They don’t do things differently at Manchester United no more. Dig a little deeper and one can see why. The difference has gone off the field and into the stands where it sits stony-faced, with a ubiquitous gum for company. Ominously, the difference will play a part in picking the new coach.
As the murky waters surrounding the red half of Manchester start to clear, it is now clear that the club with a difference is very different from the image it would like to portray.
United too have followed the same procedure as any other club in sacking their manager. Anything else is hypocrisy. Cue the leaks to the press a day in advance. There is a drought of official statements. Denials too exit the scene like a thief fleeing the site of a crime under the cover of darkness. The axe falls the next morning, ending the tragedy of David Moyes or the tragedy that was David Moyes, depending on your perspective.
As Moyes fell, so did United’s carefully-cultivated image.
Ryan Giggs has stepped in to fill the breach. The current Manchester United will find it difficult to find a person who fits the bill of ‘the establishment man’. The club’s most decorated player with 962 appearances and more trophies than can fill your average house in Mumbai, Giggs is the ideal of the Ferguson template. He should do well not to rock the boat and end United’s season with a stable pulse.
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The next person in though, will have to do just that. Moyes talked of a squad that needed a ‘fundamental rebuilding’. For that to happen, someone with a big ego and a motormouth to boot has to come in and dominate locker-room of men who have grown used to cowering at a father figure. Whoever comes in will have to measure up to that ideal and may lose the locker room all over again. This time, United will have to stand behind their man and show they are no different from the rest.
It is time for United to smell what the football world around them has become. Blood flows when matches are lost and accounts bleed. Managers get sacked. Images fall apart.
(Hormazd is a senior sub-editor based in New Delhi)