Pete Jenson: Manchester United should learn two heads can be better than one, as proved by Europe's director of football model
A Different League: Directors of football have failed in England as they are seen as a threat to coaches
Wednesday 08 January 2014
During Sir Alex Ferguson's 26 years of managing Manchester United, Real Madrid changed their manager 26 times. In that time, the Spanish club won the European Cup three times and United won it twice; so much for the drawbacks of instability.
It would be ridiculous for the Glazers to start averaging a new coach a season; just as it would be the end of days if Madrid ever dispensed with the old "three straight defeats and you're out" policy – each league to its own. But United's botched handover of the baton has certainly been a major boost to the director of football model so derided in England.
In Sam Wallace's report into United's approach to the summer in Monday's The Independent, he wrote about Sir Alex Ferguson's belief that no new players should be pursued until Moyes was in place to pick and choose who he wanted. Had that policy been employed at Madrid over the past 20 years they would have faced more relegation battles than won league titles.
The sacred trinity of chief scout, manager, and chairman or chief executive to sign the cheques, was fine when all three men could take the same car a few hours down the motorway to watch the player play and then go to his house, if necessary, to convince him to sign. Now targets are more likely to be playing in other leagues and the chain of command is liable to lead to lost opportunities. There is the suggestion that one potential summer target was stunned after being asked by United's new manager "would it make a difference if I came to see you?"
Directors of football have often failed in England because they have been seen as a threat to the first-team coach, or have been blameless when things go wrong. But the job requirements ought to be so different that they attract a different sort of football man meaning there is no crossover, and therefore no threat.
Most European directors of football don't want to be coaches. And as Damien Comolli will vouch for, first at Spurs and then at Liverpool, there is no reason why directors of football cannot also be held to account for failed campaigns.
One of Spain's longest-serving examples can be found at Sevilla where the club's former goalkeeper Ramon "Monchi" Rodriguez has been signing players since the heady days of Juande Ramos's back-to-back Uefa Cups, Spanish Cup and European Super Cup between 2005 and 2007.
He oversaw the scouting network that found Dani Alves, Luis Fabiano, Adriano, and Seydou Keita among others for Ramos, and now looks to have unearthed two more gems in Colombian striker Carlos Bacca – who has scored nine goals in 17 games so far this season – and Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic who, in view of Sevilla's on-going precarious financial state, is one of the few top midfielders Manchester United would probably be able to sign in this transfer window. Failing that, maybe they should sign Monchi. Or better still find their own Monchi – a United man who knows the market the club wants to dominate and who carries enough weight to land the players targeted.
They don't even have to give the new man that dreaded director of football title.
There is something admirable about United's plan to stick with the way they have always done things and allow Moyes to concentrate on coaching the players and controlling the club's movement in the transfer market. But ultimately it may take two men to replace Sir Alex Ferguson.
Crotchety Di Maria could be answer to Arsenal's problems
Real Madrid want no one to leave the club in January but by grabbing his crotch as he walked off the pitch on Monday – a crude gesture seen as a reaction to the chorus of jeers that greeted his substitution – Angel di Maria is making a decent attempt at forcing them to change their minds.
Madrid have opened an internal enquiry and the player has apologised to supporters. Di Maria criticised the signing of Gareth Bale in the summer but then pledged to stay and fight for his place. After seeing that a run of good performances were not enough to keep him in the team as soon as Bale was fit he went back to angling for a move.
He almost signed for Arsenal in the summer but in the end they took Mesut Özil. Immensely talented, with a point to prove to Madrid, if Di Maria is desperate enough to make the World Cup to take a pay-cut from his €5m Madrid salary, then there are many reasons why he could fill the Theo Walcott void. It might smack of short-termism, but not if Wenger really has finally been convinced that Walcott will end up as a central striker.
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