Sir Alex Ferguson is “finalizing” his Manchester United succession plan, with a shortlist of two—namely, Pep Guardiola and José Mourinho—seemingly on standby.
That, at least, is according to a recent story published by Goal.com, the world’s largest football website.
The speculative “special report” by Chief Correspondent Wayne Veysey briefly quotes an anonymous source and bases the rest on reasonable-enough supposition.
It goes so far as to claim Fergie will have “the casting vote” in who replaces him on the Old Trafford throne.
If that article is to be believed, the aforementioned Iberian icons are “the only serious candidates” in the great Scot’s eyes, amid rumours that his retirement could be pushed forward to summer 2013 following a worrying health scare at the end of the 2011-12 season.
It was reported in the English Daily Telegraph in August that Ferguson’s departure had been penciled in for two years hence. But that would give rise to a situation where players would see next season as probably his last, with a consequent lackluster effect on performances, as happened in 2000-01.
When the Knight does decide to step down, the debate as to who United should turn to is already exercising the minds of football fans the world over—and everyone’s got their personal preference.
Before I get to mine, first here's what might seem like a trivial tidbit:
When Darren Ferguson got the Peterborough manager’s job first time around in 2007, guess who the son with the most knowledgeable father in football phoned, looking for a word to the wise?
To my mind, regardless of how Everton fare during the rest of this season, Moyes must be the man to replace Alex Ferguson when the time comes—if he wants the job.
“Swap the Scots” may sound simplistic—and “Alec” is a complete one-off—but I’m convinced that, armed with adequate resources, the 49-year-old has the unflappable fortitude and desire to succeed the most successful club boss in the history of football.
I’m not alone.
The (UK) Daily Mail’s Matt Lawton observed back in spring 2009 that Moyes, with his gritted countenance and heart-on-sleeve passion, was “Fergie Mark II…a fiery Scot with a burning ambition to reach the top.”
Two proud Glaswegians, they've known each other since United’s treble year, when Ferguson interviewed Moyes for the assistant manager’s job that was eventually given to future England boss Steve McClaren.
That newspaper profile also revealed how in early 2000 the “fiercely ambitious” then-Preston manager was presented with the chance to take over an unidentified top-flight club, thought to have been the fast-sinking Sheffield Wednesday.
Apprehensive, Moyes consulted the one man whose opinion you’d put store in above all others. Ferguson invited him down to Carrington for a chat and proceeded to run the rule over each of the players Moyes would have to work with.
He advised him to wait, that better offers would come along. Sage as ever.
There’s something about the Scots
Long before that meeting, Moyes had admired Fergie from afar, recalling:
“When I was a player at Celtic and Alex was manager at Aberdeen, I’d sit on the bench at Celtic watching him, and I was just struck by the intensity, the passion, the drive.”
He got to see it up close, courtesy of a heat-of-the-moment sideline bust-up during Everton’s 1-0 home win over United in 2005.
Moyes, whose father, like Ferguson’s, had worked on the docks in the shipping industry, didn’t take it to heart, and vice versa. From opposite ends of the Clyde Tunnel but hewn from the same steel.
It can be no coincidence that the Toffees gaffer is the third-longest-serving manager in all four English divisions after Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger and the record-breaking “SAF.”
Nor is it an aberration that 20 percent of current Premier League managers are Scottish.
With legends like Jock Stein, Bill Shankly and Matt Busby classic examples, Alba has always produced a breed of manager uniquely suited to the British game, particularly its biggest clubs.
But, where it should be a recommendation, the very fact that Moyes—who is out of contract next summer—has been at Goodison Park so long is one of the main reasons sceptics feel he isn’t the right choice for the mighty Man U.
Among those dead set against the notion is Manchester-based B/R Featured Columnist Terry Carroll.
An acknowledged authority on all-things United, in July he gave readers “8 Reasons David Moyes Won’t Replace Fergie”: a comprehensive response to his continued standing as the bookies’ second favourite (after Jose Mourinho, and ahead of Pep Guardiola).
The main tenets of Terry’s contention that Moyes would represent “a high risk appointment” are:
- He has never won anything.
- He lacks European pedigree.
- He has “never managed a top club.”
- He hasn’t the Big Business Management nous.
- He hasn’t the allure to attract international stars.
- He isn’t Pep Guardiola—the “calibre of manager United should be targeting.”
Having looked at the original “against” arguments in more detail, let’s take the above points one by one.