Manchester United fan community, a few days back, celebrated the 30th year anniversary of the “Sir Alex Ferguson appointment” day. A lot of people expressed their love and gratitude to the person who got United to the heights that it is at. But a lot of people also focussed on the part of how the “gaffer” was given freedom and time, while at the helm, as his start at the club was far from smooth and successful.
— Gary Neville (@GNev2) November 6, 2016
A lot of people, including me, complain about the fact that football fans, now a days, want instant success. Changing managers like diapers in the hope of getting someone who will win you the league, has been a significant trait in the past decade or so. Isn’t this unfair on the managers and also the players, who try to adjust every now and then to the new person in charge? United have had three managers, since Sir Alex Ferguson left and that hasn’t helped them win much, apart from the FA Cup. So why not stick to the old routine of “Give them enough time”?
First of all, one cannot compare the footballing era 30 years ago to the one today. Yes, it always makes sense to give the manager time to implement his “philosophy” but can any major club, who are fighting every season for the title, in today’s modern football, really go for several years with the same manager without any significant success? Yes, there are different ways to look at success and winning titles and trophies isn’t the only one, but that is the most significant one and that is what ultimately matters. There has been one major change to today’s football as compared to the one when “Fergie” started at the Theater of Dreams. MONEY. Football is now majorly influenced by money – Endorsements, sponsorships, image rights and what not.
Just to understand the magnitude of the commercialization, even Jose Mourinho’s name was owned by his former club in order to make money out of it. Would some one think of something like this 30 years back. A team which is not successful will not attract big money and will hence be left out on their weaker foot when it comes to bidding for world class players. The Real Madrid’s and Paris Saint-Germain’s are used to splashing around money and getting top athletes on their payrolls. In a world like this, can we really expect the club to make no changes in case of continuous average results?
United missed out on Champions League spot for this season and if they miss out on it the next season too, the Adidas deal will be slashed by 30%, spread over the remaining deal tenure. In such cases, the club, board and subsequently the manager are obviously under tremendous pressure to get back to the winning ways. Believe it or not, like it or not, modern football is completely dependent on the immediate sponsorships and commercial deals. Losing these deals will affect the club’s ability to perform in the transfer market, develop infrastructure, betterment of the youth academy etc. which will basically mean that their progress on field will be stunted too. It will ultimately turn in to a vicious cycle – no success means no money and no money will mean no success. The board and executives hence, turn to the easiest option available, change the manager and hope that the club gets back to the glory days. With United, things are a little more difficult as the whole squad is undergoing transition and change of managers during that process makes the transition even difficult. But in spite of this and my very own opinion of “It’s not a magic wand”, the club has to show that they are on top of things and looking to do the necessary changes to keep up with the competitors.
Put on top of this the social media and the fans expectations and things become even worse. Ed Woodward doesn’t read his Twitter feed to take decisions, but he sure knows how the fan base is feeling about things at the club. Fans have a lot of power in football, add to that the power of social media and we have one dangerous combination.
I still feel that just changing managers every couple of years isn’t going to make the club immediately successful, but I also feel we are far from the times when manager was able to keep his job in spite of four “out of the top four” finishes in five seasons. The loss of finances, upheaval in the supporters-base etc. will be too difficult to sustain with in todays footballing world. So does this mean United will also start behaving like the other “sacking” clubs, probably not. But we sure won’t be having the same manager for 30 years. Why? Because times have changed and so has football. For good or worse? It’s up to one’s perspective.