

While I laugh at Man City's lack of accomplishment this season, losing the league a month before the season actually ends and losing in the final of the FA Cup to relegation-threatened Wigan, not to mention being eliminated from the UCL in the group stage, their current predicament represent a serious issue faced by several clubs in the world of football today. Owners of mega-rich clubs like Man City are too impatient in demanding instant results from their managers. They spend hundreds of millions on player transfers and wages, and expect an instant return in the form of silverware. But these owners are not footballers. They don't understand how football works. Sure you may win a trophy or two, but ultimately you are only building a team, not a club. Anyone can buy the best players in the world and toss in a well-known manager to lead the team. That's what games like Football Manager are all about. But this method doesn't lead to long term success. Just look at clubs like Man City and Chelsea and how the lack of stability is a common sight at these clubs.

With Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement, not only was his accomplishments over 26 years given the attention it deserved, but it also highlighted what can be accomplished with patience and perseverance. If Sir Alex was a young manager today, just taking over at a club like Man City or Chelsea, he would never accomplish what he has. It was really fortunate that he became manager in 1986 and not post-2000. Despite not winning the league in 7 years at Man United, the club stood by him and gave him time to build a football club; not just a football team. If he was sacked after 2-3 years, as is the norm today, Man United would never be where the club is today. 

"I'd also like to remind you that when we had bad times here, the club stood by me, all my staff stood by me, the players stood by me. Your job now is to stand by our new manager. That is important."

Just looking at Man United's managerial history and Sir Alex's in particular is amazing. Sir Alex was the club's 18th manager since 1892. Yet during the 26 years he spent at Man United, Chelsea have had 17 managers, Man City 18, and Real Madrid 25. Yes these clubs have won trophies in that time, but none of the clubs have been as successful with all those managers as Man United have with just Sir Alex Ferguson. I'm not intentionally mocking those clubs and bragging about Man United, but it's just a fact. Stability and perseverance leads to long-term, sustainable success.

This amount of success is only achievable
with long-term stability at a club. Image: Facebook

Ever since Roman Abramovich took over Chelsea in 2003, they have had 9 managers, which is about one manager a year. The most shocking sacking to me was the sacking of Di Matteo. Being the manager who lead the club to their first ever UCL title, you would think that that would cement his place as manager of the club. Nope. He was sacked 6 months later. Mancini was the manager to win Man City's first Premier League title ever, their first league title in 44 years, but how was he repaid? By getting sacked one year later. In contrast, Man United had a dry spell from 2003-2006, not winning the league for three years. But the club stood by Sir Alex, and they won the league the following three years in a row. See what happens when you give your manager time?

David Moyes will probably have a turbulent first few years at Old Trafford. It is a huge task stepping in for the most successful manager in England. He is largely untested in Europe and has never been at a club of United's stature. Yet with Sir Bobby and Sir Alex on the board, I'm sure he will be in no trouble at all if he has a dry spell. No matter what happens these next few years, I'll do as Fergie said and stand by our new manager.

Glory Glory Man United!