David Moyes and the Shameless Nepotism of Sir Alex Feguson

Sports WriterCorrespondent IApril 21, 2010

BLACKBURN, ENGLAND - APRIL 11:  Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United looks pensive during the Barclays Premier League Match between Blackburn Rovers and Manchester United at Ewood Park on April 11, 2010 in Blackburn, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

It is being widely reported today that Alex Ferguson sees David Moyes as the man to succeed him as manager of Manchester United.

The only surprise about this piece of news is that Ferguson has recommended a fellow Glaswegian rather than a fellow Ferguson.

Perhaps even Man Utd's longest serving manager felt that grooming his own son Darren, recently appointed by Preston North End after a successful managerial spell at Peterborough, was a step too far.

Ferguson's penchant for promoting the interests of fellow family members and fellow Scots is well established.

He still refuses to speak to the BBC after it broadcast a documentary in 2004 highlighting the potentially compromising relationship between his son Jason's agency, Elite, and Man Utd. The documentary revealed that no fewer than six members of the Man Utd first team squad were signed with Elite.

While Alex Ferguson is supposed to distrust agents, the programme also revealed that Jason was allowed unprecedented access to the Man Utd players.

Former player, Ashley Dodd said that,

"I think because he's the manager's son that's a major factor. I think, so he'll come in [to the training ground] and talk to his players. He can come in whenever he can. Other agents would have to make an appointment."

Speaking in 1989 Alex Ferguson said,

"I don't understand why top players want agents. In transfer discussions you are not going to offer top players a pittance, so why does he have to be involved with extra people?"

He appears to have radically revitalized his views to the extent that he allegedly threatened to pull the plug on Jonathan Greening and Mark Wilson's 2001 moves to Middlesbrough unless they dropped their existing agent in favour of his son, Jason.

Ferguson has never been afraid to give family members a break.

His son Darren made 27 first team appearances for the club winning a league title medal in the process.

Darren was never deemed good enough to get a chance at another club in the top division and played out the majority of the remainder of his career at lower league Wrexham.

For Ferguson football really is a family affair. His brother Martin is currently Man Utd's chief scout.

However, the Man Utd board have not always been overly enamoured with his predilection for giving important, well remunerated positions to close family members.

In 2004, after the BBC documentary, they pledged never to do business with Jason Ferguson again. At the time Jason's agency, Elite Sports, supposedly represented no fewer than 13 Man Utd players.

Scottish midfielder Darren Fletcher has come of age in recent seasons after a number of years on the periphery of the Man Utd first team. It is, however, difficult to escape the suspicion that had Fletcher not been a fellow Scot he would have long gone the way of other erstwhile Man Utd midfielders such as Nicky Butt and Phil Neville.

Fletcher himself admitted that his relationship with the Man Utd manager was an unusual one,

"They call him my dad or grandad. He is just one of those guys who is very patriotic about Scotland. Any Scottish team, any Scottish sportsman."

Ferguson's self appointed successor and fellow countryman David Moyes also acknowledges the strong similarities between the backgrounds of himself and the current Man Utd manager,

"Alex and I are from areas of Glasgow that are not too far apart. He’s from Govan and I’m from Partick. There are other connections, too. Alex’s father worked as a shipbuilder in Govan, mine was a draughtsman at the shipbuilders. My father ran one of the teams at Drumchapel Amateurs, the under 16s and then the under 18s, and Alex played for Drumchapel Amateurs as a boy."

Since retiring from professional football Darren Ferguson has, to his credit, threatened to finally step out from his father's formidable shadow.

He enjoyed a successful managerial stint at Peterborough Utd, gaining promotion to Division One in only his second season at the helm. He was recently appointed manager of Championship side Preston North End on the back of this achievement.

Since arriving at Preston North End, Darren Ferguson has received much more than merely advice from his father.

The Preston North End squad has been considerably bolstered by the arrival of a couple of outstanding young Man Utd players on loan, Danny Wellbeck and Matt James. Darren Ferguson is no stranger to borrowing footballers from his father—he also took Man Utd prospects Tom Chester and Ben Amos on loan when he was manager of Peterborough Utd.

Sir Alex Ferguson is something of a law unto himself, and when he decides he is going to allow his son to take his pick of the promising young Man Utd players no one at the club is likely to argue with him.

Given the unprecedented success that Alex Ferguson has enjoyed as Man Utd manager, it is understandable the board should overlook his nepotistic tendencies.

Allowing him free reign to name a fellow Scot as his successor, though, would be taking this a step too far.

Man Utd might see fit to appoint David Moyes as manager one day but it is a decision which should not be made purely on his predecessors say so.


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